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Hen­drik Hondius I, Dutch, 1573-1650: Ruins of Cas­tle Span­gen, c. 1605 

Dur­ing a peri­od of cease­fire between the Dutch and Span­ish amid the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648), Dutch artists devel­oped an inter­est in local archi­tec­tur­al ruins. Rav­aged build­ings were both a glar­ing reminder of the dev­as­ta­tion of bat­tle and a source of new aes­thet­ic poten­tial. Built in 1325, the for­ti­fied medieval château known as Span­gen Cas­tle was burned down by the Span­ish in 1574 and even­tu­al­ly razed in the nine­teenth century.

Faint­ly vis­i­ble black chalk guide­lines sug­gest Hen­drick Hondius drew the site from life. His pre­cise line work and light touch, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the soft reflec­tions of the cas­tle in the water, con­vey a sense of sta­sis in time, a strik­ing coun­ter­point to the life that car­ries on in the farm­hous­es beyond.

Spend­ing most of his career in The Hague, Hen­drik Hondius became one of the lead­ing print pub­lish­ers in the Nether­lands in the first half of the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry.1

A sig­nif­i­cant print­mak­er in his own right, his prints far out­num­ber his rel­a­tive­ly rare draw­ings, which nev­er­the­less con­firm him as an accom­plished drafts­man.2

Among his dis­tinc­tions was to serve as the draw­ing mas­ter for the young Con­stan­ti­jn Huy­gens I (1596 – 1687), an expe­ri­ence described in the lat­ter’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy.3

Hondius’s light, yet pre­cise touch is appar­ent in the present work. The promi­nent watery reflec­tion of the cas­tle in the lower half of the sheet con­trasts sub­tly with the del­i­cate pre­ci­sion of the archi­tec­tur­al ren­der­ing above, and lends the scene a sense of unper­turbed calm. The sheet depicts the ruins of the Cas­tle Span­gen, a for­ti­fied medieval château that once stood near Over­schie, a vil­lage in Hondius’s day but now an urban neigh­bor­hood in the west­ern part of Rot­ter­dam.4

Philips van Math­enesse built the struc­ture on ear­li­er foun­da­tions in 1325 (not in 1310 as fre­quent­ly given), dub­bing it Span­gen, which he adopt­ed as the fam­i­ly name.5

Like many late medieval cas­tles in Hol­land, it endured mul­ti­ple destruc­tions and under­went var­i­ous phas­es of rebuild­ing dur­ing the Hook and Cod Wars in the four­teenth and fif­teenth cen­turies.6

Also like many Dutch cas­tles, it met its ulti­mate demise dur­ing the early phas­es of the Eighty Years’ War (1568 – 1648). A band of loot­ers from Delft destroyed much of it in 1572, with a final burn­ing by the Span­ish army in 1574. This was a peri­od when troops under the Duke of Alva (1507 – 1582) over­ran a great deal of ter­ri­to­ry in the heart of the province of Hol­land, and cas­tles and other for­ti­fied struc­tures were destroyed by both Span­ish and Dutch troops to pre­vent either from using them. Most were never rebuilt. The remain­ing ruins of Span­gen are no longer vis­i­ble, hav­ing been torn down some­time in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. Sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry Dutch artists took a great inter­est in depict­ing these local ruins, a prac­tice that began in earnest dur­ing the peri­od of the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609 – 1621) when the vis­i­ble his­to­ry of the newly inde­pen­dent repub­lic engaged human­ists and artists alike.7

Anoth­er early depic­tion of Span­gen comes from the hand of Willem Buytewech (1591/92 – 1624), whose dis­tinc­tive draw­ing of the struc­ture prob­a­bly dates to some point short­ly after his return to his home­town of Rot­ter­dam in 1617 Fig. 6.1.8

Willem Buytewech, Ruins of Spangen Castle
Fig. 6.1

Willem Buytewech, Ruins of Span­gen Cas­tle, c. 1617 – 18. Pen and brown ink on paper, 144 × 350 mm. Paris, Col­lec­tion Frits Lugt, Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia, inv. no. 2356.

The over­growth and trees around the ruin appear even fur­ther devel­oped in a draw­ing by Roe­lant Rogh­man (1627 – 1692) made three decades later around 1646 – 47 dur­ing his major project of depict­ing cas­tles around the coun­try Fig. 6.2.9

Roelant Roghman, Ruins of Spangen Castle
Fig. 6.2

Roe­lant Rogh­man, Ruins of Span­gen Cas­tle, c. 1646 – 47. Black chalk and gray wash on paper, 324 × 488 mm. Haar­lem, Teylers Muse­um, inv. no. O++ 047.

