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Vermeer's Clients and Patrons

Author(s): John Michael Montias

Source: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Mar., 1987), pp. 68-76
Published by: College Art Association
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Vermeer'sClients and Patrons

John Michael Montias

On the basis of newly discovered documents, this article establishes with a high
degree of probability that Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven was Vermeer's patron
throughout most of his career. He lent Vermeer200 guilders in 1657; his wife left
the artist a conditional bequest of 500 guilders in her testament of 1665; he witnessed the testament of Vermeer'ssister Gertruy in 1670. There were twenty paintings by Vermeerin the estate of Van Ruijven's only daughter and heir, Magdalena,
which she owned jointly with her husband, Jacob Dissius. The division of the estate
in 1685 shows that paintings by Emanuel de Witte, Simon de Vlieger, and Vermeer,
which had probably been acquired by Pieter van Ruijven, were allotted to Jacob
Dissius' father, Abraham. After Abraham's death these paintings reverted to his
son Jacob. The backgrounds and collections of other contemporary clients of Vermeer, including the baker Hendrick van Buyten, are briefly discussed. Finally, it
is conjectured that Vermeer had access to Leyden collectors and artists via his
patron Van Ruijven.
Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven
It has long been known that Gerard Dou and his pupil Frans
van Mieris, who preceded Vermeer in the art of "fine painting," sold the bulk of their paintings to a few preferred
collectors who may be considered their patrons.1 From circumstantial evidence, which I think the reader will find
compelling, I will show that Vermeer also had a patron,
named Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven, during the greater part
of his career. Van Ruijven lent Vermeer money and his wife
left him a bequest in her testament. Van Ruijven was the
father-in-law of Jacob Dissius in whose collection
Abraham Bredius found nineteen paintings by Vermeer a
century ago.2
Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven was a first cousin of Jan Hermansz. van Ruijven who married Christina Delff, the sister
of the painter Jacob Delff and the granddaughter of Michiel
van Miereveld.3 Jan Hermansz.'s grandfather, Pieter Joostensz. van Ruijven, having sided with the Remonstrants
during the Oldenbarnevelt episode of 1618, was barred by
Stadhouder Maurits from appointment to any higher state
or municipal functions. It is probable that Pieter Claesz.

himself, like other members of his family, was a Remonstrant. His father, Niclaes Pietersz. van Ruijven, was a
brewer in "The Ox" brewery and a master of Delft's Camer
van Charitate (in 1623 and 1624). His mother, Maria Graswinckel, the daughter of Cornelis Jansz. Graswinckel and
Sara Mennincx, belonged to one of the most distinguished
of Delft's old patrician families. Two of Sara Mennincx's
sisters, Maria and Oncommera, were married in succession
to Franchois Spierinx, the famous tapestry-maker of Flemish origin who settled in Delft some time before 1600. The
son of Franchois Spierinx and Oncommera Mennincx,
named Pieter Spierincx Silvercroon, became Sweden's envoy to Holland. It was this same Pieter Spierincx who paid
Gerard Dou an annual fee of 500 guilders in the late 1630'sto
secure the right of first refusal on one painting per year.4
Dou's patron was thus the son of Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven's great-aunt. He was also the godfather of Pieter
Claesz.'s sister Pieternella who was baptized in the New
Church in Delft on 9 May 16425when Pieter Claesz. was
eighteen years old. Living as he did in his parents' household, he could not have failed to meet his mother's first

1 All documents about Vermeer

published before 1977 that are referred
to in this article are summarized in Blankert. The dates of Vermeer'spaintings cited in the text are from this source and from Wheelock. In revising
this article, I benefited from the comments of Professor Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann.
2 Abraham Bredius, "Ietsover Johannes Vermeer,"Oud-Holland, III, 1885,
222. There were actually twenty paintings by Vermeer in the Dissius Collection, as discussed below.
3The genealogy of Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven is traced in Nederlandsche
leeuw, LXXXVII,
1970, 101-04. I owe this reference to Mr. W.A. Wijburg,
who has been able to establish that Vermeer'swife, Catharina Bolnes, and
Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven were distantly related. To be precise, Adriaen
Cool, who was the son of Catharina Bolnes's great-grandaunt Maria Geenen, had married Erckenraad Duyst van Voorhoudt, who was the great-

granddaughter of Hendrick Duyst (d. 1530). The brother of Hendrick

Duyst, named Dirck Duyst, was the great-grandfather of Pieter Claesz.'s
grandmother Sara Mennincx. In this case, I would guess that the religious gap separating the families of Pieter van Ruijven and Catharina
Bolnes - he was Calvinist, she was Roman Catholic with Jesuit sympathies - was more important than their distant kinship.
4Naumann, ii, 25-27, and Jan van Gelder and Ingrid Jost, Jan de Bischop
and His Icones and Paradigmata; Classical Antiquities and Italian Drawings for Artistic Instruction in Seventeenth Century Holland, Dornspijk,
1985, 42.
5 Delft Gemeente Archief - henceforth Delft G.A. - Old Church, Baptism files. Pieter Spierincx's mother, Oncommera Mennincx, was a witness
at the baptism of Pieter Claesz.'s sister Sara on 27 April 1631. The only
female witness, she was most probably Sara's godmother.



cousin at least on this occasion. Pieter Spierincx died in

1652, one year before Vermeerentered the Guild of St. Luke
in Delft.
Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven, born in December 1624,6 was
eight years older than Vermeer. He is not known to have
had any trade or profession. Like his father before him, his
only municipal function was to be a master of the Camer
van Charitate (from 1668 to 1674).7 He and his wife, Maria
Simonsdr. de Knuijt, whom he married in August 1653,8
presumably inherited most of their wealth, which they later
augmented by judicious investments.
It was perhaps through Pieter van Ruijven's brother, the
Notary Johan or Jan van Ruijven, before whom Vermeer
and Catharina Bolnes appeared on the day of their betrothal,9 that the artist met his future patron. The first certain contact between Pieter van Ruijven and Vermeer occurred in 1657 when Pieter lent Johannes and Catharina
200 guilders. 10This loan may have been an advance toward
the purchase of one or more paintings. The sale of the Girl
Asleep at a Table generally dated 1657-58, of The Officer
and the Laughing Girl of 1658-59, of The Little Street of
1658-60, and of the Women Reading a Letter in Dresden of
1659-60, all four of which turned up in the auction of Dissius' paintings in 1696 and had almost certainly once belonged to Pieter van Ruijven, may have helped to repay
the loan of 1657.11
On 19 October 1665, Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven and
Maria de Knuijt passed their last will and testament before
Notary Nicholaes Paets in Leyden. The choice of a Leyden
notary may have been dictated by the need for discretion:
the testators stipulated that they did not wish certain members of the family, including the Notary Johan van Ruijven,
to learn the disposition of their estate. It is probably significant, in view of the Van Ruijven family's Remonstrant
proclivities, that Notary Paets was one of the most eminent
members of the Remonstrant community in Leyden.12
Three separate documents were drafted, approved, and
signed before Notary Paets: a joint testament of the couple,
the appointment of the guardians to any child or children
left after their death, and a separate testament of Maria de

