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Dutch Renaissance architects

Architects in order of appearance

Hendrick de Keyser (1565-1621)

Portrait of
Hendrick de Keyser

As a young man the Utrecht-born artist Hendrick de Keyser was apprenticed to master Cornelis Bloemaert. At the age of 26 he followed Bloemaert to Amsterdam. Soon he set to work as an independent artist. When his talent became generally appreciated he was appointed city stone mason and sculptor. In fact his duties included all of the tasks we now associate with the job of city architect. De Keyser is justly famous for a number of important buildings which belong to the core of our historic sites. His Commodity Exchange of 1608-1613 was, sadly enough, pulled down in the 19th century. Today the Zuiderkerk (1603-1611) and accompanying tower (1614), the Delft Town Hall (1618-1620), the Westerkerk (1620-1631) and Westertoren (built in 1638 but in a modified version) are among the historic buildings which provide us with important insights into De Keyser’s work.

It is hard to overstate the importance of Hendrick de Keyser for the Amsterdam architecture of the early decades of the 17th century. He single-handedly created what is known today as the Amsterdam Renaissance style through his revolutionary approach to the local Renaissance styles which had developed throughout the Netherlands.

Apart from pursuing a career as an architect, De Keyser remained active as a sculptor. He designed the tomb of William of Orange for the Nieuwe Kerk at Delft (1614-1623). However, De Keyser did not live to see the finished product. His son Pieter completed the project.

In 1631, ten years after De Keyser’s death, Cornelis Danckertsz included the architect’s most important sketches in his book ’Architectura Moderna’.

Tower of the
Zuiderkerk (1614)

De Keyser can not be accused of provincialism. His international contacts helped him to keep in touch with the mainstream of European architecture. The Amsterdam city administrators sent him to England where he worked with Inigo Jones (1573-1652). Jones was the first English architect who went to Italy to learn all he could about classical architecture. He studied the famous treatises written by the Roman architect Vitruvius (circa 30 BC), and his intimate knowledge of the work of Palladio (1518-1580) gave him the nickname the English Palladio. The Banqueting House in London, designed for the Stuart monarchs, became the prototype of classical architecture in England. When De Keyser returned to Amsterdam one of Jones’ assistants, Nicholas Stone, joined him. Stone worked with De Keyser in Amsterdam from 1607 to 1613 and even became his son-in-law. It was not a coincidence that De Keyser focused his attention on England and English architecture. Amsterdam, as a commercial centre the whole of Europe had to reckon with, maintained close contacts with England.

De Keyser’s mature style, the Amsterdam Renaissance style, deviates from the traditional Renaissance architecture in many respects. Classical elements such as pilasters, cornices, frontons etc. were used on a large scale, but mainly as decorative elements. De Keyser never slavishly followed the tenets of classical architecture as laid down in the Italian treatises. His version of Renaissance architecture, perhaps better termed Mannerism, came to full bloom at the end of the second decade of the 17th century. The style we call Dutch Classicism was to succeed this style within the next few decades.

Among the houses designed by De Keyser are: Herengracht 170-172 (Bartolotti House, 1617), Keizersgracht 123 (House with the Heads, 1622, completed by Pieter de Keyser), Oudezijds Voorburgwal 57 (Crowned Turnip, 1615) and Singel 140-142 (The Dolphin, circa 1600).

De Keyser and Amsterdam; an inventory:

