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Herman Breckerveld

(1595/96 Duisburg – 1673 Arnheim)

The Bastion of St. Janspoort in Arnheim. Pen and brown ink over graphite. 17.2 x 25.7 cm. Signed and dated: “H. Breckerveld f: Arnhem / 1626”.

Herman Breckerveld, who hailed from the Rhineland, was admitted to the Guild of St. Lucas in The Hague as a coat-of-arms and glass painter in 1623. From 1625 he worked in Arnheim, where he gained a reputation not just as a painter but also as a glass painter and printmaker. The present drawing, made shortly after his arrival in Arnheim, shows the bastion in the immediate vicinity of St. Janspoort. The distinctive town gate to the north-west of the city, built by Duke Karel van Gelre in 1537, was demolished in 1825. Breckerveld is clearly at pains to ensure topographical accuracy and explores the picturesque urban landscape of his new home with a great fondness for detail. Staffage figures in peasant costume and elegantly clad members of the affluent middle class linger near the town moat, lending the scene atmosphere and local colour. Brecker­veld’s varied and detailed penwork produces a suggestive, three-dimensional rendering of the weathered, overgrown walls. Transparent areas alternate with dense hatching, thus creating a visually appealing chiaroscuro effect. The whole radiates immense vitality and the intricate technique is reminiscent of the prints of Haarlem contemporaries such as Esaias and Jan van de Velde.

Drawings by Breckerveld are extremely rare and the few sheets which have come down to us are now in museum collections in Amsterdam, Berlin and Hanover. For more on the life and work of the artist see R. van ’t Zelfde, “Herman Jansz. Breckerveld. Een veelzijdig ambachtsman”, Oud Holland, CXX, 2007, p. 52, No. T 15. Exhibition catalogues: Arnhem, Gemeente­museum, Tentoonstelling ter herdenking van het 700-jarig stadsbestaan, 1933; Arnhem, Gemeentemuseum, Twee eeuwen kunst in en om Arnhem 1600–1800, 1952, No. 35. Provenance: Auction catalogue De Vries, Amsterdam, 14 December 1911, No. 1275 (65 Gulden to F. Muller); John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929); Frederik Muller et Cie, Amsterdam, 27–28 May 1913, No. 60 (110 Gulden to F. Muller); Collection I. Q. van Regteren Altena (Lugt 4617).

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