Jacob de Wit (Amsterdam 1695-1754 Amsterdam) Allegory of Trade (Supraporte design for Keizersgracht 274, Amsterdam, 1741)

Jacob de Wit was the son of Christiaan de Wit and Annetje Slootmans and born in the lower middle class of Amsterdam. At the age of nine Jacob became a pupil to Albert van Spiers who in his turn had been a pupil to Gerard de Lairesse. About 1708 Jacob went to live for several years with his uncle and godfather Jacob (who called himself Jacomo) in Antwerp, which has been of crucial importance for his artistic development. Here he met Jacob van Hal and was introduced to the works of Rubens and van Dyck. The designs Rubens had made for the Jesuits church Antwerp, which de Wit copied during 1711-1722 in red chalks are amongst his earliest examples of ceiling designs. The figures seen from below are so-called "di sotto in su". He copied his own set several times and the drawings were engraved by Jan Punt.

Strongly influenced by the seventeenth century painters Peter Paul Rubens, Gerard de Lairesse and Anthony van Dyck, Jacob de Wit became one of the foremost painters of the Dutch eighteenth century. He is most remembered for his Over-door (supraportes), over-mantle and ceiling paintings in the houses of rich patricians and merchants in Amsterdam (Herengracht and Keizersgracht) and their countryhouses of which our present drawing is an exceptional example.

The base for these traditions originates from the era of Stadholder King William III. The terminology "Witjes" (grisaille imitations of reliefs) named after the typical bas-relief drawings and paintings for which de Wit became renowned. De Wit was trained at the Academy in Antwerp and returned to Holland between 1715 and 1717 and specialized in mythological and allegorical subjects. Jacob had no real pupils and the only two artists mentioned as having been taught some basics by him are Johannes de Groot and Gerrit Dadelbeek. He married Cornelia Leonora van Neck in 1720 and the couple remained childless. Jacob himself owned two houses in the Keizersgracht, number 383 and 385.

Bearing in mind the above mentioned two addresses where de Wit lived, the present drawing is almost a neighborly commission.

Jacob Alewijn Ghijsen (1696-1760) was one of the wealthiest tradesmen of Amsterdam in the first half of the eighteenth century acquiring a fortune among others as a WIC-tradesman. He owned several country seats among which was "Bosch en Hoven" in Heemstede/Haarlem which he bought in 1726 for 15.000 guilders from mr. Jan Dutry, son of Benjamin Dutry, heer van Haeften and governor of the East-Indian-Company. Jacob de Wit was commissioned to paint the supraportes for "Bosch en Hoven" as well as four supraportes for it's tea pavillion where he painted the four seasons, dated 1733. When Jacod de Wit died in 1754, Jacob Alewijn Ghijsen was one of the two persons who were indebted to him.[5][6]

Apparently Jacob Alewijn Ghijsen was very pleased by de Wit's work for "Bosch en Hoven" as he bought Keizersgracht 274 in 1740 and commissioned de Wit for at least one supraporte in 1741 for which our drawing is the design.

The original supraporte painting was auctioned after Jacob Alewijn Ghijsen's death and the sebsequent sale of the estate after which the painting was acquired for the estate "Duin en Kruidberg" in Velsen where it is preserved until today.[7]

Another "Allegory on the Trade" by Jacob de wit preserved in the collection Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, Weimar (Thüringen).[8]



[1] Mr. A. Staring, Jacob de Wit (1965-1754). P.N. van Kampen & Zoon N.V., Amsterdam, 1958.

[2] Theo Laurentius, J.W. Niemeijer, Jhr. G. Ploos van Amstel, Cornelis Ploos van Amstel, 1726-1798 : kunstverzamelaar en prentuitgever. van Gorcum, Assen, 1980.

[3] Jhr. G. Ploos van Amstel, Portret van een koopman en uitvinder, Cornelis Ploos van Amstel : maatschappelijk, cultureel en familieleven van een achttiende-eeuwer. van Gorcum, Assen, 1980

[4] Jacob de Wit, De Amsteltitiaan/The Titian of the Amstel. Exhibition held in the Paleis op de Dam/Royal Palace, Amsterdam, 13 June- 31 August 1986. 

[5] E. Munnig Schmidt, 'Ignatius van Logteren en Jacob de Wit op Bosch en Hoven en huis Heemstede', Jaarboekje Nifterlake 2006, p. 65-71.

[6]Kees Zandvliet, De 500 rijkstenvan de Republiek. Rijkdom, geloof, macht & cultuur. Zutphen, Walburg Pers, 2018.

[7] Duin en Kruidberg, inv. no. NL-HlmNHA_23858

[8] Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, Weimar (Thüringen) , inv./cat.nr KK 5693

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