  • Singel 140-142 (The Dolphin, 1599-1602)
  • Zuiderkerk (1603-1611); tower and churchyard (1614)
  • Nieuwmarkt 20-22 (1605, attributed to Hendrick de Keyser)
  • Montelbaanstoren, upper section and spire (1606)
  • Haringpakkerstoren, upper section and spire (1606, pulled down 1829)
  • VOC Warehouse and offices i.e. Oost Indisch Huis (1606, warehouse pulled down 1890)
  • Bushuis (i.e. city armoury), Singel (1606, replacement of the earlier Bushuis which had been turned into a warehouse)
  • Gate of the Spinhuis (i.e. prison facility for women whose punishment included spinning, 1607. The date 1645 on the original De Keyser gate was included after the 1643 fire and the rebuilding of the premises)
  • Commodity Exchange and tower (1608-1613, pulled down in 1838)
  • Inner and outer gate of the Rasphuis, Heilige Weg (a prison facility for men whose duties included the grinding of wood which served as a raw material for the production of natural dyes) prior to 1614? The inner gate was pulled down but the lions are now in the Rijksmuseum.
  • Haarlemmerpoort (1615-1618, pulled down 1837)
  • Jan Roodenpoortstoren, upper section and spire (1616, pulled down 1829)
  • Gate of the Waalse Kerk (1616)
  • Renovation of the Waag (Weighhouse), Nieuwmarkt (1617)
  • Noorderkerk (1620-1623, maybe H. Staets)
  • Westerkerk (1620-1631) and tower (1638, upper section probably not by De Keyser)
  • Regulierstoren (now Munttoren), upper section and spire (1620)
  • Oudezijds Voorburgwal 57 (Crowned Turnip, 1615)
  • Oudezijds Voorburgwal 22 (now nr. 18) sometimes attributed to De Keyser (circa 1615)
  • Herengracht 170-172 (Bartolotti House, 1617)
  • Keizersgracht 123 (House with the Heads, 1621-1622, completed by Pieter de Keyser)
Pieter de Keyser:
  • Gate of the Wijnkopershuis (Wine Merchants’ House) Koestraat
  • Saaihal, Staalstraat

Jacob van Campen (1595-1657)

Portrait of
Jacob van Campen

Unlike Hendrick de Keyser, Jacob van Campen belonged to the landed gentry of his day. He owned the Randenbroek estate near Amersfoort and was a familiar figure among the upper classes of 17th century Holland. He trained as a painter, but, like famous Italian artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael and many others, he also turned to architecture and it is as an architect that he is especially well-known today. His social position and his learning allowed him to regard art as a gentleman’s pastime. He travelled to Italy and familiarised himself with Palladian architecture and classical culture. He deserves credit for his brilliant attempts to translate Italian architecture into Dutch brick architecture and laying the foundations for the style we have come to know as Dutch Classicism. Dutch Classicism is a term commonly used to refer to the Dutch, classicist, version of international Baroque architecture. The style developed in the 1630s and had become immensely popular by mid century. Dutch Classicism exterted a strong influence on the architecture of North Germany, England and Scandinavia. Among the local Dutch followers of Van Campen were Pieter Post and the Vingboons Brothers.

Town Hall (1648-1665)
in the Dam Square,
now Royal Palace

The Town Hall in the Dam Square, now the Royal Palace (1648-1665), is undoubtedly the most impressive example of Dutch Classicism and the most famous building Van Campen ever designed. The completion of this major building was not without problems. In 1653 Van Campen withdrew from the project and retreated to his estate. Subsequently Daniël Stalpaert took over as supervisor. He made a few minor adjustments and completed the world’s largest town hall without further delay. In 1655 a book was published on the new town hall which included all the sketches. The major achievements of Van Campen include among others: the Mauritshuis in The Hague (1633) the Nieuwe Kerk in Harlem and the courtyard for girls which formed part of the City Orphanage (1633-1634).

(tower of the Westerkerk),
view from the Driekoningenstraat (1638);
in front of the tower,
the Renaissance facade of
Herengracht 170-172, designed
by Hendrick de Keyser (1617)

The Westertoren (1638) is sometimes attributed to Van Campen. The design of the tower is much more classically oriented than the church itself, which makes it unlikely that De Keyser was responsible for it. The only known canal house ever designed by Van Campen in Amsterdam is Keizersgracht 177 (Coymans Houses, 1625-1626).