Essen­tial, how­ev­er, for the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of these ruins is Abra­ham Rade­mak­er’s 1725 pub­li­ca­tion fea­tur­ing views of many Dutch cas­tles and older struc­tures, which includes six views of Span­gen from sev­er­al dif­fer­ent angles Fig. 6.3.10

Abraham Rademaker, Ruins of Spangen Castle
Fig. 6.3

Abra­ham Rade­mak­er, Ruins of Span­gen Cas­tle in 1573, c. 1725. Etch­ing on paper, 80 × 115 mm. Book illus­tra­tion for Kabi­net van ned­er­land­sch­er out­he­den en gezicht­en, plate 143. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. RP-P-OB-73.496.

Rade­mak­er based his views of the cas­tle on images that are no longer extant and remain a mys­tery in terms of their source and author­ship. He pro­vid­ed one before” image of the still intact cas­tle that he dated to 1550 and five post-destruc­tion images dated 1573. The lat­ter set thus comes just after its ini­tial destruc­tion by Delft ban­dits in 1572, but before its final burn­ing by Span­ish troops in 1574. This prob­a­bly accounts for the dif­fer­ences in the appear­ance of the ruin found in the later draw­ings by Hondius, Buytewech, and Rogh­man. The dis­tinc­tive cen­tral stair tower remains vis­i­ble in all but Rogh­man’s obscured view. 

Hondius’s career over­lapped the dates of pro­duc­tion of Buytewech’s and Rogh­man’s images, and his style remained remark­ably con­sis­tent over the course of his career, mak­ing the dat­ing of his draw­ings on styl­is­tic grounds a dif­fi­cult exer­cise. If the present sheet is the ear­li­est of the three, which seems like­ly, then it would prob­a­bly be the ear­li­est extant image of the cas­tle (given the loss of Rade­mak­er’s sources). A pre­vi­ous­ly sug­gest­ed date of circa 1640 – 50 for the Peck draw­ing proves prob­lem­at­ic when con­sid­er­ing the appar­ent topo­graph­ic dif­fer­ences in over­growth and reduced moat size found in the other draw­ings.11

The water­mark in this sheet also sug­gests an ear­li­er date. This would be more in keep­ing with Hondius’s relat­ed draw­ing of Ter­vueren Cas­tle out­side of Brus­sels, sim­i­lar in style and com­po­si­tion, that he signed and dated 1605 Fig. 6.4.12

Hendrik Hondius, The Château of Tervueren
Fig. 6.4

Hen­drik Hondius, The Château of Ter­vueren, 1605. Pen and brown ink, water­col­or in blue, gray-green, and pink, over traces of black chalk on paper, 147 × 223 mm. New York, Mor­gan Muse­um & Library, inv. no. 1978.40.

Both this draw­ing and Hondius’s view of Ter­vueren posi­tion the moat­ed cas­tles on the sheet in a man­ner that affords a near­ly full con­sid­er­a­tion of the reflect­ed struc­ture in the water. An impor­tant dis­tinc­tion with the present sheet, how­ev­er, is that Hondius appears to have drawn the ruins of Span­gen from life, evi­dence of which can be seen in the numer­ous black chalk guide­lines that he search­ing­ly redrew to gen­er­ate a more pre­cise out­line of the struc­ture. His draw­ing of Ter­vueren, on the other hand, is one of sev­er­al close­ly relat­ed draw­ings by var­i­ous drafts­men, sug­gest­ing a drawn pro­to­type that was copied by mul­ti­ple artists rather than one made on-site.13

That Hondius should both craft orig­i­nal works by draw­ing on-site as well as make copies after other artists’ works does not come as a sur­prise, since we find evi­dence of both in his other draw­ings.14

The cas­tle of Ter­vueren was locat­ed at a greater dis­tance away (in the South­ern Nether­lands, then under Span­ish con­trol) than Span­gen, which Hondius could have eas­i­ly reached with­in half a day’s walk from his home in The Hague. Although Hondius was Flem­ish and may have trav­eled back to his land of ori­gin one or more times, it seems more like­ly that he copied sub­ject mat­ter set far away rather than close to home.

