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Adriaen van de Venne
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The Hague
A painter, draftsman and author, Adriaen van de Venne is best known for his book illustrations depicting the daily lives of all classes of 17th-cenury Dutch society. Born in Delft, according to a 17th-century biography he was educated at Leiden University and studied with the Leiden artist and goldsmith Simon de Valck and a painter named Hieronymus van Diest, active in The Hague around 1600. He followed his father and his elder brother Jan van de Venne (d. 1625) to Middelburg in Zeeland; Jan is recorded there in 1608, and Adriaen may have joined him soon thereafter. Jan became an art dealer, printer and publisher. In 1614 Adriaen married Elizabeth de Pours in Middelburg and settled into a house next to Jan’s shop. Adriaen’s first dated painting is also from 1614. He created numerous paintings while in Middleburg that survive, including detailed landscapes well-populated with figures, some depicting historical events. His career as an illustrator began in 1618 with the publication of prints madeto his designs in a book by the Dutch poet and statesman Jacob Cats (1577-1660). Van de Venne was the principal illustrator for works by Cats until at least 1656, many of them very popular “emblem books” with moralizing verses and illustrations to match. In 1623 Jan published Zeeusche nachtegael (Zeeland Nightingale) illustrated and mostly written by Adriaen, a work praising the culture of the province of Zeeland. Adriaen illustrated other authors’ works as well, including two in 1623 by Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), the secretary to the Prince of Orange. Adriaen also designed prints amounting to political propaganda in praise of the House of Orange. On March 22, 1625, the copyright granted to Adriaen for Cats’s book Houwelyck (Marriage) records him as living in The Hague. He joined the artists’ Guild of St Luke that year, and created several paintings concerning the death of the Statholder, Prince Maurits of Nassau, Prince of Orange (1567-1625). The following year he finished tLants sterckte (Fortress and Strength of the Land), a remarkable album of 105 small drawings in color (of which 102 survive, now in the British Museum) describing all facets of Dutch society, from nobility to peasantry. Many of the paintings van de Venne created after moving to The Hague were done in grisaille, including portraits of royalty, religious pieces and moralizing peasant scenes. He continued an active career as a book illustrator, both for his own writings and those of others. He apparently made no engravings, but instead hired reproductive printmakers to cut plates for him. Some of the plates were signed by the engraver, but many were not; Hollstein lists 455 prints after van de Venne’s designs by anonymous engravers. He was an active member of the Guild throughout his career, serving as dean once and as a deacon twice. In 1656 he and other artists formed a new association of artists, the Confrerie Pictura. He died in The Hague at the age of seventy-three. (TNB 11/2012) Selected bibliography: Ackley, Clifford S. Printmaking in the Age of Rembrandt. Exhibition catalog, pp. 105-106. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1981. Bol, Laurens J. Adriaen Pietersz. Van de Venne: Painter and Draughtsman. Translated by Jennifer M. Kilian and Marjorie E. Wiesman. Doornspijk, 1989. Sutton, Peter C., Masters of 17th-century Dutch Landscape Painting. Exhibition catalog, pp. 503-507. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1987.