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Jan Baptist Weenix
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Huis ter Mey, nr. Utrecht
A versatile painter known for his Italian views and imagined Mediterranean harbors, Jan Baptist Weenix also painted portraits, genre scenes, histories and still lifes of dead game. A number of his drawings survive, particularly Italianate landscapes, as well as a few etchings. The son of the architect Johannes Weenix (?-?), in 1639 he married Justina d’Hondecoeter, the daughter of Gilles Claesz. d’Hondecoeter (ca. 1575-1638), a landscape painter. Probably his first teacher was Jan Chriastiaensz. Micker (ca. 1598-1664), the brother-in-law of his younger sister Lijsbeth. Arnold Houbraken’s (1660-1719) early 18th-century work on Dutch painters records that in addition to Micker, Weenix studied with Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) in Utrecht and Claes Moeyaert 1591-1655) in Amsterdam. Houbraken wrote he had obtained this information from Weenix’s artist son Jan (1642-1719), so it is probably reliable. After making a will in 1642 in which he wrote that he was traveling to Italy “to experiment with his art” (Sutton p. 120), he left his wife and infant son for Rome, arriving in 1642 or 1643. He joined the Schildersbent (“band of painters,” also known as the “Bentvueghels,” “birds of a flock”), a society of Dutch and Flemish artists active from around 1620 until 1720, where he received the nickname “Ratel” (rattle) due to his speech defect. He was influenced by the work of the French painter Claude Lorrian (1604-1682) and associated with the Dutch painter Jan Asselyn (ca. 1610-1652) while in Rome. By 1645 he was receiving the patronage of a “Kardinal Pamfilio”, probably the Prince Camillo Pamphili, the brother of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphili, who had become Pope Innocent X in 1644. He received at least one commission from the Pope, and by 1647 had begun signing his works Gio[vannii] Batt[ist]a Weenx, apparently in honor of the Pope. Weenix had returned to Amsterdam by 1647, when his portrait was painted by Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-1670; the painting is now lost, but is known through an engraving by Jacobus Houbraken [1698-1780] that appears in his father Arnold’s book. He had moved to Utrecht by 1649, and continued his varied output of art. His combination of picturesque ruins, figures and sea views set the style for Dutch artists who painted Italian harbor scenes in the 1650s and later. Often the ruins depicted were actual monuments, such as the remaining columns of the Temples of Saturn and Vespasian from the Roman Forum, transported to an imaginary seacoast. Even some of his portraits of Dutch families were set in an Italian landscape. In Utrecht Weenix was elected an officer of the painters’ guild, and by 1653 was involved as a painter and art dealer for the art collector Baron Willem Vincent van Wittenhorst (1613-1674). Weenix collaborated on at least one painting with Nicolaes Berchem (1621/22-1683), Calling of St. Matthew, which is set in a seaport ostensibly on the Sea of Galilee, depicted as an Italian port (1655, The Hague: Mauritshuis); they both signed the painting. He made a few etchings of cattle in the style of Berchem; in addition two etched Italian views are tentatively attributed to him. His surviving drawings including landscapes and views of Dutch and Italian subjects and a number of figure studies. According to Houobraken, by 1657 Weenix was living in the Huis ter May, a mansion (now destroyed) near de Haar, outside of Utrecht, where he died a premature death in 1660 or 1661. (TNB 7/2011) Selected bibliography: Duparc, Frederik J. Golden: Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection. Exhibition catalog, pp. 312-315. Salem: Peabody Essex Museum, 2011. Kilian, Jennifer. “Jan Baptist [Giovanni Battista] Weenix,” in Jane Turner, ed. The Grove Dictionary of Art. From Rembrandt to Vermeer; 17th Century Dutch Artists. New York: St. Martin Press, 2000. Schloss, Christine Skeeles. Travel, Trade, and Temptation; The Dutch Italianate Harbor Scene, 1640-1680. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982. Sutton, Peter C., Masters of 17th-century Dutch Landscape Painting. Exhibition catalog, pp. 520-522. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1987.