Counting Vermeer


3.8 Commission

Painters did not always purchase or prepare the canvas they used. In the case of a commission, the person or the institution making the commission might provide the painter with a prepared canvas. The most striking example of such a seventeenth-century commission is the decoration of the Oranjezaal, the central hall in the summer residence of Amalia van Solms, which was carried out between 1648 and 1652. After the death of her husband stadholder Frederik Hendrik on March 14, 1647, Amalia van Solms decided to dedicate the decoration of the central hall of her summer palace under construction to the memory of her husband. An important part of this decoration is a series of 30 monumental paintings on canvas, which almost completely cover the walls of the hall. The oldest surviving document with regard to this commission is the contract between the stadholder’s secretary Constantijn Huygens and François Oliviers, signed on December 4, 1647. According to this contract, Oliviers was to prime 30 canvases and deliver them on a wooden stretcher before May 1, 1648. After delivery and approval, these canvases were sent to twelve painters, who had their workshops in different cities in the Dutch Republic and in Antwerp. The contract specifies nine different formats, the largest measuring 24 feet high and 23 feet and one inch wide (circa 7.5 x 7.4 m).1


1 This contract has been published by J.G. van Gelder, ‘De schilders van de Oranjezaal’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 2 (1948/1949), pp. 119-164, esp. pp. 155-156. For the canvases in the Oranjezaal, see: L. Speleers and M. Franken, ‘The canvas support’, in a forthcoming book on the Oranjezaal.

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