Gerard de Lairesse

Last updated
Rembrandt's portrait of Gerard de Lairesse at age 25, showing his saddle nose. Oil on canvas, ca. 1665-67. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 095.jpg
Rembrandt's portrait of Gerard de Lairesse at age 25, showing his saddle nose. Oil on canvas, ca. 1665-67. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gerard or Gérard (de) Lairesse (11 September 1641 June 1711) was a Dutch Golden Age painter and art theorist. His broad range of skills included music, poetry, and theatre. De Lairesse was influenced by the Perugian Cesare Ripa [1] [2] and French classicist painters such as Charles le Brun, Simon Vouet and authors such as Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine. His importance grew in the period following the death of Rembrandt. [3] His treatises on painting and drawing, Grondlegginge Ter Teekenkonst (1701), [4] [5] [6] based on geometry and Groot Schilderboek (1707), were highly influential on 18th-century painters. [7]

Dutch Golden Age history of the Netherlands 1575 to 1675

The Dutch Golden Age was a period in the history of the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The first section is characterized by the Eighty Years' War, which ended in 1648. The Golden Age continued in peacetime during the Dutch Republic until the end of the century.

Cesare Ripa Italian art historian

Cesare Ripa was an Italian iconographer who worked for Cardinal Anton Maria Salviati as a cook and butler.

Simon Vouet French painter

Simon Vouet was a French painter and draftsman, who today is perhaps best remembered for helping to introduce the Italian Baroque style of painting to France.


Painting career

Apollo and Aurora, 1671, ceiling painting for Herengracht, ndeg 539, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1671 Gerard de Lairesse - Apollo and Aurora.jpg
Apollo and Aurora, 1671, ceiling painting for Herengracht, n° 539, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gerard de Lairesse, Allegory of sciences, Rijksmuseum Gerard de Lairesse - Allegorie op de Wetenschappen - Google Art Project.jpg
Gerard de Lairesse, Allegory of sciences, Rijksmuseum

De Lairesse was born in Liège and was the second son of painter Renier de Lairesse (1597-1667). He studied art under his father and from 1655 under Bertholet Flemalle. [8] He worked in Cologne and Aix-la-Chapelle for Maximilian Henry of Bavaria from 1660. In 1664 De Lairesse fled from Liège after an affair with two sisters, his models, led to difficulties. He travelled north with a girl named Marie Salme and married her in Visé. The couple settled in Utrecht, where a son was baptized in April 1665. When his talent as an artist was discovered by the art dealer Gerrit van Uylenburgh, he moved to Amsterdam. De Lairesse arrived with his violin, with which he impressed Jan van Pee and probably Anthonie Claesz de Grebber in Uylenburgh's studio. [9] In 1670 a son, Abraham, was born; the engraver Abraham Blooteling, with whom he collaborated, was the witness at the baptism; [10] another son was baptized in 1673. [11]

Liège Municipality in French Community, Belgium

Liège is a major Walloon city and municipality and the capital of the Belgian province of Liège.

Bertholet Flemalle painter

Bertholet Flemalle, Flemal, or Flamael (1614–1675) was a Liège Baroque painter.

Cologne Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Cologne is the largest city of Germany's most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and its 1 million+ (2016) inhabitants make it the fourth most populous city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. The largest city on the Rhine, it is also the most populous city both of the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Region, which is Germany's largest and one of Europe's major metropolitan areas, and of the Rhineland. Centred on the left bank of the Rhine, Cologne is about 45 kilometres (28 mi) southeast of North Rhine-Westphalia's capital of Düsseldorf and 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of Bonn. It is the largest city in the Central Franconian and Ripuarian dialect areas.

In 1671, when Van Uylenburgh tried to sell 13 paintings to Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, Hendrick Fromantiou successfully advised the Elector to send 12 pieces back as forgeries. Fromantiou claimed the paintings were copies of Italian ones, and he could point out the originals in Holland. De Lairesse was one of 51 individuals involved because of their expertise.

Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia

Frederick William was Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, thus ruler of Brandenburg-Prussia, from 1640 until his death in 1688. A member of the House of Hohenzollern, he is popularly known as "the Great Elector" because of his military and political achievements. Frederick William was a staunch pillar of the Calvinist faith, associated with the rising commercial class. He saw the importance of trade and promoted it vigorously. His shrewd domestic reforms gave Prussia a strong position in the post-Westphalian political order of north-central Europe, setting Prussia up for elevation from duchy to kingdom, achieved under his son and successor.

