[1760s] · Amsterdam
Folio (12 1/2 x 20”). Contemporary red, half morocco and marbled boards (scuffed).Endpapers with Jean Villedary I.V. watermark (2). Fourteen double-page, folded plates,each uncut and mounted on a separate stub (plate size: 22 x 18”). Fine condition, veryoccasional light foxing.
Twelve engravings are printed with a passe-partout frame (3). No title page. It is unclearif the series ever had a title page, since none of institutional holders of the individual printsor the complete sets identifies the series by title.
Individual plate titles:
1. De Hel,
2. Het Bosch,
3. Berg van Parnas,
5. Alende Hofgallerij,
6. Italiaansche Straat,
7. Estoffeerde Kamer,
8. Nieuwe Hofportal,
9. Behangen Kamer(2)
10. Gemeene Buurt,
11. Nieuwe Tuin,
In this album, there are two additional engravings published by Smit, but without engravedframes:
13. De Nieuwe Hofzaal (1766). After Barbiers, by C. Phillips (4),
14. Afbeelding derVorsteylke Loge (1768). S. Fokke.
Like movie palaces of the 20th century, theatres of the 18th century were beautifulstructures that attracted tourists and enchanted habitués. These theatres were illustrated inguide books, included in histories of their city and—as in Amsterdam—made the subjectof fine engravings and etchings, to be sold singly or in albums. As well as the outsidefaçade of the theatres, the insides, and especially the scenery and costumes of characters,were the subject of fine engravings.
The first Schouwburg theatre (1637) began a tradition of publishing series of illustrationsabout itself (Gascoigne, World, 185). In 1664, the original structure was demolished anda new one built on the same site, constructed “in the Italian style as used in Venice” (188).The second Schouwburg burned down in 1772, with some loss of life and a renewed callby the Puritans to ban theatres altogether.
Of the several attempts to commemorate the second Schouwburg, the Smit series of twelveengravings is the most important because of its accuracy. Gascoigne says the Smitengravings are “the most famous of all Schouwburg illustrations, the magnificent series ofthirteen etchings of the theatre’s scene published by J. Smit between 1738 and1772….[These provide] details from which one could recreate each Schouwburg settingprecisely in terms of its separate wings, borders and backcloths….And this was accuracybeyond the call of necessity….Smit presents twelve of the Schouwburg scenes in theirentirety exactly as they were first created, each one a complete and unified setting in itself”(Gascoigne, Shuffling, 98).
Unlike modern theatre scenery, in the early-modern periods sets were expensive and bulky.Rather than make new sets, the originals were modified to suit the present play in therepertoire. It was generally accepted that with about a dozen complete settings a theatrewas equipped for all contingencies.
“The most impressive series of such etchings—and probably the greatest of all theatricalprints from any period—are the thirteen views of Schouwburg settings published between1738 and 1772 [including the Smith engraving without passe-partout De Nieuwe Hofzaal].All these prints show the same precise awareness of each separate wing in everysetting….Only a few of the prints were colored…even the colouring seems to have beendone with the same conscientious accuracy” (Gascoigne, World, 190). Smit’s seriesconstitute an iconographical record of a major theatre almost as complete as the record ofSwedish scenery at Drottningholm, which was preserved from the 18th century andpublished in an atlas in the 1930s.(3)
While early-modern Dutch theatre is not highly studied today, perhaps because its nationalplaywrights adopted the themes and strengths of French theatre, it was extremely importantin its time, because of its close relation to other centers of culture in Western Europe.Dutch theatre in general and the Schouwburg in particular was influenced by and in turninfluenced other national theatres of the period. French, Italian, English, and Germaninfluences appear on the Schouwburg stage. In the 18th century, “Italianate” scenery withits elaborate machinery came into use. Also in the 18th century, Dutch drama “wassuccumbing to the influence of French classical tragedy” (Hartnoll, 683) as well as to theFrench sentimental tragedie bourgeoise.
Conversely, early-modern Dutch theatre, which had its origin in the late 16th century,influenced English and German theatre, and preceded French theatre developments. Forexample, the concept of a triumphal arch (taken from royal processions) used in the earlyDutch stage probably had some influence on the Elizabethan stage. Overall, “Dutch theatrereflects all the important developments in European staging between the 16th and 18thcenturies,” and “recorded them in painting and etchings with unparalleled completenessand accuracy” (Gascoigne, World, 179).(4)
1. These Smit engravings were manufactured in different groups at different timesbetween 1738-1760, and also published in 1770-1772. Ours dates from the firstgroup, if we can depend on the distinction made by Brandt: “The passe-partoutvaries for the two series. The first one engraved before 1742 by N. van der Laanafter Hendrik de Leth, shows elaborate chandeliers and festoons hanging in theproscenium arch. The other has simple candelabra, a larger orchestra pit and adifferent audience; it dates from approx. 1770 and was sketched and engraved bySimon Fokke” (425).
Since Smit was involved in other publishing projects at the time, he is known forother Schouwburg prints without the frames, such as #14 in this album, and alsothose for a production in 1768 of Demophontes, and those for the derivative seriesof Schouwburg studies created to commemorate the second theatre that had burned:Atlas van de Waereldberoemde Koopstad Amsterdam. Engravings by N. vanFrankendaal after W. Writs (1772-74).5
2. Jean Villedary (Watermark used 1668-1758 and 1758-1812). The name or initialsof Jean Villedary as watermarks cover a period of 150 years. The initials I.V. andL.V.G. together have been found on paper dated from 1736 to 1812.
3. Passé-partout: literally “cut out.” The proscenium stage with a view of the audienceis made in one plate to create a frame. This frame surrounds a scenery “medallion”plate that is changed to show another scene. The title and a four-line verse are alsoprinted on a third, separate plate.
4. (1). Includes the related 13th plate de Nieuwe Hofzall as called for by Gascoigne(Muller notes, “Voor eene plaat: de Nieuwe Hofzaal, naar p. Barbiers 1766 door C.Philips met adres v. J. Smit zonder passepartout, gewoon br. Fol.” [One plate theNieuwe Hofzall after P. Barbiers 1766 by C. Philips published by Smit follows].)
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurset Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 1, p. 393 (Barbiers); Vol. 5, p. 574(Liender).
Brandt, George W., ed. Theatre in Europe: A Documentary History: German and DutchTheatre, 1600-1848. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Gascoigne, Bamber. World Theatre: An Illustrated History. Little, Brown, 1968.
---. “Shuffling the Schouwburg Scenes.” Theatre Research 9, no. 2 (1968): 88-103.
Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The Oxford Companion to the Theatre. London: Oxford UniversityPress, 1967.
Muller, Frederik. De Nederlandsche geschiedenis in platen: Beredeneerde beschrijvingvan Nederlandsche historieplaten, zinneprenten en historische kaarten. Verzameld,gerangschikt, beschreven. Amsterdam: Frederik Muller, 1876. No. 4264. (Inventory #: 1250)