Stock number: 19321Zoom Image
Frederick de Wit (biography)
FORUM AMSTELODAMENSE, DEN DAM, Vulgo VOCANT.
41.0 x 50.5 cms
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Large and spectacular view of Amsterdam market square, of utmost rarity.
Together with the large Visscher panorama of Amsterdam Harbour, this is one of very few large and decorative 17th century views of the city, at the zenith of its power, dominating trade, shipping, art, finances, publishing, architecture, and so on.
This view by Frederick de Wit is only known to have survived in one other copy, now in the Amsterdam city archives, from the Atlas Dreesman Collection.
It is an early work by De Wit, of around 1655. It was not included in any regular book or atlas, but sold as a loose broadsheet. At the time, the Dutch did not use wallpaper, but instead they bought loose prints and maps to decorate their walls. From the moment they were mounted and displayed, the maps and prints were doomed, by exposure to the elements: sunlight, humidity, dampness, temperature fluctuations, smoke from pipes, smoke and soot from hearths, varnish, frequent touching, and so on. Made from paper they were also eaten by insects and worms. When darkened and colour-faded and outdated in contents, they were often trashed. The folds on the example offered here suggest that it has survived in a book, protected from the elements and the ravages of time.
Jacob van der Ulft version
The view by the Wit is based on a drawing and print of 1653 by artist Jacob van der Ulft. That print is also of utmost rarity, Rijksmuseum has the van der Ulft example from the illustrious Frits Lugt collection.
A cityscape painting in Amsterdam Museum shows the same scene and is believed to be copied after the drawing or print by Jacob van der Ulft.
No imperfections or restorations. Ample margins all around. Some old vertical and horizontal folds flattened, else excellent. In this example, the impressium by Frederick de Wit at center bottom has been replaced by the impressum of Joshua Ottens, suggesting that the print must have been a commercial success for at least half a century. De Wit's brandname was so popular that Ottens has retained De Wit's name and dedication on the right hand side.
Famous depiction of Amsterdam's central square, The Dam, which has been a significant historical site for the city.
View of Dam Square in Amsterdam. In the background is the new Town Hall, built in 1648-1650 after a design by Jacob van Campen, now Royal Palace Amsterdam. To its right, diagonally behind a row of low houses, is the New Church, including the projected but never completed tower. In the center is the Weigh House, with a number of horses in front of it. The Weigh House was torn down in 1808, when French King Lodewijk Napoleon wanted an unobstructed view from his palace balcony.
The square is lively with walking and talking people, porters, and market women at their stalls. On the right foreground is a part of the Damrak, where workers are busy unloading a barge. Accentuated shadow areas falling to the right due to the evening light coming in from the left. This painting shows the never-built tower of the New Church. It towers high above the town hall. Perhaps the tower was never completed because the city government did not want the new town hall, a symbol of secular power, to be overshadowed by ecclesiastical power.
At the top left is the coat of arms of the city. In the front left is the business of Hendrick Hondius II, 'In den Wackeren Hond', with a dog holding a globe as a logo on the façade. On top of the house are two dogs holding an armillary sphere. The shop had been in the Hondius family since 1621, first by Jodocus Hondius Jr, later by his heirs. The logo and name of the shop are puns on the family name.
The shopname "In den Wackeren Hond" (also sub Cane Vigilanti, in Latin) had been introduced by Jodocus Hondius the Elder and is repeatedly mentioned in publications from the Hondius publishing house. The name of his business sign is a play on words with his surname: de Hondt (modern spelling hond) which is Dutch for 'dog', and his native town in Flanders, Wakken. De wackere Hondt not only means 'the watchful dog', but also 'de Hondt from Wakken'.
Books are on display outside the shop, as was custom at the time.
Frederick de Wit's shop would be in de Calverstraet around the corner (index "A"), as well as the world's first stock exchange, founded in 1611. The shops of Blaeu and Jansson would be around the corner to the right (index "H") "Op 't Water", now named Damrak.