Hendrick Fromantiou Dutch painter

Hendrik de Fromantiou was a Dutch still life painter.

Some time later De Lairesse moved to Spinhuissteeg where he became a member of the literary society Nil volentibus arduum , which seems to have gathered in his house from 1676 until 1681. [12] In 1682 he sold copies of sheet music composed by Lully. [13] In May 1684 he rented the nearby house of Caspar Barlaeus. [14] His pupils Philip Tideman and Louis Abry lived there too.

Nil volentibus arduum is a Latin expression meaning "nothing is impossible for those willing", and the name of a 17th-century Dutch literary society that tried to bring French literature to the Dutch Republic.

Caspar Barlaeus Dutch polymath

Caspar Barlaeus was a Dutch polymath and Renaissance humanist, a theologian, poet, and historian.

Philip Tideman Dutch painter

Philip Tideman (1657–1705) was a Dutch Golden Age painter.

De Lairesse produced paintings as decorations for the Soestdijk Palace between 1676 and 1683. In 1684 he moved to the Hague and worked there for a year. In the Binnenhof he decorated a hall, which is named after him, with an "Allegory of Justice". In 1685 he painted works for the Loo Palace.

Soestdijk Palace palace

Soestdijk Palace is a former palace of the Dutch Royal Family. It consists of a central block and two wings.

Binnenhof complex of buildings in The Hague, The Netherlands

The Binnenhof is a complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, Netherlands, next to the Hofvijver. It houses the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Built primarily in the 13th century, the Gothic castle originally functioned as residence of the counts of Holland and became the political centre of the Dutch Republic in 1584. It is counted among the Top 100 Dutch heritage sites. The Binnenhof is the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use.


Gerard de Lairesse: Allegory of the Five Senses, 1668, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum 1668 Gerard de Lairesse - Allegory of the Five Senses.jpg
Gerard de Lairesse: Allegory of the Five Senses, 1668, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Venus Presenting Weapons to Aeneas, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp 16xx Gerard de Lairesse - Venus Presenting Weapons to Aeneas 0.jpg
Venus Presenting Weapons to Aeneas , Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp

At first, De Lairesse was highly influenced by Rembrandt, but later he focused on a more French-oriented style similar to Nicolas Poussin. [15] The French even nicknamed him the "Dutch Poussin", although he was also influenced by Pierre Mignard and Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy.

Rembrandt 17th-century Dutch painter and printmaker

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch draughtsman, painter and printmaker. An innovative and prolific master in three media, he is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history. Unlike most Dutch masters of the 17th century, Rembrandt's works depict a wide range of style and subject matter, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch art, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres. Like many artists of the Dutch Golden Age, such as Jan Vermeer of Delft, Rembrandt was also an avid art collector and dealer.

Nicolas Poussin 17th-century French Baroque painter

Nicolas Poussin was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style, although he spent most of his working life in Rome. Most of his works were on religious and mythological subjects painted for a small group of Italian and French collectors. He returned to Paris for a brief period to serve as First Painter to the King under Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, but soon returned to Rome and resumed his more traditional themes. In his later years he gave growing prominence to the landscapes in his pictures. His work is characterized by clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. Until the 20th century he remained a major inspiration for such classically-oriented artists as Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Paul Cézanne.

Pierre Mignard French painter

Pierre Mignard or Pierre Mignard I, called "Mignard le Romain" to distinguish him from his brother Nicolas Mignard, was a French painter known for his religious and mythological scenes and portraits. He was a near-contemporary of the Premier Peintre du Roi Charles Le Brun with whom he engaged in a bitter, life-long rivalry.

In Amsterdam during the second half of the 17th century, the pious austerity of the Protestant Dutch in Rembrandt's age had given way to unbridled opulence, even decadence, and de Lairesse's classical French, or Baroque, style fitted this age perfectly. It made him one of, if not the most popular painter in Amsterdam at that time. De Lairesse was therefore frequently hired to adorn the interiors of government buildings and homes (canal houses) of wealthy Amsterdam businessmen with lavish grisailles, trompe l'oeil ceilings and wall paintings. Some of these paintings still exist in the original buildings where they were painted.

