Cornelis de Bie

Last updated
Cornelis de Bie
Cornelis de Bie by Gonzales Coques
Born(1627-02-10)10 February 1627
Diedbetween 1712 and 1715 (aged 84–88)
Occupation Poet, writer, politician, bookseller, notary
Alma mater University of Leuven
Period17th century
Genre drama, art history, Emblem books
Notable works Het Gulden Cabinet


Cornelis de Bie (10 February 1627 – c. 1715) was a Flemish rederijker , poet, jurist and minor politician from Lier. He is the author of about 64 works, mostly comedies. He is known internationally today for his biographical sketches of Flemish and Dutch painters in his Het Gulden Cabinet der Edel Vry Schilderconst (the Golden Cabinet of the Honourable Free Art of Painting), first printed in 1662.



He was the son of the painter Adriaan de Bie [1] and member of the Chamber of Rhetoric in Lier known as den Groeyenden Boom. After his study at the propedeuse faculty of Arts at the University of Leuven, he returned to Lier where he became a notary and bookseller. He was married twice: the first time to Elisabeth Smits who died in 1662 and the second time to Isabella Caelheyt who died in 1706. He had eight children, four from each wife. He died after 1712 and before 1715.

Het Gulden Cabinet der Edel Vry Schilderconst (1662)

When the publisher Jan Meyssen asked Cornelis de Bie to write a book on painters, he started out to write the most important Dutch book on painters of the seventeenth century. This book of artist biographies continues the traditions of Karel van Mander's Schilder-Boeck and Giorgio Vasari's Vite . He used biographical material from Karel van Mander and Giorgio Vasari, but the importance of this work is that it is the only known biography for many painters of the seventeenth century that were active after Vasari and van Mander's periods. Because it is written in verse form, it is rather difficult to read today, but it is longer than 500 pages and includes engravings of more than 50 painters from period paintings and drawings. He was an important source for Arnold Houbraken, who refers to him as K. de Bie, short for Kornelis de Bie.

The work was first published in 1662 in Antwerp and De Bie has prepared a second edition of the work, but that was never published and the manuscript is now in the Koninklijk Bibliotheek van België (Royal Library of Belgium) in Brussels. The work included the biographies of painters, sculptors and architects, both already deceased and living. Most of the work is written in verse and therefore, it is rather a panegyric. The full title of the work is Het Gulden Cabinet vande edele vry Schilder-Const, Ontsloten door den lanck ghewenschten Vrede tusschen de twee machtighe Croonen van Spaignien en Vrancryck, Waer-inne begrepen is den ontsterffelijcken loff vande vermaerste Constminnende Geesten ende Schilders Van deze Eeuw, hier inne meest naer het leven af-gebeldt, verciert met veel vermakelijcke Rijmen ende Spreucken. There are also indications that it was rapidly set and printed and therefore, it is possible that it was mainly meant as a commercial work.

Poetry versus historical accuracy

Like Vasari and Van Mander before him, De Bie's biographies are interspersed with amusing anecdotes. Although such literary motifs belong to a long rhetorical tradition, many of these stories were labelled "historically unreliable" by leading historians in the 19th century and only recently have some of them been reinstated. However, since they were also often the only surviving source of information about certain painters, these stories have always been repeated as hard facts about the lives of other painters appearing in the stories. Examples are when Cornelis de Bie describes apprenticeships that were considered improbable because the artist painted in a completely different genre than the teacher. An example is De Bie's statement that Philips Wouwerman trained with Frans Hals. [2] Later historians claimed this was improbable, because Wouwerman painted landscapes with horses and Hals was a portrait painter. Today this is still considered by some to be improbable, though Hals clearly had a large workshop and took on his sons as well as other pupils.





  1. Adriaan de Bie biography in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature
  2. Het gulden cabinet vande edel vry schilder const, online facsimile version in Google books, p.281
  3. Bie, Cornelis De (1 January 1661). "Het gulden Cabinet vande edel vry schilder const, inhoudende den lof vande vermarste schilders, architecte, beldthowers ende plaetsnyders van dese eeuw". Jan Meyssens via Google Books.
  4. Bie, Cornelis De (1 January 1710). "Klucht van het bedriegelyck-mal" via Google Books.
  5. Bie, Cornelis De; Neeffs, Jacobus (1 January 1670). "Faems weer-galm der Neder-duytsche poësie van Cornelio De Bie tot Lyer, uyt sijnen tydts over-schot vrymoedelijck voor-gestelt op de domme waen-sucht des wereldts, ghenoempt, werelts sots-cap vol zedige moraliteyten en sinne-beelden". Jan Jaye via Google Books.
  6. Horstius, Jacobus Merlo; Bie, Cornelis De; Snyders, Michael (1 January 1688). "Het sout der sielen welvaart getrocken uyt [...] Paradisvs animae christianae. R.D. Iacobi Merlo Horsty". by Augustinus Graet [Boekverkoper] via Google Books.
  7. Bie, Cornelis De; Salpaert, Jean; Bollaert, Quirin-Gilles; Gummarus, St; Bouttats, Gaspar; Everwyn, Willem (1 January 1708). "Den spiegel vande verdrayde werelt: te sien in den bedriegelijcken handel, sotte, en ongeregelde manieren van het al te broos menschen leven". Joannes Paulus Robyns via Google Books.
  8. Bie, Cornelis De (1 January 1710). "Klucht van het bedriegelyck-mal" via Google Books.