Knuijt, which would only become valid if she survived her

6 Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven, son of Niclaes Pietersz. van Ruijven and
Maria Graswinckel, was baptized in the Old Church on 10 December
1624. The witnesses were Hermanus van der Ceel (the notary of Vermeer's
father's family from 1620 to 1626), Baertge Adams, and Adriana Munnincx. (Delft G.A., Old Church, Baptism files.) Adriana Munnincx was
probably a sister of Pieter Spierincx's mother, Oncommera.
7 Nederlandsche leeuw, xxIx, 1911, col. 198. The family's brewery business seems to have failed some time after Niclaes Pietersz.'s death (ca.
1650). (Delft G.A., records of Notary W. Assendelft no. 1867, 12 August

dates in these and other sources are based on the artist's stylistic evolution,
from which their probable sequencing is inferred. The assumption implicit
in these dates is that the evolution of Vermeer's style from 1656 to 1668
and from 1668 to 1675 (the only dates for which we have evidence) was
steady through time.

8Delft G.A.,

Betrothal and Marriage files.

9 Blankert, doc. no. 10 of 5 April 1653, 146.
10Ibid., doc. no. 15 of 30 November 1657, 146. On Vermeer's financial
circumstances in the period 1653-57, see J.M. Montias, "Vermeerand His
Milieu, Conclusion of an Archival Study," Oud-Holland, xciv, 1980, 4647.
11Blankert, doc. no. 62 of 16 May 1696, 153-54. The dates I have assigned
to Vermeer's paintings are those given in Blankert and Wheelock. The


In the joint testament, Pieter Claesz. and Maria, living

on the east side of the Oude Delft canal in Delft, named
each other universal legatees. The survivor must bring up
any child or children left after the decease of one or the
other of the testators. (This clause probably referred to
Magdalena van Ruijven, the only child of the couple left
alive after their death, who was exactly ten years old at
this time.)14 This same survivor must also give 6,000 guilders in one sum to this child or children. In the second
document, they named Gerrit van der Wel, notary in Delft,
as guardian of their surviving child or children. In case of
his death or absence, the secretary of the Orphan Chamber
in Delft was to be appointed in his place, with the authority
to name a substitute to replace him. They specifically excluded Jan Claesz. van Ruijven, notary in Delft, or any of
the testator's nephews or cousins from the guardianship and from any knowledge regarding the succession. The testator recalled that his maternal grandmother Sara Mennincx, widow of Cornelis Jansz. Graswinckel, had left her
property to him and to his descendants in fidei commissary
(in perpetual trust) but that, in defiance of her testament,
his father Claes Pietersz. van Ruijven had appropriated
these assets to himself and sold them. Nevertheless, he did
not wish to bring suit over this alienation to reappropriate
the goods to which he and his descendants were entitled.
After the death of the survivor of the two testators, the
testament read, the guardians of the children should put
away and preserve the linen, gold, silver, and other similar
wares in the estate to turn it over to them after they had
reached legal age or gotten married. The testators further
stipulated that the Masters of the Orphan Chamber and
the guardians should dispose of the paintings ("de schilder
konst"), which would be found in the house of the deceased, according to the dispositions specified in a certain
book marked with the letter A, on which would be written
"Disposition of my 'Schilderkonst'and other matters."They
wished this book to be considered an integral part of the

12 Pieter van Ruijven was no stranger to Leyden. About the time he drew
up his testament, he was involved locally in a suit over the purchase of
shares in the United East India Company that had belonged to the wealthy
estate of Johannes Spiljeurs (Delft G.A., records of Notary W. van Assendelft, May 1663, act no. 3316, and Leyden G.A. Rechterlijk Archief
92, fol. 202, cited in a letter from P.J.M. de Baar to the author).
13 Leyden G.A., records of
Notary N. Paets no. 676, 19 October 1665,
acts nos. 97, 98, and 99.
14Magdalena van Ruijven, daughter of Pieter van Ruijven and Maria van
Ruijven (who often used her husband's name instead of her own), was
baptized in the Old Church on 12 October 1655. The witnesses were Jan
van Ruijven (the notary), Maria van Ruijven (the sister of Pieter Claesz.),
and Machtelt de Knuijt (almost certainly the sister of Maria de Knuijt);
Delft G.A., Old Church, Baptism files.