De Lairesse as art theorist

De Lairesse suffered from hereditary or congenital syphilis, which caused him to go blind around 1690. [16] The saddle nose which the disease gave him is clearly visible on the portrait which Rembrandt painted of him around 1665 and the engraving in the "Teutsche Academie" by Joachim von Sandrart (1683). [17] After losing his sight, De Lairesse was forced to give up painting and focused instead on lecturing twice a week. De Lairesse explicitly states that despite his blindness, he was still able to design a perfect composition. He drew on two chalk boards and was assisted by his audience and his son Johannes who collected their notes. After several years two books on art were published:

In Het groot schilderboeck, De Lairesse expressed his disapproval of realism style used by Dutch Golden Age painters like Rembrandt, Adriaen Brouwer, Adriaen van Ostade and Frans Hals because they often portrayed everyday scenes and ordinary people such as soldiers, farmers, maids, and even beggars. In De Lairesse's view, paintings ought to show lofty biblical, mythological and historical scenes, in the spirit of Karel van Mander, who felt that a complex historical allegory was the highest of genres. "A good painting has a clue, indicating what holds the composition together." [2]

He was a disciplined intellectual, inspired by the notion that only correct theory could produce good art. For him theory meant the strict adherence to rules. The ultimate purpose of the visual arts was the improvement of mankind, and therefore art must, above all, be lofty and edifying. He set forth hierarchies of social status, of subject matter, of beauty itself. The artist, he said, must learn grace by mingling with the social and intellectual élite, must allow his subject matter to teach the highest moral principles, and must strive for ideal beauty. He must follow closely upon nature but overlook its imperfections. [18]

In the main reception room there should be tapestries or paintings on the wall with life size figures ... and in the kitchen, images of kitchen equipment and the spoils of the hunt, the picture of some maid, servant, dog or cat. De Lairesse, for whom pictorial illusionism was of utmost importance, also wrote about the place of pictures on walls. For example, he urged that landscapes (and indeed all paintings) should be hung at a height where their horizons were even with eye level. De Lairesse urged that portraits that be hung high and have a low viewpoint. Gerard de Lairesse was cognizant of the problems posed by viewing paintings from a distance and drew connection between the hanging position and the scale and style of individual paintings. He noted ... that a piece ten feet large, with life-size figures, should be viewed at ten feet distance, and that a smaller one five feet high, with life-size, half-length figures, must have five feet distance. [19]


Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple, 1674 1674 Gerard de Lairesse - Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple.jpg
Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple, 1674

His treatises on painting and drawing, Grondlegginge ter teekenkonst (1701) [4] [5] [6] and Het groot schilderboeck (1707), were highly influential on later painters like Jacob de Wit. He also worked with many established artists of his day, as Barend Graat, Johannes Glauber and Frederick de Moucheron, on larger commissions for house decorations.

De Lairesse attracted many pupils, including Jan van Mieris, Simon van der Does, and the brothers Teodor and Krzysztof Lubieniecki. According to Houbraken, Jan Hoogsaat was one of his best pupils. [20] According to the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), his pupils were Jacob van der Does (the Younger), Louis Fabritius Dubourg, Jan Goeree, Gilliam van der Gouwen, Johannes de Lairesse, Theodor Lubienitzki, Bonaventura van Overbeek, Jan Wandelaar, and Zacharias Webber (the Younger). [21]

Celebrated during his lifetime and well into the 18th century, he was berated during the 19th century. With or without justification, he was considered superficial and effete, and was held in large part responsible for the decline in Dutch painting. Two hundred years after his death in 1711 the Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition (1911) gave no listing at all for De Lairesse, while devoting four pages of solid text to Rembrandt. [18]

Works by De Lairesse are now on display at many museums around the world, including the Rijksmuseum and Amsterdams Historisch Museum in Amsterdam, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the National Portrait Gallery and Tate Gallery in London, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In 2016-2017, an exhibition and conference dedicated to De Lairesse's work was held at Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede. [22]


Hercules at the crossroads, Louvre, Paris Gerard de Lairesse - Hercule entre le Vice et le Vertu.JPG
Hercules at the crossroads, Louvre, Paris

Well-known paintings by de Lairesse include his Allegory of the Five Senses (1668), Diana and Endymion (ca. 1680) and Cleopatra Landing at Tarsus. Some of his paintings show influence by the Iconologia of Cesare Ripa, a book that was given to him by his brother, after returning from Italy. [23] A versatile artist, De Lairesse also made many prints for book illustrations (e.g. for the poet Andries Pels) (1668). Among other things, De Lairesse produced:

Related Research Articles

Westerkerk church in Amsterdam

The Westerkerk is a Reformed church within Dutch Protestant church in central Amsterdam, Netherlands. It lies in the most western part of the Grachtengordel neighborhood, next to the Jordaan, between the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht.

