Ruins of Castle Spangen


Hendrik HONDIUS the Elder

Duffel 1573 – 1650 The Hague

Ruins of Castle Spangen

Pen and brush in brown ink over black chalk; laid down; traces of black chalk framing lines.

224 x 340 mm (8-3/4 x 13-3/8 in).

WATERMARK: cluster of grapes,

similar to Heawood no. 2106 (England, dated 1622); Schapelhouman and Schatborn 1998, p. 245, no. W121 (Holland, 17th century); backing paper with Strasbourg lily, 18th or 19th century. (R16)

CHAIN LINES: horizontal, 17-19 mm.
PROVENANCE:                                H

Collector’s mark DUP lower right, in an oval, in blue ink (not in Lugt).         B

Sale, Amsterdam, Christie’s, 18 November 1985, lot 57, acquired at the sale.

EXHIBITIONS: Robinson, Franklin W. and Peck, Sheldon. Fresh Woods and Pastures New: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Drawings from the Peck Collection. Chapel Hill/ Ithaca/ Worcester. 1999-2001. Published catalogue.

Ruins were especially attractive to Dutch artists and their patrons; aside from their picturesque qualities, those ruins which were in the Netherlands were especially meaningful to a people whose independence, after an 80-year war, was newly won.  Topographically precise views of famous places also satisfied the love of documentation that characterized the Dutch.

Hondius was an extremely prolific printmaker and publisher of prints;  his range of interests seems inexhaustible, from a remarkable series of portraits of (mostly contemporary) artists to ancient Roman ruins, anti-Roman Catholic propaganda, a beached whale, animal skeletons, maps, and perspective constructions.  Two of his most moving prints show epileptics being restrained.

The haunting and noble ruin in the present drawing, Castle Spangen (now demolished), near Rotterdam, is close in style to a Hondius view of Castle Tervueren, near Brussels, dated 1605, in the Morgan Library, New York (acc. no. 1978.40).  In 1572 Spangen was burned by the Spanish (as was the church at Noordwijkerhout depicted in cat. no. 6 by Du Bois);  particularly characteristic was its central stair tower, once in the courtyard but by now clearly visible.

Castle Spangen was often the subject of topographical prints, a special love of the Dutch.  These prints, from the 17th and 18th century, often show the castle in good condition, c.1550, as well as in ruins, after 1573; for example, Abraham Rademaker, in his famous series of Dutch cities and sites, devotes no less than five pages to different views of Spangen (Rademaker 1725, plates CXXXIX – CXLIII), the last, from behind the castle, especially close to the Hondius drawing.  The castle was also portrayed in the 17th century by Roelant Roghman, in a famous series of about 245 such topographical drawings, and by Willem Buytewech, in a masterful study in the Fondation Custodia, Paris (inv. no. 2356).