Van Campen and Amsterdam; an inventory:

  • Keizersgracht 177, Coymans Houses (1625-1626)
  • City Orphanage Courtyard for Girls (1633-1634)
  • Heiligewegpoort, Koningsplein (1636, pulled down in 1663)
  • Theatre, Keizersgracht (1637)
  • Accijnshuis, Oudebrugsteeg (1638), sometimes attributed to Van Campen
  • Westertoren (1638), sometimes attributed to Van Campen
  • Town hall, Dam Square (begun 1648), completed by Daniël Stalpaert after Van Campen had withdrawn from the project
  • Design for the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk (1645) which was never executed

Philips Vingboons (1607-1678)

Kloveniersburgwal 95

Like Van Campen, Philips Vingboons started his career as a painter; an obvious choice since his father was a successful artist and many of his nine brothers and sisters chose a profession which was in line with their father’s activities resulting in a profitable family business. His training and the activities of his talented family members familiarised him with a wide range of artistic skills which included cartography, mathematics, architecture, classical culture etc. It is sometimes suggested that he trained with Jacob van Campen himself, but the facts of Vingboons’ life largely remain a mystery. The architect Vingboons catered for the needs of the Amsterdam urban elite of the mid 17th century. He designed a large number of canal houses and was versatile enough to adapt the tenets of Dutch Classicism to the requirements and limitations of the Amsterdam situation. He also contributed to the history of Dutch architecture by preparing a design for the new town hall in the Dam Square, but, as we know, Van Campen’s building was chosen over Vingboons’. By mid century Vingboons was the most prominent of Amsterdam architects. His sketches were published in 1648 and 1674 respectively. Vingboons is widely regarded as the inventor of the characteristic Amsterdam neck-gable. Many of his designs now belong to the core of Amsterdam historic buildings: Herengracht 168 (1638), Herengracht 364-370 (Cromhout Houses, 1660-1662), Herengracht 386 (1663-1665), Herengracht 412 (1664-1667), Herengracht 450 (1669-1671), Keizersgracht 319 (1639), Kloveniersburgwal 95 (Poppen House, 1642), Rokin 145 (1641-1643) and Singel 460 (Neurenberg/Odeon Theatre, 1662).

Philips Vingboons and Amsterdam; an inventory:

  • Herengracht 168 (1638)
  • Singel 282-286 (1639, fronton removed)
  • Singel 548 (1639-1642, destroyed 1943, pulled down 1946)
  • Keizersgracht 319 (1639)
  • Herengracht 237 (1640, pulled down 1881)
  • Herengracht 258 (1640, pulled down or rebuilt?)
  • Geldersekade 18 (1641-1642, facade renovated late 19th cent., gable top removed)
  • Rokin 145-147 (1641-1643, facade of house on the right renovated)
  • Kloveniersburgwal 95 (Poppen House, 1642)
  • Oudezijds Achterburgwal 171 (1643, facade renovated in 18th cent.)
  • Rented apartments Sint Pietersgasthuis, Rokin/Oude Turfmarkt (1643-1645, only three out of the nine original houses survive today, e.g. Rokin 129. The others were pulled down in the 19th century. Unfortunately the survivors have lost their gable tops.)
  • Rokin 95 (1646, gable top and dormer structure removed)
  • Damrak 16 (1647, pulled down)
  • Kromme Waal/Binnenkant (1649, pulled down in 1916 to create space for the Scheepvaarthuis)
  • Kloveniersburgwal 77 (Bambeeck House, 1650)
  • Oudezijds Voorburgwal 205-207 (1650, pulled down 1927)
  • Oudezijds Voorburgwal 316 (Jacob’s Ladder, 1655)
  • Herengracht 364-370 (Cromhout Houses, 1660-1662)
  • Singel 460 (Neurenberg/Odeon Theatre, 1662)
  • Herengracht 136 (back elevation, 1662)
  • Herengracht 386 (1663-1665)
  • Keizersgracht 577 (1664-1665, fronton removed)
  • Herengracht 412 (1664-1667)
  • Herengracht 466 (1669, renovated 1858 when the entrance was moved to the newly built corner house)
  • Herengracht 450 (1669-1671, roof modified and raised in 1922)
  • Noortsche Bosch Weavers’ Houses (1670-1671, most of the original 211 houses still exist)

Daniël Stalpaert (1615-1676)

Daniël Stalpaert was appointed city architect in 1648. It was part of his job to complete the Town Hall in the Dam Square, which had been designed by Jacob van Campen. Stalpaert also played a major role in the 1663 urban expansion plan. He designed the city gates in an austere style. Other buildings for which Stalpaert was responsible are: the building which currently houses the collection of the Maritime Museum (formerly ‘s Lands Zeemagazijn, 1656) and the Oosterkerk (1669-1671).