In the testament of Maria de Knuijt, which would only

acquire validity in case of her husband's predecease, the
testatrix approved the two previous acts and named as her
universal heir her child or children and their descendants.
If she left no child or children after her husband's death,
then her property should be divided into three equal parts:
one third she bequeathed to the Orphan Chamber of Delft
to aid the poor, another third to the Camer van Charitate
also for the support of the poor, and the last third to the
"Preachers of the True Reformed Religion in Delft" who
were to distribute them in turn to "expelled preachers having studied the Holy Theology."'5Sara and Maria van Ruijven, sisters of her husband, Pieter van Ruijven, would be
permitted to enjoy the usufruct of all her property their life
long and to chose among her household goods any that
they might wish to have, with the exception of the best
"schilderkonst."Finally, she made various bequests "in the
aforesaid case," which I interpret to mean in case she were
to die childless. If this interpretation is correct, the bequests
that follow were to be made before the rest of the estate
was divided into three equal parts.
Maria de Knuijt left 6,000 guilders to the children of her
late brother Vincent de Knuijt and after their death to their
descendants; 6,000 guilders to Floris Visscher, her husband's nephew or cousin, merchant in Amsterdam, and,
after his death, to his descendants; 1,000 guilders to the
surgeon Johannes Dircxz. de Geus, and, after his death, to
his descendants; and 500 guilders to Johannes Vermeer,
painter. Following the bequest to Vermeer, the following
words were crossed out: "In case of his [Vermeer's] predecease, neither to his children nor to his descendants."
They were replaced by the marginal addition: "However,
in case of his predecease the above aforesaid bequest will
be annulled" ("sall 't voors. legaet te niet zijn"). The different wording had the effect of excluding Catharina Bolnes
from the succession. Of all these conditional bequests, the
one to Vermeer was then the only one that was clearly reserved for him and him alone. The reason for this discrimination was perhaps that Maria de Knuijt, whose sympathies with the Reformed Church were clearly expressed in
the disposition of the bulk of her estate if she died childless,
did not wish any of her money to benefit Jesuits or Jesuit
sympathizers. While I do not know the precise family relationship between the testatrix and the surgeon De Geus,
I infer that such a relationship existed from the burial of
two of his children in the family plot of Pieter Claesz. van
Ruijven and Maria de Knuijt.16Johannes Vermeer was then
the only individual who did not belong to Pieter van
Ruijven's or to Maria de Knuijt's family who was singled

out for a special bequest. This is a rare, perhaps unique,

instance of a seventeenth-century Dutch patron's testamentary bequest to an artist. This token of affection together with the repeated mentions of the "schilderkonst"
they owned suggest that Pieter van Ruijven and Maria de
Knuijt had bought a number of paintings by Vermeer by
1665 when this testament was made.
I have already speculated that several paintings in the
Dissius sale of 1696 probably entered the Van Ruijven collection shortly after they were painted in the late 1650's.
From 1660 to 1665 other pictures that eventually descended
to Jacob Dissius may have been acquired by the Van
Ruijvens, including The Milkmaid of about 1660, The Concert in the Isabella Gardner Museum (about 1664-65), and
the very large View of Delft generally dated 1663. It is also
probable that three paintings by Emanuel de Witte and four
paintings by Simon de Vlieger, which also turned up in the
Dissius inventory,17 belonged to the best "schilderkonst"
consigned in the little book marked A (which has unfortunately disappeared).
Van Ruijven and his wife, passionate collectors though
they may have been, were wealthy enough to buy paintings
without denting their fortune. On 11 April 1669, Willem,
Baron of Renesse (or Renaisse), put up for sale at auction
the domain of Spalant, consisting of twenty-and-a-half
morgen of land situated near the village of Ketel, not far
from Schiedam. With the domain that occupied more than
half the Seigneury of Spalant came the title of Lord of Spalant. The property was bought by Pieter Claesz. for 16,000
guilders.18 When he witnessed the last will and testament
of the framemaker Anthony van der Wiel and of his wife
Gertruy Vermeer (the artist's sister, 1620-70) in their home
ten months later, he proudly called himself Lord of Spalant.19 He may have been there simply to buy frames, but
he is more likely to have attended the act to promote or
protect Vermeer's interests. (In her testament Gertruy left
400 guilders to her "heirs ab intestato," who probably consisted exclusively of Vermeer, in case she predeceased her
husband - as she actually did.)
The only known testamentary provisions made by Pieter
van Ruijven and his wife after the will they had passed
before Notary Paets in Leyden was a codicil dated June
1674.20 By this time Van Ruijven was said to reside in The
Hague but to be lodged on the Voorstraet in Delft (where
he is known to have owned a house).21 After confirming
the validity of the Leyden will of 1665, he noted that, since
that time, he had bought the domain of Spalant and registered the feud in his name. He now bequeathed the Seigneury to his daughter after his death, subject to his wife's

15These were
Rpformed preachers who had been expelled from Habsburg
Bohemia, France, and other Catholic territories.
16Beresteyn, 148.

19Delft G.A., records of Notary G. van Assendelft no. 2128, fol. 31415v, 11 February 1670.
20Delft G.A., records of Notary A. van de Velde of 30 June 1674, fol.
21 Delft
G.A., Huizen protocol, Pt. III, no. 3439/491A, fol. 767. The other
house, situated on the Oude Delft, is recorded in pt. III, no. 4128/1180A,
fol. 923.

17 See the discussion below.

18Delft G.A., records of Notary W. van Assendelft of 11 April 1669, act
no. 3663.


enjoyment of the usufruct during her life. The daughter in

question was almost certainly Magdalena.22
Jacob Dissius
Pieter van Ruijven was buried on 7 August 1674,23 seventeen months before the artist whom he had protected,
and most probably befriended, for the greater part of his
career. Pieter Claesz.'s daughter Magdalena married Jacob
Abrahamsz. Dissius on 14 April 1680.24 The marriage contract has not been preserved. This is too bad because it may
have been the key to the settlement of Magdalena's estate
after her death, which will be discussed below. The conjecture, which I owe to S.A.C. Dudok van Heel, is that
Jacob's father, Abraham Dissius, who owned the printing
press "The Golden ABC" on the Market Square, may have
given him the press as a sort of dowry in order to redress
the inequality of wealth between his son and his bride-tobe. Magdalena had already inherited considerable assets,
including the domain of Spalant, from her father, subject
to her mother's right of usufruct. Jacob, who was twentyseven years old at the time of his marriage,25had no means
of his own; he had registered in the Guild of St. Luke as a
bookbinder in 1676. He did not register in the guild as a
bookseller - thus presumably as the owner of a bookselling establishment - until six months after his marriage,
in November 1680.26 Even then he had so little money that,
when his wife died two years later, he had to borrow from
his father to pay her ordinary death debts (costs of burial,
mourning clothes, and so forth).27 Jacob's main asset was
his distinguished Protestant background: he was the grandson of Minister Jacobus Dissius, pastor in Het Wout, near
Delft, and of Maria von Starrenberg.28
On December 3 of the same year, 1680, the young couple
passed their testament before a notary in Delft.29 They
named each other universal heirs, subject to the usual provision that the survivor must bring up their child or children in an appropriate manner. If the testator remarried
after his wife's death, he obligated himself to pay her mother
(Maria de Knuijt), if she was still alive, 500 guilders, and
if she was already dead, her relatives and collateral descendants 200 guilders. On the other hand, if they both died
without children and without having remarried while their
parents on either side were still alive, then they willed that

22 A
daughter of Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven and Maria de Knuijt named
Maria was baptized on 22 July 1657 in the Old Church. A son named
Simon was baptized in the same church on 27 January 1662 (Delft G.A.,
Old Church, Baptism files). Both these children must have died early since
no other heir beside Magdalena was ever mentioned.
23 Beresteyn, 418.

