Johannes van der Beeck

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Johannes van der Beeck, Emblematic still life with flagon, glass, jug and bridle, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 1614

Johannes (Jan) Symonsz van der Beeck (1589 – buried 17 February 1644) was a Dutch painter also known by his alias Johannes Torrentius. ("Torrentius" is a Latin equivalent of the Beeck surname, meaning "of the brook" or "of the river".)

Despite his reputation as a still life master, few of Torrentius' paintings survive, as his works were ordered to be burned after he was accused of being a Rosicrucian adherent of atheistic and Satanic beliefs. The tortured painter was thrown into prison as a convicted blasphemer until being permitted to leave the country as a political gesture for England's Charles I, a Beeck admirer.

Life and career[edit]

Watercolor painting by Torrentius (1615) in the album amicorum of Gérard Thibault

Johannes van der Beeck was born and died in Amsterdam, where he married in 1612. Relations between himself and wife Neeltgen van Camp eventually soured and ended in a divorce. Beeck was briefly thrown into jail for failing to pay his former wife her alimony in 1621.[1]

His libertine ways and purported membership in the Rosicrucian order led to his 1627 arrest and torture as a religious non-conformist and an alleged blasphemer, heretic, atheist, and Satanist. The 25 January 1628 judgment from five noted advocates of The Hague pronounced him guilty of "blasphemy against God and avowed atheism, at the same time as leading a frightful and pernicious lifestyle."[2] It was widely believed that the condemned Torrentius' influence had affected Jeronimus Cornelisz, a trader of the Dutch East India Trading Company who led a bloody mutiny aboard the Batavia, a 1628 ship of the Dutch East India Company in 1629.[3]

According to the RKD, Torrentius was tried in 1627,[4] but according to Houbraken, who quoted Theodorus Schrevelius, he was tried and placed on the painbench, and thereupon sentenced to 20 years in the Tuchthuis (the Haarlem house of detention), on 25 July 1630.[5][6]

Although he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, King Charles I of England — an admirer of the painter's works – intervened, and was able to secure his release after two years, hiring Torrentius as Court Painter. He stayed in England for 12 years, returning to Amsterdam in 1642.

Torrentius in Fiction[edit]

Johannes Torrentius is the subject of Brian Howell's novel, The Stream and The Torrent: The Curious Case of Jan Torrentius and the Followers of the Rosy Cross: Vol.1 (Zagava/Les Editions de l'Oubli, 2014).

Torrentius in Film[edit]

Only one of Torrentius paintings survived; it now is part of the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In the documentary 'Cold Case Torrentius' (69 minutes, 2016) by Maarten de Kroon in cooperation with Jeanne van der Horst, this 'Still life with Bridle' is submitted to a close technical investigation. A wide array of international experts (a.o. Christopher Brown, Walter Liedtke, Martin Kemp, Nelleke Noordervliet, Pieter Roelofs, Arie Wallert) comment on the artist's mysterious technique and dramatic life story. The film details the technical research shedding new light on Torrentius' work. 'Cold Case Torrentius' premiered on September 24, 2016 at the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht.[7]


  1. ^ "Johannes Torrentius" (1993). In Ger Luijten, Ariane van Suchtelen, Michael Hoyle (Eds.), Dawn of the Golden Age: Northern Netherlandish Art, 1580–1620. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-300-06016-5, ISBN 978-0-300-06016-4.
  2. ^ Wittemans, Frank (1996). A New and Authentic History of the Rosicrucians. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing. pp. 54–55. ISBN 1-56459-972-8.
  3. ^ Dash, Mike. Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic who led History's Bloodiest Mutiny. Broadway Books, 2003
  4. ^ Johannes Torrentius in the RKD
  5. ^ Johan Torrentius in Harlemias (1648) page 385-386
  6. ^ (Dutch) Johan Torrentius biography in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature
  7. ^ Nederlands Film Festival (2016-08-23), Trailer COLD CASE TORRENTIUS, retrieved 2016-10-04 

External links[edit]