Justus Vingboons (1620-1698)

Justus Vingboons, brother to the well-known architect Philips Vingboons, designed one of the most splendid examples of Dutch Classicism to be found in Amsterdam, i.e. the Trippen House, Kloveniersburgwal 29 (1662). The building is unique in several respects. The sandstone facade (no Dutch brick facade this time) is richly decorated and provided with colossal pilaster orders. The fluted Corinthian pilasters are quite unique in Amsterdam residential architecture. Other canal houses attributed to Justus Vingboons are Herengracht 257 (1661) and Herengracht 390-392 (1665).

Adriaan Dortsman (1663-1682)

Keizersgracht 672-674

Adriaan Dortsman is commonly associated with the so-called ‘flat style’, a later development of Dutch Classicism. From circa 1670 onwards an extremely austere classicism came to replace the once popular pilaster gables. The facades became almost entirely ‘flat’. Architects focused on large undecorated surfaces and ideal classical proportions. Dortsman’s most important building is the Walenweeshuis on the Vijzelgracht (1669-1671) now the home of Maison Descartes, the French cultural centre. Dortsman became known for his flat sandstone canal house facades. Horizontal accents are created by the joints between the blocks, creating the appearance of stylised rustication. It was Philips Vingboons who started this fashion with his design for Herengracht 450 (Van Deutz House, 1663), but it was Dortsman who popularised this type of facade. Other canal houses by Dortsman: Keizersgracht 672-674 (Van Raey Houses, 1671), Herengracht 462 (Sweedenrijk, 1672) and Amstel 216 (‘House with the Blood Stains’, 1672).

Elias Bouman (1636-1686)

House De Pinto (circa 1680),
engraving by Pieter Persoy

Elias Bouman was an especially popular architect in the large and influential Jewish community of 17th century Amsterdam. He designed the synagogue of the Portuguese Jewish community (Mr. Visserplein, 1671-1675) and worked on the Large Synagogue (Jonas Daniël Meijerplein, 1670-1671) which was built under the supervision of Daniël Stalpaert. Bouman also designed Amstel 224-226 (1672) and the important House De Pinto (Sint Antoniesbreestraat 69, circa 1680).

Daniël Marot (1661-1752)

Herengracht 475

Daniël Marot is the most important 18th century architect of the Dutch Republic. He introduced the Louis XIV style in the Netherlands. In 1671 the French king Louis XIV ordered minister Colbert to set up a Royal Academy of Architecture. The French Baroque style which developed as a result of this action yielded among others the famous palace of Versailles. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes many French artists fled to the Netherlands. Marot was one of them. Initially, between 1685 and 1715, he focused on interior decoration. After 1715 he started to design buildings, applying his style of interior decoration to the outside of his buildings. Herengracht 475 is commonly attributed to him.

Jean Coulon (1678-1760)

Marot’s one-time assistant Coulon was much more active on the Amsterdam scene than his master. Coulon built e.g. Herengracht 433 (1717), Herengracht 539 (1718) and Herengracht 495 (1739).

Frédéric (Frans) Blancard (1704-1744)

Herengracht 284 is the most important building attributed to Blancard.

Jacob Otten Husly (1738-1797)

His most important work is Felix Meritis, Keizersgracht 324 (1787). Moreover, Herengracht 40 (1790) is attributed to him.

Ludwich Friedrick Druck (arrived in Amsterdam in 1771)

Herengracht 182 (1772) is Druck’s most important contribution to Amsterdam architecture.

Abraham van der Hart (1747-1820)

City architect Abraham van der Hart built, among others, the Nieuwe Werkhuis, Roeterstraat 2 (1779), the Maagdenhuis, Spui (1783-1787), the Franse Schouwburg, Amstel 56 (1786) and the Van Brienenhof, Prinsengracht 89-133 (1804). Moreover he renovated Herengracht 502 (circa 1791) as well as the Trippen House.
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