24Delft G.A., Betrothal and Marriage files.

25 Jacob Dissius was
baptized in the New Church on 23 November 1653.
His grandfather Jacobus Dissius and his aunt Jannetje Dissius were witnesses (Delft G.A., New Church, Baptism files).
26The registrations in the guild of Jacob Dissius, his father Abraham, and
his uncle Jacob Jacobsz. are cited in F.D.O. Obreen, Archief voor Nederlandsche kunstgeschiedenis, Rotterdam, 1877, I, 52, 58, 83, 86.
27 Delft G.A., records of Notary P. de Bries no. 2325, act no. 31,


their estate, including the domain of Spalant, be divided

into two equal parts, the parents on each side receiving
half. In the case of the domain of Spalant, however, the
division was not to be effected until the death of Maria de
Knuijt (who was entitled to the domain's usufruct). Magdalena van Ruijven, then referring explicitly to the twentyand-a-half morgen in Spalant with which she had been
vested in December 1680 and of which she was therefore
entitled to dispose, subject to her mother's usufruct, willed
that after her death the domain should be assigned to her
"beloved husband Jacob Abrahamsz. Dissius." To give effect to this provision, she wished that, at the first opportunity, his name should be inscribed in the register of feuds
in place of her name so that he should enjoy the fruits and
rents of the domain immediately after her mother's death.
No special provision was made for the paintings or for any
other of the couple's household goods.
Three months later, on 26 February1681, Maria de Knuijt
was buried next to her husband in the family plot in the
Old Church.30 Her daughter Magdalena did not survive her
long. She was only twenty-seven years old when she died
on 16 June 1682.31She seems to have left no surviving child.
Jacob Dissius was the apparent heir of the entire Van
Ruijven estate, including the paintings.
Nine months after the death of Magdalena Pieters van
Ruijven, an inventory was prepared of the property left to
her husband, Jacob Dissius, in which twenty works by Vermeer were recorded (one more than Bredius reported).32 I
presume that the bulk of the estate, including the household
goods and paintings, had been inherited by Magdalena from
her father, Pieter Claesz..
The inventory drawn up almost a year after the death
of Magdalena van Ruijven listed all the goods, movable
and unmovable, accruing to Jacob Dissius both in his own
right and as inherited through the death of his wife. Among
the principal assets were the domain of Spalant, numerous
interest-bearing obligations in the name of Maria de Knuijt
bought between 1663 and 1674, and the rental money 175 guilders per year - on the house in the Voorstraet, all
this of course devolved from Magdalena. The only asset
that was explicitly said to belong to Jacob Dissius in his
own right was a life annuity yielding 100 guilders per year.
The principal liability of the estate was the 400 guilders that

April 1683, partly published in Bredius (as in n. 2).

28 Jacob's uncle Karel
Dissius, who dealt in gloves and other apparel, was
married to Machtelt de Langue, the niece of Willem Reyersz. de Langue,
the notary, collector, and friend of the Vermeer family. These and other
kinship relations in the Dissius family can be traced from a document
relating to the sale of a house belonging to the De Langue family in the
records of Notary T. van Hasselt no. 2151, 9 August 1660 (Delft G.A.).
29 Delft G.A., records of Notary D. van der Hoeve no. 2359 of 20 June
1682, act no. 26. This act contains the testament of 3 December 1680,
which was opened and read on 20 June 1682.
Beresteyn, 148.
The Dissius inventory of April 1683 (see n. 27 above), cites the exact
date of Magdalena's death.
32 Doc. cited in n. 27 above.



Dissius had borrowed from his father to pay various expenses connected with Magdalena's death.
After the unmovable assets, the notary's clerk listed the
movable goods in each room of the Dissius house. In the
front hall, he noted eight paintings by Vermeer, together
with three more paintings by Vermeer in boxes, all of unspecified subjects. The front hall also contained a seascape
by Porcellis and a landscape. In the back room there were
four paintings by Vermeer, two paintings of churches, two
"tronien"(or "faces"),two night scenes, one landscape, and
"one [painting] with houses." This room also contained a
chest with a viola da gamba, a hand-held viol, two flutes,
and music books. In the kitchen, which was apparently also
a bedroom, there was a painting by Vermeer(the one missed
by Bredius), two "tronien," a night scene, two landscapes,
a "littlechurch"and a "painter."In the basement room there
were two paintings by Vermeer plus a landscape and a
church. The list closed with two paintings by Vermeer and
two small landscapes whose precise location in the house
was not specified.
Two years later, in April 1683, the estate was divided
between Jacob and his father, Abraham Dissius.33The introduction to this notarial document setting forth the terms
of the division stated that Jacob Abrahamsz. Dissius and
Magdalena Pieters van Ruijven had owned the goods in the
estate in common and that Magdalena had left as her heir
her father-in-law Abraham Jacobsz. Dissius in conformity with her testament of December 3 and the act of superscription of 10 December 1680. Actually, the testament,
confirmed by the act of superscription, had named the survivor of the two testators as universal heir. Magdalena's
father-in-law Abraham Dissius was only to inherit the bulk
of the estate in case both testators died without children,
neither having remarried, and Magdalena's mother was also
deceased. Maria de Knuijt had indeed died, and Magdalena
had left no children, but, since Jacob was very much alive,
it is not immediately obvious why he had to give up half
of the estate to his father. I have already cited S. A. C.
Dudok van Heel's suggestion that the marriage contract
may have contained a clause that allowed Abraham to share
in his daughter-in-law's estate. In any event, the succession
had not proceeded without controversy. It was only after
Magdalena's heirs ab intestato, who must have included
her husband, her father's sisters Sara and Maria, and her
mother's brother Vincent de Knuijt, had appeared with
Abraham Dissius before the commissioners of the High
Court of Holland on 18 July 1684 and again on 16 February
1685 that the decision was handed down that prescribed
the division of the estate half and half between Abraham
Dissius and his son Jacob. It was probably also the com-

