|Author||Karel van Mander|
Het Schilder-Boeck; Den Grondt der Edel vry Schilder-const:Waer in haer ghestalt, aerdt ende wesen, de leer-lustighe Jeught in verscheyden Deelen in Rijm-dicht wort voor ghedraghen; Daer nae in dry delen 't leven der vermaerde doorluchtighe Schilders des ouden, en nieuwen tyd: Eyntlyck d'wtlegghinhe op den METAMORPHOSEON Pub. Ouidij Nasonis; Oock daer beneffens wtbeeldinghe der figuren. Alles dienstich en nut den schilders Const beminders en dichters. Oock alle staten van menschen.
|Translator||Hessel Miedema (to modern Dutch and (with help) to English)|
|Illustrator||Original edition had few plates; modern translation includes hundreds of black and white illustrations from various archives of surviving art mentioned in the original|
|Publisher||Passchier Wesbusch, Haarlem, Davaco publishers, Doornspijk|
|1604, 1994-1999 (translation)|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardcover), Online version of original text available from the DBNL|
|Pages||Original is 3 books in one; translation is 6 separate volumes for only one of the first three books (Lives of Netherlandish and German painters)|
|ISBN||ISBN 90-70288-85-0, ISBN 90-70288-91-5, ISBN 90-70288-92-3, ISBN 90-70288-93-1, ISBN 90-70288-94-X, ISBN 90-70288-95-8|
The Schilder-Boeck is a book by the art historian Karel van Mander written in 1604. It was actually compiled from three books in total; the first was a translation from Giorgio Vasari's list of artist biographies called the Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, the second was a similarly styled "Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters", and the third was a translation of Ovid's stories Metamorphoses followed by an explanation of figures. The book sold well, though Karel van Mander died quite soon after publication. A second posthumous edition was produced in 1618, and it is this second edition which has been translated by Hessel Miedema into English with a facsimile of the original and 5 volumes of notes on the text.
The book begins with a book on the "foundations" of the painter's art. This introductory book has fourteen chapters on art theory listing such subjects as landscapes, animals, drapery, and arrangements of subjects. The following books are set up as lists of biographies or "explanations". Van Mander split his book into six basic parts that have separate title pages and are indexed. Because the pages are numbered only on the right-hand page, the indexes have an addendum to the page number to indicate the front (recto) or back (verso) of the "folio" to be able to locate text more efficiently. Looking up painters remains difficult because the indexes use first names rather than last names, since the last names in use by the painters themselves were not consistent in all regions where the painters were active. Many painters were better known by their nicknames than their given names. For this reason, the spelling of the names used in the text do not always match the names in the indexes.
- Foundations (Den Grondt der Edel vry Schilder-const: Waer in haer ghestalt, aerdt ende wesen, de leer-lustighe Jeught in verscheyden Deelen in Rijm-dicht wort voor ghedraghen.)
- Lives of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman painters (Het Leven Der oude Antijcke doorluchtighe Schilders, soo wel Egyptenaren, Griecken als Romeynen)
- Lives of modern Italian painters (Het Leven Der Moderne, oft dees-tijtsche doorluchtighe Italiaensche Schilders.)
- Lives of great Dutch and German painters (Het Leven der Doorluchtighe Nederlandtsche, en Hooghduytsche Schilders.)
- Explanation of Ovid's Metamorphosis (Wtlegghingh op den Metamorphosis Pub. Ouidij Nasonis.)
- Explanation of Figures (Uvtbeeldinge der Figueren)
The biographies in the book are similar in style and format to Giorgio Vasari's book. Karel van Mander digresses only rarely from the format; starting per painter with an overview of the childhood years and a list of teachers, followed by some career information and concluding with a list of notable works. The second edition includes a biography of van Mander himself that Miedema believes was written by his brother, who may have been with him on his deathbed.