Unlike his many draw­ings that were used to make prints, the ulti­mate pur­pose of the present sheet is unclear. Given the sim­i­lar­i­ty of his draw­ings of Ter­vueren and Span­gen, one might be tempt­ed to posit a planned series of prints of cas­tles that never came to fruition. There is no evi­dence, how­ev­er, to sup­port such a notion. These two draw­ings dif­fer con­sid­er­ably in size as well as col­or­ing, and fur­ther­more, Ter­vueren was then a func­tion­ing cas­tle (one of the main res­i­dences of the Arch­duke Albert and Arch­duchess Isabel­la) rather than a ruin. He did use the bot­tom por­tion of Ter­vueren for a print of an imag­i­nary cas­tle he designed and engraved in 1612, show­ing that this sort of draw­ing could prove use­ful as a gen­er­al archi­tec­tur­al study.15

His draw­ing of Span­gen, by con­trast, may have been dri­ven by a pow­er­ful new sen­si­bil­i­ty that took hold in Dutch art at the time. The destruc­tion of the once-state­ly ances­tral homes of the local nobil­i­ty served as a reminder of the rav­ages of war and time, and the image and con­cept of a ruin, as opposed to an intact struc­ture, began to find greater artis­tic and aes­thet­ic poten­tial in the Netherlands.

End Notes

  1. See Oren­stein 1996 for the fun­da­men­tal study of Hondius and his career as a print publisher.

  2. Oren­stein cat­a­logued thir­ty-two draw­ings in her unpub­lished dis­ser­ta­tion; see Oren­stein 1992, 488 – 99. For the cat­a­logue of prints, see the New Holl­stein (Hondius) vol­ume by the same author

  3. Huy­gens 1987, 69 – 73.

  4. The sub­ject of the draw­ing was first iden­ti­fied by C. J. van der Kloost­er in advance of its sale at Christie’s, Ams­ter­dam, 18 Novem­ber 1985, lot 57.

  5. See Renaud 1943 for the early his­to­ry of the cas­tle, cor­rect­ing ear­li­er errors still encoun­tered in the lit­er­a­ture. The same author also pub­lished a num­ber of arti­cles relat­ed more specif­i­cal­ly to his archae­o­log­i­cal exca­va­tions in and around the cas­tle in the 1940s and early 1950s.

  6. Renaud 1943.

  7. For the ruin as artis­tic sub­ject dur­ing the Twelve Years’ Truce, see, with fur­ther ref­er­ences, Fucci 2021; Fucci 2018a; and the essays by S. Kuret­sky and C. Levesque in Pough­keep­sie, Sara­so­ta & Louisville 2005 – 06, 17 – 48, 49 – 62.

  8. Haverkamp-Bege­mann 1959, 140 – 41, no. 110, fig. 89; Rot­ter­dam & Paris 1974 – 75, 79 – 80, no. 102, pl. 111 (iden­ti­fied as the ruins of Span­gen for the first time); and New York & Paris 1977 – 78, 37 – 38, no. 23, pl. 31 (cred­it­ing Jeroen Giltaij with the ini­tial identification).

  9. Van der Wyck & Kloek 1989 – 90, vol. 1, 196, no. 177, vol. 2, 116 – 17, fig. 175; and Plomp 1997, 340, no. 386.

  10. Rade­mak­er 1725 (fac­sim­i­le reprint, 1975), nos. 139 – 44, unpag­i­nat­ed. For Rade­mak­er’s project gen­er­al­ly, see Bee­laerts van Blok­land & Dumas 2006; and for his views of Span­gen, idem, 196 – 97, 407 – 08.

  11. For the later date, see F. Robin­son in Chapel Hill, Itha­ca & Worces­ter 1999– 2001, 64 – 65, no. 16. 

  12. Stampfle 1991, 46 – 48, no. 77; and Paris, Antwerp, Lon­don & New York 1979 – 80, 36 – 38, no. 6.

  13. For a dis­cus­sion of this group of relat­ed draw­ings of Ter­vueren, see espe­cial­ly Haverkamp-Bege­mann et al. 1999, 148– 52, no. 35 (cen­tered on a ver­sion by an uniden­ti­fied Flem­ish artist in the Lehman Col­lec­tion); and Stampfle 1991, 46 – 48, no. 77.

  14. Hondius’s Farm­house at Wij­negem in the Rijk­sprentenk­abi­net, for exam­ple, is a copy after a draw­ing by an uniden­ti­fied Flem­ish artist in the Lou­vre; for which see Schapel­houman 1987, 54 – 55, no. 34. Hondius also made a num­ber of drawn copies of prints by Lucas van Ley­den; see Pack­er 2015.

  15. New Holl­stein (Hen­drick Hondius), 68, no. 55. This print was also used two years later in 1614 to illus­trate Samuel Marolois’s trea­tise on per­spec­tive, and in sub­se­quent editions.