missioners who had stipulated precisely how the division

would have to be made.
All the movable goods in the estate, including the printing press, were divided into two lots. The household goods
in the estate, starting in the inventory of 1683 with "a lot
of firewood" and ending with "two black hats," would accrue to lot A, with the exception of fourteen paintings that
would be transferred to lot B. Lot B consisted chiefly of
the printing establishment and the equipment going with
it. The paintings that were to be transferred from lot A to
lot B were: three landscapes by S. de Vlieger, three temples
or churches by Emanuel de Witte, two portraits or "tronien," and six paintings by Johannes Vermeer to be chosen
from lot A by the individual who would receive lot B.
Of the four paintings of churches in the inventory of
1683, the 1685 disposition of the estate assigned three by
Emanuel de Witte to lot B. At least one of the three, and
probably two, adorned the back room with the four paintings by Vermeer that were said to hang there.34Of the seven
landscapes in the inventory, three by Simon de Vlieger had
similarly been shifted to lot B.
When the two principal heirs, father and son, chose
among the lots by chance, lot A fell to Jacob and lot B to
his father Abraham.
Nine years later, on 12 March 1694, Abraham Dissius
was buried in the New Church.35His property, including
the fourteen paintings that had been transferred from lot
A to lot B, were presumably inherited by his son Jacob,
who seems to have been his universal heir.36
Jacob Dissius himself died in October 1695. The widower
on the Market Square in "The Golden ABC" was transported by coach, with eighteen pallbearers, to his family's
resting place in Het Wout.37Six months later an advertisement appeared in Amsterdam announcing an auction containing twenty-one paintings by Vermeer "extraordinarily
vigorously and delightfully painted."38This number was
one more than that listed in the inventory of 1683. Clearly,
Jacob must have bought back, or inherited, from his father
the six paintings by Vermeer that had fallen to Abraham's
lot. How did the Dissius collection expand from twenty to
twenty-one Vermeers between 1685 and 1695? Perhaps the
twenty-first was there all along. It is possible that the
"painting with houses" in the inventory of 1683 was identical with The Little Street, now in the Rijksmuseum, in
which case it would have been omitted by error from the
list of paintings attributed to Vermeer.
The top prices for the twenty-one paintings by Vermeer
sold in Amsterdam on 16 May 1696 were 155 guilders for
the "Young Lady Weighing Gold" (The Woman with the
Balance), 175 guilders for the "Maid Pouring Out Milk"

33Delft G.A., records of Notary P. de Bries no. 2327, between 14 and 20

April 1685.
34The clerk had initially specified that one of the church paintings in the
backroom portrayed a burial. This is likely to have been the "Grave of
the Old Prince in Delft" by De Witte in the Dissius sale of 1696 (doc. cited
in n. 39 below).
3s Delft G.A., New Church, Burial files.

36Jacob seems to have been the only one of six children fathered by Abraham Dissius who survived infancy. It is worth noting that Jacob Dissius,
in his testament of 7 February 1684, made his father his universal heir
(Delft G.A., records of Notary P. de Bries, no. 2326, act no. 15).
37Blankert, doc. no. 62 of 14 October 1695, 154.
38 Ibid.


(The Milkmaid) and 200 guilders for "The City of Delft in

Perspective" (The View of Delft).39All three survive to this
day. Only two relatively expensive paintings have disappeared: one "In which a gentleman is washing his hands in
a see-through room, with sculptures," and "A gentleman
and a young lady making music," which sold for 95 and
81 guilders respectively. The lowest prices were for "tronien," including two for 17 guilders each. The small but
accomplished Lace Maker only brought 28 guilders.
It may be noted in passing that only one of the paintings
by Vermeer in the Amsterdam sale (the first listed in the
catalogue) was in a case or box. This was the "YoungLady
'Weighing Gold," more properly called Woman with a Balance, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. It must
have been one of the three paintings by Vermeer in boxes
in the front hall of the Dissius house.
Not all paintings by Vermeer owned by Dissius had been
acquired by Pieter van Ruijven. The Woman with a Pearl
Necklace of Berlin-Dahlem, which is very likely to have
been listed in Vermeer's death inventory of 1676 as a
"Woman with a necklace,'"40 was probably bought from his
widow after the artist's death either by Magdalena van
Ruijven or by Jacob Dissius. Since this picture is generally
dated 1664-65, in any case before The Astronomer of 1668,
it follows that, whatever arrangement Pieter van Ruijven
had made with Vermeer, it did not call for the immediate
transfer of all newly completed works.
Some of the paintings by Vermeer sold in 1696 may have
entered the collection of Van Ruijven between the latter's
testament of 1665 and his death, including the Young Lady
Writing a Letter in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Lace Maker in the Louvre, and either the Lady
Standing at the Virginals or the Lady Sitting at the Virginals, both in the National Gallery, London, all of which are
generally dated in the 1670's. Van Ruijven may also have
acquired one or more of the Vermeer "tronien" in the sale
of 1696 during the four or five years preceding the artist's
death. Catharina Bolnes may have been exaggerating when
she claimed that her husband had sold "very little or hardly
anything at all" since 1672.41
The catalogue of the sale of 16 May 1696 opened with
twelve paintings by Vermeer. They were followed by three
paintings by Emanuel de Witte: "The Old Church in Amsterdam," "The Tomb of the Old Prince," and "another
church." These were almost certainly among the fourteen
paintings transferred from lot A to lot B in the Dissius inventory. None of the next fifteen pictures listed by various
Dutch and Italian painters would seem to be identical with
paintings described in the inventory of 1683. Then came
nine lots by Vermeer, starting with "The city of Delft in
perspective." These were followed by "a large landscape"
by Simon de Vlieger and three other landscapes by the same
artist. These are all likely to have belonged to Dissius. The
39The complete list of paintings sold on 16 May 1696 referred to in the
text is given in G. Hoet, Catalogus of Naamlyst van schilderyen, met der
selven pryzen, The Hague, 1752, I, 34-36.
Blankert, doc. no. 40 of 29 February 1676, 150-51.