The bulk of the book is in the Lives of great Dutch and German painters. It is this part of the book that has historically been the most translated for details on painters of the Netherlands. This is also the subject of Miedema's book. He previously wrote a book on the Foundations. In his attempt to make a systematic overview of the Lives, Miedema includes a long list of sources for Karel van Mander as well as for his own modern translation, and includes prints, photos of paintings, sculpture, architecture and stained glass window cartoons to illustrate the text. He revisits old and publishes new archival evidence, though he regrets the lack of documentation on the early Netherlandish painters. The book is easy to read, but following notes can be difficult because the notes per "folio" of the original have pages of notes themselves, and the reader is often left to crack open three books at the same time to reference one painter biography. It is however the best reference for various aspects of the subject, and includes a concise description of the larger impact of the Dutch revolt in context on Karel van Mander's life and that of his contemporaries.
The history of early Netherlandish painting was first described by Lodovico Guicciardini, who himself was a source for Vasari. That tradition took little account of the geographic topology of the Low countries and the Van Eyck brothers were considered the fathers of Netherlandish painting concentrated in Bruges. Karel van Mander intended to set this misconception straight by listing all of the famous early Netherlandish painters, but he met with many difficulties himself with obtaining accurate information, due to the political unrest.
Ancient Greek painters
At the time van Mander was writing, the Protestant Reformation had officially taken place, but this did not mean that everything changed overnight. There was still a market for religious subjects, though this was quickly dying in favor of genre scenes and historical allegories. It became fashionable to depict politically correct subjects such as stories too old to be offensive to either Protestants or Catholics. Haarlem needed to reinvent itself after losing its attraction as a pilgrimage site for St. Bavo, and commissioned paintings to depict its glorious past in the story of its crusade against Damietta, which was the basis for the Coat of arms of Haarlem. Artists and writers helped update the city's history, and van Mander complied with this new fashion by supplying a list of biographies of ancient painters in Lives of Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman painters.
Vasari's work on Italian painters
Vasari's work was already half a century old by the time van Mander published and for this reason he only translated about half of Vasari's biographical sketches, and he added Italian artists from his years in Italy, such as Tintoretto who became known after Vasari's work was published. What follows is a list of Vasari sketches that van Mander did translate and include in his work:
van Mander's list of famous Netherlandish painters
Van Mander is less known for his translated work on Italian art, than he is for his biographical sketches of Netherlandish painters. What follows is his list of already famous painters from the low countries.
van Mander's list of important contemporary painters
This is a list of all of the painters alive and known to van Mander at the time he wrote his book. Paintings by painters of both lists were known by the Haarlem group of painters that van Mander consorted with.
van Mander's Ovid and explanation of figures
The version of Metamorphosis became quite popular and was sold as a separate book. The final book about figures list the various animals, birds and other objects that can have meaning for the painter to include in his arrangement. This book includes some pagan rituals for use in historical allegories. Included before the index to Metamorphosis, it is meant as an extra guide for that book.
This book brought a glimpse of Italy to the artists of the Northern Netherlandss, and inspired many of them to travel to Italy, if not follow the book's instructions on Italian painting methods. The drawing school that van Mander founded based on this work, continued in Haarlem after him for centuries.
As an artist biographer, Van Mander was famously influential on the art writing of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Amongst others, Cornelis de Bie (Gulden Cabinet, 1662), Joachim von Sandrart (Teutsche Akademie, 1675), Filippo Baldinucci (Notizie de' Professori, 1681), and Arnold Houbraken (Schouburg, 1718–20) used material from his Schilderboeck for their biographical sketches of Netherlandish painters. His book is still the most-cited primary source in biographical accounts of the lives of many artists from his lists, but of most interest to historians is his criticism of their work, especially when he describes the painting style, use of color, location and owner of the paintings, thus becoming a valuable source for art provenance.
- Karel van Mander. Den Grondt der Edel Vry Schilderkonst, by Hessel Miedema, Utrecht, 1973. 2 vols.
- Index to Lives of great Greek and Roman painters on the DBNL
- Index to the Lives of modern Italian painters on the DBNL
- Index to the Lives of great Dutch and German painters on the DBNL
- Index to the Explanation of Ovid's Metamorphosis on the DBNL
- Website of the Basic Library of the dbnl, the section on the Golden Age (in Dutch)