Een notitieboekje van Philip Tiedeman (1657-1705)

In: Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries


Besides several paintings and drawings, the Amsterdam artist Philip Ticdcman (1657-1705) left two notebooks. This study is devoted to one of them, which is kept in the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam. In this document Tiedeman kept a record of the commissions he received between 1694 and 1697, often adding a brief description of the work, a hastily scribbled sketch and the customer's name. As well as these purely businesslike data, the artist also jotted down some extremely frank observations about himself and various people of his acquaintance. All this information enables us to form a more complete picture of Tiedeman, notably with regard to his ideas about art, his activities, his patrons and his person. As Houbraken tells us in his Groote Schouburgh, the teachers of the Hamburg-born artist were Nicolaes de Raes and Gerard de Lairesse. Tiedeman's studies with De Lairesse, which probably took place between about 1680 and 1683, with a follow-up in 1695, had a decisive influence on his artistic development. His notebook contains a variety of theoretical observations which echo De Lairesse's ideas as recorded in the Groot Schilderboek and the Grondlegginge ter Teekenkonst. In Tiedeman's opinion for instance, nature (nutura), art (ars) and practice (exercitatio) arc necessary for the making of a complete artist. He also thought that the painter should be a scholar, a pictor doctus. Tiedeman evidently cast himself in this role, judging by the marked attention his notebook pays to various iconographical and historical sources, including the Bible, Ripa's Iconologia, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Ovid's Metamorphoses. Although Tiedeman felt that artistic creation was largely an intellectual pursuit, this does not imply that he was inventive in devising his allegories. Studying the designs in his notebook, we see that his approach, in common with that of so many others, did not display great erudition: instead of gathering his information from different iconographical and historical works, he relied chiefly on Ripa's Iconologia. Tiedeman was influenced not only by his teacher's De Lairesse ideas but by his work as well. The commissions he recorded in his book show that he, too, painted ceilings and rooms and designed decorations for a wide range of objects such as fans, maps, carriages, fences, title-pages, wedding medals and tea-trays. His choice of subject-matter - he produced quite a lot of allegorical and mythological work - was entirely in keeping with the standards of his day. There was thus no lack of orders, most of which, as in the case of his teacher, came from private Amsterdam citizens. Among his patrons were wealthy merchants, many of whom were Baptists, as well as Amsterdam publishers, print and map sellers. Tiedeman's notebook is one of the few surviving seventeenth-century documents to provide a picture of the patron-artist relationship. It seems that the artist often had to cater to his customer's wishes. The information contained in the book not only gives us an idea of Tiedeman the artist but of the man himself. He did after all entrust fairly confidential information to his notebook. He emerges as a hard-working and in particular an arrogant man who nonetheless was acutely conscious of his own frustrations and deficiencies. He presents himself not only as a man burdened by his physical appearance and mental weakness, but also as the artist who, in his own words, 'by dint of constant diligence' and 'with Gods's help' had ensured that his work could be 'placed alongside the best of [his] age.' One wonders whether Tiedeman's notes were meant for his eyes only, or for others. Nothing suggests that the book was ever read by anyone else. but if not for other readers, why did he write it at all? Well, the notebook acted as an aide-mémoire to Tiedeman in his work. It was a means of letting off steam in trying circumstances, and gave him an opportunity to confess his own mistakes. Finally, as stated above, Tiedeman's work was much in demand, but little has survived. A pity, for Tiedeman's notebook would have greater appeal if we could see the final results of the concepts he jotted down in it. None of this detracts from the importance of the notebook in the Rijksprentenkabinet for affording us a glimpse of the daily round of an Amsterdam artist in the last quarter of the seventeenth century.

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