next painting listed after the four De Vliegers was a "tronie"

by Rembrandt, which only sold for seven guilders, five
stuivers. It may have been one of the two "tronien" transferred from lot A to lot B in 1685. None of the paintings
listed after the Rembrandt "tronie" appears to have belonged to Dissius in 1683.
The twenty-one Vermeers in the sale brought a total of
1,503 guilders, ten stuivers; the three by Emanuel de Witte,
160 guilders; and the four landscapes by De Vlieger, 125
guilders, fifteen stuivers. The grand total came to 1,796
guilders, ten stuivers (including the Rembrandt "tronie"),
a very respectable sum, even by Amsterdam standards.
Clearly, though, not all the paintings recorded in the Dissius inventory of 1683 were sold in 1696. There was nothing
in the catalogue resembling the Porcellis seascape, the three
night scenes, and the "painter."Moreover, there were only
three of the four churches in the inventory, four of the seven
landscapes, and at most one of the four "tronien." (It is
possible but unlikely that some of the landscapes appeared
elsewhere in the list of paintings sold.) Perhaps only the
best "schilderkonst"noted in the book marked A in the Van
Ruijven testament of 1665 plus the Vermeers acquired after
that time were thought good enough to appear in the Amsterdam auction. The rest may have gone directly to the
collateral heirs of Jacob Dissius (his first cousins on his father's side).
Other Collectors
Beside the dealer Johannes Renialme, the sculptor Johannes Larson, and the innkeeper Cornelis de Helt, who
had each bought an inexpensive picture by Vermeer early
in the artist's career, we know the names of three of his
clients during his mature period: Diego Duarte, Herman
van Swoll, and Hendrick van Buyten, only the last of whom
is known to have been in direct contact with Vermeer.
The rich Antwerp jeweler and banker Diego Duarte
owned "a little piece with a lady playing the clavecin with
accessories by Vermeer," estimated at 150 guilders in July
1682.42 This may have been either The Lady Standing or
The Lady Sitting at the Virginals. Whichever it was, the
other was in the Van Ruijven-Dissius collection.
In 1699 when Herman van Swoll's collection was sold in
Amsterdam, "A seated woman with several [symbolical or
allegorical] meanings representing the New Testament" by
Vermeer of Delft fetched 400 guilders.43This painting was
probably identical with The Allegory of Faith in the Metropolitan Museum. Since there is no evident reason why
the Jesuit Station of the Cross in Delft should have sold a
painting at this time, I suspect that the Van Swoll picture
had been originally painted for a private patron rather than
for the Jesuits themselves. The very high price the painting
brought shows that Vermeer, when he painted in the flat,
classical mode that was in vogue at the time, could produce
41 Ibid., doc. no. 42 of 30 April 1676, 151.
42 Ibid., doc. no. 60 of 12
July 1682, 153.
April 1699, 154.
43 Ibid.,



a painting that was nearly as valuable as any sold by the

most fashionable painters of the period.
Herman Stoffelsz. van Swoll, from whose estate the Allegory was sold, was born in Amsterdam in 1632 and died
there in 1698. The son of a Protestant baker, he made a
fortune as a controller ("suppoost") of the Amsterdam Wisselbank and as postmaster of the Hamburger Comptoir in
Amsterdam. He had a house built on the Amsterdam
Herengracht in 1668 where he lived until his death. Nicolaes Berchem, and probably Gerard de Lairesse, painted
decorations with mythological and allegorical figures in the
house. His collection contained many Italian paintings
along with the most distinguished representatives of "modern" Dutch art.44These, however, were not necessarily all
originals. It is known that he employed Nicolaes Verkolje
(born in Delft in 1673, died in Amsterdam in 1746) to make
copies after originals, for which he paid twelve guilders per
Our last collector of Vermeer's works is the baker Hendrick van Buyten, who is most probably identical with the
"boulanger"met by the French traveler Balthazar de Monconys in August 1663, on which occasion the baker showed
him a one-figure painting by Vermeer for which he claimed
that 600 livres - presumably equivalent to Dutch guilders
- had been paid.46
Van Buyten, in contrast to Pieter van Ruijven, was of
fairly humble origin. His father, Adriaen Hendricksz. van
Buijten, was a shoemaker. After Adriaen Hendricksz. died
in 1650, his widow sold his household effects for only 796
guilders.47Hendrick himself must have done well as a baker,
but it was the inheritance he received from his relative
Aryen Maertensz. van Rossem in 1669, from which he obtained nearly 4,000 guilders and a house in the Oosteynde,48
that was probably the principal source of his new wealth,
which he later built up by lending money at interest. It is
significant that, when Monconys inquired about Vermeer's
paintings, he was steered to Van Buyten, who apparently
had only one picture by him, rather than to Pieter van
Ruijven, who presumably had at least a half dozen of them
by this time: the baker, being a tradesman, was more likely
to sell than the patrician. (The exorbitant price he claimed
he had paid for his one-figure Vermeer may have been inflated for the sake of bargaining.)
After Hendrick van Buyten died in July 1701, leaving a
widow but no children, his estate was administered by the

44On Herman van Swoll, see Willem van de Watering, "The Later Allegorical Paintings of Niclaas Berchem," in Exhibition of Old Master
Paintings, Leger Galleries, London, 1981. I am indebted to JenniferKilian
for this reference.
45 S.A.C. Dudok van Heel, "Hondervijftig advertenties van kunstverkopingen uit veertig jaargangen van de Amsterdamsche Courant," Jaarboek Amstelodamum, LVII,1980, 150. In the advertisement for the sale
of 1699 in the Amsterdamsche Courant, it was said the collection had
been formed "with great trouble over a period of many years." "The Allegory of the New Testament"was singled out as "an artful piece by Vermeer of Delft" (ibid., 160).
46 Blankert, 147.