Saskia van Uylenburgh Wife of Rembrandt van Rijn

Saskia van Uylenburgh was the wife of painter Rembrandt van Rijn. In the course of her life she was his model for some of his paintings, drawings and etchings. She was the daughter of a Frisian mayor.

Willem van Mieris Dutch painter

Willem van Mieris was an 18th-century painter from the Northern Netherlands.

William Cowper (anatomist) English surgeon and anatomist

William Cowper was an English surgeon and anatomist, famous for his early description of what is now known as the Cowper's gland.

Govert Bidloo Dutch Golden Age physician, anatomist, poet and playwright

Govert Bidloo or Govard Bidloo was a Dutch Golden Age physician, anatomist, poet and playwright. He was the personal physician of William III of Orange-Nassau, Dutch stadholder and king of England.

Hendrick van Uylenburgh Dutch art dealer

Hendrick Gerritszoon van Uylenburgh was an influential Dutch Golden Age art dealer who helped launch the careers of Rembrandt, Govert Flinck, Ferdinand Bol and other painters.

Gerrit Reynst Dutch art collector

Gerrit Reynst was, like his younger brother Jan (1601–1646), a Dutch merchant and art collector from Amsterdam, with his brother owner of the Reynst Collection. He was an alderman and member of the town council, entering it in 1646.

Salomon Koninck Dutch painter

Salomon (de) Koninck was a Dutch painter of genre scenes and portraits, and an engraver.

Gerrit van Uylenburgh, or Gerrit Uylenburgh, was a Dutch Golden Age painter and art-dealer. He was the eldest son of Hendrick van Uylenburgh and took over the family art-dealing business after Hendrick's death and burial in the Westerkerk church in 1661. This business, then in a house on Lauriergracht, formerly owned by Govaert Flinck, played a key role in the art world of the Dutch Golden Age.

Rembrandt Research Project Project to research Rembrandt works using forensic methods and building a database

The Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) is an initiative of the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO), which is the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Its purpose is to organize and categorize research on Rembrandt, with the aim of discovering new facts about this Dutch Golden Age painter and his studio. The project was started in 1968, but has since become the authority on Rembrandt and has final say in whether a painting is genuine.

Johannes Glauber Dutch painter

Johannes Glauber, was a Dutch Golden Age painter.

Johannes Klencke Dutch philosopher

Johannes Klencke, van Klenck or Klenckius was a Dutch teacher in philosophy at the Athenaeum Illustre in Amsterdam.

Jan Wandelaar 18th century painter and engraver from the Northern Netherlands

Jan Wandelaar, was an 18th-century painter and engraver from the Northern Netherlands.

Pieter van Gunst Dutch artist

Pieter Stevensz. van Gunst, also known as Pieter Stevens van Gunst or Petrus Stephani, was a Dutch draughtsman, copperplate engraver and printmaker active in Amsterdam, London (1704), and the Dutch town of Nederhorst (1730-1731). Prints of engravings by Van Gunst are in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in London, among others.

<i>Flora</i> (Rembrandt, Hermitage) 1634 painting by Rembrandt

Flora or Saskia as Flora is a 1634 painting by Rembrandt, showing his wife Saskia van Uylenburgh as the goddess Flora. It is now in the Hermitage Dependence in Amsterdam on a loan from Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Bacchus, Ceres en Venus is a 1686 Dutch-language pastoral opera by Johan Schenck.

