Artist
Gérard de Lairesse (1640 –1711) was the principal ceiling painter of the second half of the Gouden Eeuw [17th century] who was primarily famous for his books on painting and drawing which were a great influence on eighteenth-century painters such as Jacob de Wit.
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Depiction

The main figure in the ceiling painting is depicted on the central canvas. A young woman dressed in white has been portrayed to personify ‘Freedom’. She is protected by the ferocious lion of Amsterdam which is armed with a sword and shield.
On the right-hand canvas Freedom is aided by the personification of the Republic (of the Netherlands) portrayed by Minerva and an eagle. The latter chases off the vices Envy and Lies: the enemies of wise, just rule.
On the left-hand canvas Concord tramples the vanquished, chained enemies personified by two naked men with animal skins and a broken sword.
In the left-hand corner, the composition is concluded by the sea god of the IJ [river], who has been depicted with an anchor and a ship’s wheel. The right-hand canvas shows the river god of the Amstel, recognisable by his oar. Together with Mercury in the centre and the ‘corona navalis’ (naval crown) which Freedom is crowned with, the water gods symbolise the important position shipping had as a source of trade and prosperity for Amsterdam.
More will be posted in the near future on the ceiling’s iconographic programme and the meaning of the ‘Ware Vrijheid’ [True Freedom] in the politics and art of seventeenth-century Holland.

Text: Jephta Dullaart

 
History

Of the ceiling paintings by Gérard de Lairesse from the Peace Palace

Introduction

The paintings which, for almost a century, have embellished the ceiling of the Ferdinand Bol room of the Peace Palace in The Hague, were originally painted for the ‘Sael’ [ballroom] of the imposing home of Mayor Andries de Graeff (1611-1678) on the Herengracht (currently No. 446) in Amsterdam. De Graeff, a scion of an important family of regents, had a monumental double canal-side house built along the ‘Gouden Bocht’ [the Golden Bend, the most prestigious part of the Herengracht] between 1669 and 1672. The building is still there, but the ceiling paintings have long since disappeared from the garden room. In 1903, the three ceiling paintings were purchased at auction in Amsterdam by the Carnegie Stichting [Carnegie Foundation] for the yet to be built Peace Palace.

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Restoration

The three ceiling paintings were painted in oil on linen.

The ceiling paintings have the following dimensions:

The left-hand canvas446 x 185 cm.
The central canvas446 x 232 cm.
The right-hand canvas446 x 202 cm.

The paintings were last restored by the firm of Hesterman en Zn. in Amsterdam around 1912.

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Research

A responsible conservation process starts with written and photographic documentation. Choices with regard to the conservation process arise from the primary research findings. Every painting has a different (creation)history which influences the current condition of the materials used to create it.

Material-technical research complements the art historical and painting-technical research. When determining the condition of paintings, the materials applied are identified and the current condition they are found in is accurately determined. Subsequently, the properties of the materials identified can be linked to the painting technique of the artist who created the object being studied.

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Provenance

1672
Painted for the owner of Herengracht 446 Mr Andries de Graeff

1875
Alberdingk Thijm describes the ceilings during a visit to the house 1

1900
The ensemble is removed from Herengracht 446 upon the authority of the current owners the Sint Willebrordus Stichting 2

1900-1903
Depot Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

1903
Carnegie Stichting acquires the ceiling ensemble for Fl. 9,130 at auction house Frederik Muller & Co in Amsterdam 3. It was auctioned under the title: 'Le Triomphe de la Paix'.

1903-1910
Depot Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Awaiting the completion of the Peace Palace in The Hague.

1910-1913
Restoration of the ceiling by restorers J.A. Hesterman & Zonen in Amsterdam 4

1913-heden
Ceiling ensemble placed in the Bol room at the Peace Palace.

 


1 Snoep, Derk P. Gerard de Lairesse als Plafond- en Kamerschilder. Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum. No. 18, 1970. p. 161
2 Eeghen, Isabella H. van (red.). Vier eeuwen Herengracht. Amsterdam: Amstelodmum, 1976. p. 552
3 Catalogus 'Le Triomphe de la Paix', Frederik Muller & C0, 17 November 1903. Memorandum in Peace Palace archive.
4 Correspondence of the restoration studio J. A. Hesterman & Zonen period 1910-191.