Orphan Chamber of Delft. The contents of his "boedel" in

the Delft Orphan Chamber archives are distributed among
ten bundles enclosed in five large boxes.49Some of the papers date as recently as 1849 when printed notices were sent
out to a long list of heirs notifying them of the small
amounts of interest on restricted capital funds that they still
had coming to them from their "greatuncle's" inheritance.
The inventory of 1701 listed the movable possessions of
Hendrick van Buyten and his wife Adriana Waelpot. She
was the daughter of the printer Jan Pieters Waelpot and of
Catharina Karelts, and was born the same year as Vermeer's wife, Catharina Bolnes (1631). Van Buyten was born
the same year as Vermeer (1632). After Hendrick had
lost his first wife, named Machtelt van Asson (a baker's
daughter), he had married Adriana in November 1683.50
Adriana's father owned an important printing press in Delft
comparable to that of Abraham Dissius. From the presence
of the Institution by Jean Calvin in Van Buyten's inventory,
we may safely conclude that he belonged to the established
Reformed religion. Thus both Jacob Dissius and Van Buyten were Calvinists and either owned or were connected
with important printing establishments.
The marriage contract between Hendrick and Adriana
of 6 December 1683 had specified that the properties
brought to the marriage by husband and wife were to remain separate ("geen gemeenschap"). The paintings listed
below were all part of Van Buyten's possessions at the time
of his second marriage. He had apparently acquired no
paintings between 1683 and 1701. We can be virtually certain that he owned no paintings that had belonged to Jacob
Dissius in April 1683 and which were still in the Dissius
household two years later when the estate was divided.
The total Van Buyten estate was valued at 24,829 guilders, one of the largest I have seen in my study of Delft
The first work of art listed in the inventory of Van Buyten's household goods was "a large painting by Vermeer"
("een groot stuck schilderie van Vermeer")in the front hall.
(The inventories of Cornelis van Helt in 166151and of Jacob
Dissius in 1683, too, began with paintings by Vermeer in
the "voorhuijs.") Also in the front hall was a painting by
Bramer, a society piece by (Anthony) Palamedes, another
little painting by Palamedes, and one by (Nicholas?)
Bronckhorst who painted seascapes. There were seventeen
other unattributed paintings in this hall, representing land-

47Delft G.A., Orphan Chamber. Estate papers (boedel) no. 264 of Adriaen Hendricksz. van Houten, shoemaker. The names and ages of the
heirs (Hendrick, Emerentia, and Adriaen) leave no doubt that this "Van
Houten" was Hendrick van Buyten's father. Note, incidentally, that Adriaen Hendricksz. was acquainted with Vermeer's father (J.M. Montias,
"New Documents on Vermeer and His Family," Oud-Holland, xcI, 1977,
48Delft G.A., records of Notary D. Rees, no. 2144 of 1 April 1669.
49 Delft G.A., Orphan Chamber, Estate papers (boedel) no. 265 Ix.
50 Delft G.A., Baptism files, 21 September 1631, and Betrothal and Marriage files. The betrothal took place on 27 November 1683.
51 Delft G.A., Orphan Chamber, Estate papers (boedel) no. 673 I and ii.


scapes, still-lifes, and genre paintings, one history painting

(Moses), and one of the young Prince Willem adorned with
flowers. A side room next to the front hall contained three
landscapes by (Pieter) Van Asch (next to the bedstead) and
"two little pieces by Vermeer" ("stuckjes van Vermeer")52
plus eleven other paintings, large and small. In a back hall
the notary found seven little paintings ("stuckjes schilderie") and three little paintings on panel ("borretjes").(The
distinction was sometimes made between "schilderien"
painted on canvas and "borts"or "borretjes"on panel.) The
only other items of interest were a few Protestant books
and "two boxes for paintings" in the attic, which are likely
to have been those in which paintings by Vermeer had once
been preserved. (No other artist on the list of attributed
paintings was "fine" enough to have so encased his
It is remarkable that all five of the painters cited in Van
Buyten's inventory - Vermeer, Bramer, Anthony Palamedes, (Nicholas) Bronckhorst, and Pieter van Asch were born in Delft, became masters of the local guild, and
died in Delft. All had registered in the guild before 1653.
Compared to the Van Ruijven-Dissius collection, Van Buyten's appears to have been somewhat provincial and oldfashioned. (Three out of four of the painters in the Dissius
collection at one time registered in the Delft guild, but two
of them -

Simon de Vlieger and Emanuel de Witte -


for Amsterdam and continued to be productive there. Porcellis was initially a Haarlem artist but also worked in Amsterdam and Soetermeer.) The Van Buyten collection probably had not changed very much from the 1650's or 1660's
until the baker's marriage in 1683, with the likely exception
of the two paintings he had acquired from Vermeer'swidow
shortly after the artist's death as collateral for a large debt
incurred for bread delivered: the "person playing on a cittern" and the painting "representing two persons one of
whom is sitting writing a letter."'3 The first of these may
be The Guitar Player in Kenwood or, less probably, the
Woman Playing a Lute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

52In another, posterior version of the same

inventory (Delft G.A., records

of W. van Ruijven no. 2295, act no. 114), the only difference in the description of the paintings that I could find was that the two paintings by
Vermeer in the room next to the front hall were called "stucken" rather
than "stuckjes."It is not obvious whether the clerk decided the paintings
were not as small as he had previously made them out to be or whether
he was inattentive in copying the original inventory. The diminutive
"stukxken," incidentally, was applied to "The Lady playing the clavecin"
in the Duarte inventory, which either measured 51.7 x 45.2cm (Lady
Standing at the Virginals) or 51.5 x 45.5cm (Lady Seated at the Virginals).
The Guitar Player in Kenwood (53 x 46.3cm) and the Woman in Blue
Reading a Letter(46.5 x 39cm) were approximately of the same dimensions
and might have been perceived as "stuckjes." (The dimensions are cited
from Blankert, 160, 167, 169, 170.)
s3 Blankert, 149-50.
I owe the suggestion that the large painting in Van Buyten's front hall
was the Frick picture to Otto Naumann. On the size of the Lady With
Her Maidservant, see Blankert, 164. Willem L. van de Watering, in his
catalogue contribution to Blankert, stated that the Lady Writing a Letter
with Her Maid in the Beit Collection had been pledged to Hendrick van
Buyten by Vermeer'swidow (p. 168). The argument supporting this claim


