About Christiaen van Couwenbergh
Delft 1604 – 1667 Cologne
Leading history and genre painter from Delft. He also painted portraits and he designed several tapestry cartoons.
Son of Gillis van Couwenbergh, a Flemish silver smith and engraver from Malines, who had settled in Delft, where he married in 1600 Adriaentje Vosmaer, the daughter of the goldsmith Wouter Vosmaer and sister of the flower painter Jacob.
Christiaen settled in his native Delft, probably after having studied in Utrecht, where he underwent the influence of Caravaggism.
But according to Dirk van Bleijswijck in his description of Delft (circa 1670) he studied in Delft under the portrait painter Johan Dircksz. van Nes and then travelled to Italy (this would then have been circa 1624).
Arnold Houbraken, the biographer of the Dutch painters from the Golden Age based his information about van Couwenbergh on van Bleijswijck (1718).
Couwenbergh joined the Delft painters’ guild of Saint Luke in 1627 and he married the daughter of mayor van der Dussen (also a prominent brewer and officer of the East India Company) in 1630.
His early paintings until circa 1635 are strongly influenced by the Utrecht Caravaggists, such as Gerard van Honthorst and Dirck van Baburen, and also by Sir Peter Paul Rubens.
He was a very successful painter who received lots of important commissions through Jacob van Campen, participating in the decoration of palaces and public buildings in and around The Hague (the ceiling of the staircase of palace Honselaarsdijk in 1638 and further works in Huis ter Nieuburch near Rijswijk in 1642 and 1643).
Due to his success he moved to The Hague in 1646 or 1647.
In these years he was strongly influenced by the classical oriented painters from the circle of Jacob van Campen. Van Couwenbergh participated in the decoration of Het Oude Hof in The Hague (now Palace Noordeinde) in 1647 and he also painted illusionistic friezes in the Oranjezaal of Huis ten Bosch in 1651.
Despite a substantial inheritance from his wife, who died in 1653, van Couwenbergh’s debts accumulated and he moved to Cologne circa 1656 where he finally died 13 years later. In Cologne he was inscribed as a portrait painter.
He had a flair for broad effects and mild-mannered eroticism.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because in a nutshell it represents the richness of the Dutch society in the second quarter of the 17th century, of a country in the making; it was only after a very long war, in 1648, that Spain finally recongnized an independant Dutch Republic. One can see Dutch herring and cheese, German white wine and a striped shirt inspired by Roman fashion.