<i>Portrait of Gerard de Lairesse</i> painting by Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn)

Portrait of Gerard de Lairesse is a 1665–67 portrait painting by Rembrandt. It shows the painter Gerard de Lairesse holding a paper. It is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

<i>Portrait of a 62-year-old Woman, possibly Aeltje Pietersdr Uylenburgh</i> painting by Rembrandt

Portrait of a 62-year-old Woman, possibly Aeltje Pietersdr Uylenburgh is a 1632 portrait painting painted by Rembrandt. It shows an elderly woman with a small and sober millstone collar. It is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


  1. Gérard de Lairesse, Groot schilderboek, 1707
  2. 1 2 3 Lyckle de Vries "De Lairesse on the theory and practice"
  3. Johnson, HA (2012-05-24). "Horton A Johnson, "Gerard de Lairesse: genius among the treponemes". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 97 (6): 301–303. PMC   1079501 . PMID   15173339.
  4. 1 2 3 Lairesse, Gérard de, Grondlegginge ter teekenkonst 1701, full digital copy
  5. 1 2 3 Lairesse, Gérard de, Grondlegginge ter teekenkonst 1701, full digital copy, Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg
  6. 1 2 Grondlegginge der teekenkonst (1701) and Groot Schilderboek (1707)
  7. "Gerard de Lairesse" (in Dutch). Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
  8. Gerard de Laires biography in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature
  9. Lammertse, F. & J. van der Veen (2006) Uylenburgh & Zoon. Kunst en commercie van Rembrandt tot Lairesse, p. 217.
  10. Amsterdam City Archives [ permanent dead link ]
  11. Amsterdam City Archives [ permanent dead link ]
  12. Triumpf of Peace
  13. J.H. GISKES (1994) Amsterdam, centrum van muziek, muzikanten en schilders in de Gouden Eeuw, p. 51-54. In: Jaarboek Amstelodamum.
  14. Maandblad Amstelodamum 1949, p. 59.
  15. The principles of drawing : or, an easy and familiar method whereby youth are directed in the practice of that useful art. Being a compleat drawing book: ... To which is prefix'd, an introduction to drawing; ... Translated from the French of Monsieur Gerard de Lairesse, and improved with abstracts from C. A. Du Fresnoy.'"
  16. Fifteenth- to Eighteenth-century European Paintings, p. 144. by Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), Charles Sterling
  17. Vitenporträt Gérard de Lairesse (Academia 1683, Tafel 7)
  18. 1 2 Johnson, HA (2012-05-24). "Gerard de Lairesse: genius among the treponemes". J R Soc Med. 97: 301–3. PMC   1079501 . PMID   15173339.
  19. Loughman, J. & J.M. Montias (2000) Public and Private Spaces. Works of Art in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Houses, p. 34, 41, 106, 117-118.
  20. (in Dutch) Biography of Jan Hoogsaat in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature
  21. Gerard de Lairesse in the RKD
  22. "Gerard de Lairesse: Heden en Toekomst", Amsterdam Centre for the Study of the Golden Age
  23. Letje Lips (2009) "Barend Graat Amsterdam 1628-1709"
  24. "Triumph of Peace (en)". Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
  25. Restoration project Triumph of Peace completed
  26. British Museum
  27. Ben Albach (1977) Langs Kermissen en Hoven, p. 123.
  28. Bidloo, Govard (1685). Anatomia humani corporis, centum & quinque tabulis, per artificiossis. G. de Lairesse ad vivum delineatis, demonstrata, veterum recentiorumque inventis explicata plurimisque, hactenus non detectis, illustrata. Amsterdam: Sumptibus viduæ J. a Someren via University of Toronto Libraries.
  29. Bidloo, Govard; Lairesse, Gérard de [Ill.] (2012-08-30). "Bidloo, Govard; Lairesse, Gérard de [Ill.]: Godefridi Bidloo, Medicinae Doctoris & Chirurgi, Anatomia Hvmani Corporis: Centum & quinque Tabvlis Per artificiosiss. G. De Lairesse ad vivum delineatis, Demonstrata, Veterum Recentiorumque Inventis explicata plurimisque, hactenus non detectis, Illvstrata (Amsterdam, 1685)". Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  30. Groot schilderboek, waar in de schilderkonst in al haar deelen grondig werd onderweezen, ook door redeneeringen en printverbeeldingen verklaard; met voorbeelden uyt de beste konst-stukken der oude en nieuwe puyk-schilderen, bevestigd : en derzelver wel- en misstand aangeweezen, Volume 1, Gérard de Lairesse, Philip Tideman, G. van der Gouwen, Jan van Broekhuizen, Jan Caspar Philips, David van Hoogstraten, Johannes Vollenhove, Abraham Alewyn, Matthijs Pool, published by Henri Desbordes, Amsterdam, 1712, Digital version of the work on Google Books