Jan de Bisschop (Amsterdam 1628-1671 The Hague) Sheep resting in a landscape

Jan de Bisschop was the son of Harmen Jansz. de Bisschop and Aaltje Adriaensz. van Noort. Jan preferred to call himself Episcopius (Latin for Bishop) as he had a strong preference for the latin language. He is assumed to have been apprenticed to Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer, 1598-Amsterdam, 1657), though he was a dillettante. Jan studied Law in Leyden after which he settles as a lawyer in The Hague in 1652. He married Anna van Baerle (1615-1676) in 1653. In The Hague de Bisschop held close connections and friendship with the Huygens family, especially with Constantijn Huygens Jr (1628-1697).

Together with Jacob van der Does Sr., Maerten Lengele, Willem Doudijns and probably Constantijn Huygens Jr. as well, Jan de Bisschop founded a private drawing academy to promote Classicism.

De Bisschops most important publications on Claccisism would follow several years later with Signorum veterum Icones after classical sculptures in Rome and Paradigmata Graphices Variorum Artificium with etchings after drawings by Italian Masters. This second publication unfortunately unfinished due to de Bisschops premature death.[1][2]

Jan de Bisschop died of tuberculosis in 1671, after which his drawings and prints were auctioned. The copper plates for his etchings were purchased by Nicolaus Visscher who published a new edition of his graphics (Icones and Paradigmata).

Jan de Bisschop started copying after paintings by 16th and 17th century Masters around 1655. His goal was to recreate the original painting fully respecting the artists style and rendering, though translated into another medium with brush and ink on paper.

Actually, he was the very first to translate oil paintings into large size washed drawings. During the 16th century this manner of copying was applied but exclusively for copying sculptures and reliefs. His aim was to transfer the paintings as truthful as possible into drawings in black chalk and wash. These drawings often are sources of valuable information and sometimes the only remaining resources for paintings which got lost in the past. De Bisschops' copies were so highly esteemed, Arnold Houbraken even decided to mention Jan de Bisschop in his "Groote Schouburgh, 1721".[3]

Although Jan de Bisschop is not known to have executed any paintings, a large number of his original drawings and prints have come down to us today. Of these works, de Bisschop’s drawings may be grouped into four categories: landscapes and topographic views; figure studies, portraits and genre scenes of the artist’s own invention;; drawings after paintings by Renaissance and contemporary artists; and drawings after classical sculptures. Most of the de Bisschop’s sheets are executed in his characteristic technique of pen and brown ink with dark sepia washes, a color still referred to as Bisschops Inkt. His contemporary, the artist Wallerant Vaillant (Lille 1623-1677 Amsterdam) engraved a number of de Bisschop’s drawings in mezzotint using the same color ink (compare with our drawing by Jan de Bisschop, Saint Barbara after Parmigianino after which Wallerant Vaillant engraved his mezzotint).[4] 

At that time mezzotint was a relatively new printing technique that de Bisschop and Constantijn Huyghens the Elder (1596-1687) had begun experimenting with around 1663-64.

The present drawing, depicting sheep in a landscape with a shepherd herding his flock toward farmhouses in the distance, is probably based on a painting by Jacob van der Does (1623-1673), who may have been a member of the drawing academy de Bisschop helped found in The Hague in the late 1660s. A painting by van der Does of a flock of sheep, signed and dated 1661, in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, depicts closely related composition which is partly in reverse.[5]



[1] Renske E. Jellema, Michiel Plomp, Episcopius / Jan de Bisschop; advocaat en tekenaar / lawyer and draughtsman. Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle / Museum het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam, 1992.

[2] Jan de Bisschop, Jan G. van Gelder, I. Jost, Jan de Bisschop and his Icones & Paradigmata. Classical Antiquities and Italian Drawings for Artistic Instruction in Seventeenth Century Holland.
Davaco Publishers, Doornspijk, 1985.

[3] Houbraken 1718-1721 , vol. 2 (1719), p. 234, vol. 3 (1721), p. 150-151, 212-213 (as: Jan/Joan de Biskop)

[4] Jan de Bisschop, Saint Barbara (after Parmigianino).
Black and red chalk, brush and brown ink, brown wash, black chalk framing lines, 214 x 174 mm.

[5] Jacob van der Does, The Flock of sheep.
Oil on canvas, 72,5 x 83,5 cm. National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen (Statens Museum for Kunst), inv. no. KMSsp518.

Related works

Copyright © 2022 • Onno van Seggelen Fine Arts • All rights reserved • Webdesign and development by Vier Hoog and Swiped