1 Vermeer,Ladywith Her Maidservant.New York,FrickCollection (photo: collection)

The second is probably the Lady with Her Maidservant in
the Frick Collection (Fig. 1). The latter, which measures 92
x 78.7cm, is certainly large enough for the clerk who drafted
the inventory to have perceived it as a "groot stuck schilderie."54The fact that the painting was apparently left unfinished - as the undifferentiated, excessively uniform passages, especially in the main figure, testify55- adds to the
likelihood of this hypothesis, considering that the picture
was still in the artist's studio at the time of his death. If
this was the large painting in the front hall, then the picture

is that the lady in the Beit picture is actually writing, whereas the lady
in the Frick Collection has been interrupted by her maid and has dropped
her pen. In my view, this is only a small inaccuracy on the part of the
notary's clerk. The Frick picture, which is substantially bigger than the
Beit Vermeer (71 x 59cm), is much more likely to have been seen as a
"large painting." The Love Letter in the Rijksmuseum, if this reasoning is
correct, would be the picture in the Dissius Collection sold in 1696 called
"Eenjuffrouw die door een meyd een brief gebracht wordt" (A lady who
is brought a letter by a maid).
Regarding the possibility that the "person playing on a cittern" may
have been confused with a lute player (e.g., the painting by Vermeer in
the Metropolitan Museum), one would have expected the contemporaries
of Vermeer to know the difference between a cittern and a lute. Nevertheless, it should be observed that the Kenwood picture can be traced
back to a public sale in 1794 when it was described as "a woman playing
on a lute" (Blankert, 169). Another version of the Kenwood picture also
exists (now in the Johnson Collection in Philadelphia), which most art
historians have deemed to be a copy after the Kenwood original. The late
hairstyle of the guitar player in the Johnson picture (let alone the weak
execution) would seem to rule it out as a candidate for the painting that
was once in the Van Buyten Collection.
ss Blankert, 55.



of the "person playing on a cittern" was in the room next

to the front hall. Its companion was perhaps the one-figure
painting that had been shown to Monconys in 1663. In case
this painting was really a "stuckje" as the clerk noted in
1701, Monconys may have had good reason to question
the exorbitant price of 600 livres that Van Buyten said had
been paid for it.
In his testament of 18 May 1701 Van Buyten had left his
wife, Adriana Waelpot, all the household items in the inventory of the goods that he had contributed to the marriage for her lifelong use. However, by an agreement made
with the other heirs before Notary Willem van Ruijven
(which has not been preserved), she consented to have these
goods sold at auction and to collect half the proceeds. The
sale, which took place on 26 April 1702, brought only 674
guilders, six stuivers. Because the schedule ("contracedulle") of the sale has been lost, there is no way to figure
out precisely how much the three paintings by Vermeer
represented of this total.
It may be confidently concluded from the evidence about
Vermeer's clientele gathered in this study that he enjoyed
a strong local reputation during most of his career. He
probably enjoyed some reputation beyond Delft as well,
as the high prices he obtained in the Amsterdam sales of
the Dissius and Swoll collections testify. Beyond reputation, sales, and the artist's financial success, there is another
side to patronage that we have not explored at all so far.
A patron or even an occasional client provides a link to
the social world not normally accessible to an artist of modest background. In Vermeer's case, he did have the wellheeled, patrician relatives of his wife, but those Roman
Catholics apparently did not collect art or at least did not
buy from him. Van Ruijven and Van Buyten, as well perhaps as Van Swoll in Amsterdam, gave the artist entree
into a wider circle of collectors. The pictures that Vermeer
exhibited in their homes were seen by other collectors and
by the artist-friends of these clients. An artist with a reputation like Vermeer could visit painters and collectors in
other cities who were friends of his local protectors. I am
particularly intrigued by the possibility that Vermeermight
have penetrated the Leyden artistic circle thanks to Pieter
Claesz. van Ruijven. We have seen that Van Ruijven was closely related to Pieter Spierincx Silvercroon, the
patron of Gerard Dou. He also knew the Remonstrant notary Nicolaes Paets in Leyden. It was perhaps through Spierincx or Paets that Vermeergained access to Leyden artists

56 Cf. Naumann, I, 99.

s7 In my book Vermeerand His Milieu; A Web of Social History (Princeton University Press, forthcoming), I calculate, on the basis of alternative
assumptions about the rate of disappearance of paintings cited in the 17th
century, that Vermeer painted between forty-five and sixty paintings from

of his generation such as Frans van Mieris. This point is

significant because he was most probably influenced early
in his career by artists of the Leyden school. For his Procuress of 1656, for example, he may have borrowed the
motif of the artist's self-portrait from Frans van Mieris'
Charlatan.56The Leyden connection, in turn, may help to
account for Vermeer's influences in the 1660's on Gabriel
Metsu and Van Mieris himself. Finally, we are entitled to
ask whether Pieter Spierincx might have suggested to Van
Ruijven the idea of acquiring the right to first refusal on
one of Vermeer's paintings per year. This conjecture is in
general accord with what we know of Van Ruijven's collection, the contents of which seem to have been acquired
at a fairly steady rate over the years 1657 to 1673 or 1674.
Van Ruijven's extraordinary patronage also had a negative side. The excessive concentration of Vermeer'spaintings in a single collection, which probably absorbed about
half of his total output after 1656,-7 restricted the possible
scope of his contacts. If he had had other protectors during
his lifetime, preferably in Amsterdam or in Leyden, his
name might not have sunk into near-oblivion in the eighteenth century.58
Professor of Economics at Yale, John Michael Montias has
published articles in Simiolus and Oud-Holland, in addition to his studies in various economic journals. He is author of Artists and Artisans in Delft: A Socio-Economic
Study of the 17th Century (1982) and now is completing a
book entitled Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social
History. [Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale
University, P.O. Box 16A Yale Station, New Haven, CT

Beresteyn, E.A. van, Grafmonumenten en grafzerken in de Oude Kerk te
Delft, Assen, 1938.
Blankert, A., with contributions by R. Ruurs and W. van de Watering,
Vermeer of Delft, Complete Edition of the Paintings, Oxford, 1978.
Naumann, O., Frans van Mieris the Elder, 2 vols., Doornspijk, 1981.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., Jan Vermeer, New York, 1981.

1656 to the end of his career, with a somewhat greater probability of the
lower estimate.
ss For a balanced view of Vermeer's reputation in the 18th century, see
Blankert, 62-65. He argues that the appreciation for Vermeer's quality
among connoisseurs persisted, even though his paintings were frequently
attributed to other artists with a greater contemporary reputation.

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