On the Dam, market traders and merchants, with goods on the quay at the front right. Merchant ships in Amsterdam harbour would often offload their cargo on smaller barges that could then bring the goods to the quay of Dam square. In the caption, the dedication and below it, three lines of text in Latin.
Transcriptions and translations of texts appearing on the print
FORUM AMSTELODAMENSE, DEN DAM, Vulgo VOCANT.
"The Amsterdam Forum, commonly called The Dam."
NOBILISSIMIS AMPLISSIMIS SPECTATISSIMIS PRUDENTISSIMISQUE CONSULIBUS TOTIQUE SENATUI REIPUBLICÆ AMSTELÆDAMENSIS. D.D. H.F. de Widt.
"To the most noble, most distinguished, most respected, and most wise Councillors, and to the entire Senate of the Republic of Amsterdam. Dedication given by H.F. de Widt."
Dutch legend under the print:
Soo ymant wil aenfien het achtste wonder brallen; Die reys niet naer Egypt, om Pharos te besien, Maar slae fyn oog eens neer, in Amstels grijfe wallen, Op 't steijgerend Capitool 't welk blinkt van marmerstien.
Op Waagh, en vrije-markt: hier siet ghij bij elkandren Drie wondren saem gehoopt, 't een om sijn prachticheit. Daer Themis stelt haer stoel, en beij de anderen. Dat sijn de wonderen van nering en profijt.
"If anyone wishes to gaze upon the eighth wonder in splendor; There's no need to travel to Egypt, to see the Pharos, But rather let one's eye fall upon, within Amsterdam's ancient walls, The rising Capitol which glistens with marble stone.
At the Weigh House, and the free market: here you will see side by side Three wonders amassed together, one for its magnificence. Where Themis establishes her seat, and among the others. These are the wonders of commerce and profit.
Latin legend under the print:
Veni Spectator, pasce oculos in hac brevi Tabella, animoque perambula Forum Amstelodamense, Civium, Incolarum, Exterarumq, gentium frequentia mirabile: Confidera Hospes peregrine Curiam, opus vastum, et elegantissima Symmetria stupendum, an habeat Europa parem! hic Themidis Sacrum, Secretiq, urbis reconditorium est: En Templum novum Illustri cum turre sub nomine S. Catharinae, Pietati Religioniq dicatum: Deniq Libram, in quà quidquid habet Oriens, et utrumque Limen Oceani mittit, quotidie appenditur, tantaque Mercium abondantia stupatur, ut Totius Orbis opes in hanc urbem Confluxisse videantur.
Amstelodami apud I. Ottens.
"Come, Spectator, feast your eyes upon this brief tableau, and with your mind stroll through the Amsterdam Forum, remarkable with the throng of citizens, residents, and foreign nations: Consider, foreign Guest, the Courthouse, a vast work, and a wonder of the most elegant symmetry, whether Europe holds its equal! Here is the sacred place of Themis, and the secret repository of the city: Behold the new Temple with its illustrious tower under the name of St. Catherine, dedicated to Piety and Religion: Finally, the Scale, in which whatever the East holds, and both thresholds of the Ocean send, is weighed daily, and such abundance of goods is marveled at, that the wealth of the Entire World seems to have flowed into this city.
In Amsterdam at [the shop of] J. Ottens."
Frederick de Wit was one of the most prominent and successful map engravers and publishers in Amsterdam in the period following the decline of the Blaeu and Jansson establishments, from which he acquired many copper plates when they were dispersed at auction.
His output covered most aspects of map making: sea charts, world atlases, an atlas of the Netherlands, ‘town books' covering plans of towns and cities in the Netherlands and Europe, and wall maps. His work, notable for the beauty of the engraving and colouring, was very popular and editions were issued many years after his death by Pieter Mortier and Covens and Mortier.
(Moreland and Bannister)