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Pieter Ernst Hendrik Praetorius (Amsterdam 1791-1876)

The Schalkwijkerpoort, Haarlem

signed ‘Praetorius/ f 1826’ (recto) and inscribed ‘te zien op de Schalkwijker Poort/ te Haarlem, 8 October 1826’ (verso)
black chalk, watercolour, watermark IHS, pen and brown ink framing lines
26.1 x 32.6 cm

Private Collection, The Netherlands.

Pieter Ernst Hendrik Praetorius was the son of a bookkeeper and worked in the financial world throughout his career as a banker and estate agent. [1] His true passion, however, concerned the arts and we are fortunate to know a comparatively large amount about his creative career thanks to a document in which the amateur artist gives a brief but very informative description of his artistic activities. [2] Praetorius states that he received his first drawings lessons in 1800 when he was 8 or 9 years old. At the beginning of his career he mainly copied works by Dutch 17th-century masters, but in 1814 he made his first painting ‘naer het leven’. Later he became a member of ‘Zonder Wet of Spreuk’, ‘Felix Meritis’ and Arti et Amicitiae’. In 1839 he was one of the founders of the ‘Maatschappij ter Bevordering van Beeldende Kunsten’ and from 1852-1875 he was chair of the board of directors of the Rijksmuseum.

In this document Praetorius also listed his artistic friends and acquaintances as well as paintings he had produced over the years. At the end of the document he described 5 paintings made at the end of his life; one of these depicted the Schalkwijkerpoort and the artist refers here to a drawing of the same subject which must be the present drawing. [3] Furthermore, in 1828 a work described as ‘Een Gezigt op de Schalkwijker Poort te Haarlem’ was exhibited in the ‘Ouden Mannen-Huis’ in Haarlem. Unfortunately, no dimensions or technique are mentioned, making it hard to establish whether the exhibited work was the present drawing or a painting based on it.

The present drawing is entirely characteristic of Praetorius style; through delicately applied watercolour and controlled draughtsmanship Praetorius created a particularly tranquil and timeless view. The beautifully rendered reflections in the water as well as the seated figures to the left, and the two standing ones on the bridge, only add to the peaceful quality harmonious composition. The Schalkwijkerpoort, seen from the back at left, was built in the 15th century and gained its characteristic appearance in 1633. The gate was popular among Dutch artists who depicted it in a large number of prints and drawings, but unfortunately this did not prevent the city to tear it down in 1866.

[1] P.H. Damsté, ‘De Geschiedenis van het portret van Jaspar Schade door Frans Hals’, Oud Holland, 1985 (no. 1), p. 38.
[2] RP-D-2018-4
[3] Rijkmuseum, Amsterdam; inv. RP-D-2018-4

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