About perspective painting
During the second half of the 16th century the Dutch architect, painter and fortification engineer Hans Vredeman de Vries (Leeuwarden 1527 – before 1609, place unknown) created a new subject of painting that would remain popular during the 17th century: so-called perspective painting. His oldest dated perspective painting is from 1566.
The main subject of these paintings is the consistent application of the rules of linear perspective in complex architectural constructions, thus creating the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional support of canvas, panel or copper. The figure staffage was clearly of secondary importance.
About Hendrick Aerts
Mechelen 1565/1574 – 1603 Gdansk
Perspective painter of architectural scenes.
The theory of Bernard Vermet is generally accepted that Aerts was first a pupil and later an assistant of Paul Vredeman de Vries (Antwerp 1567 – 1617 Amsterdam). According to Vermet our painter studied under de Vries during their stay in Gdansk between 1592 and 1595. Both painters came to Gdansk with Paul’s father, Hans Vredeman de Vries, who was at first appointed here to build new fortifications for the town, but ended painting for the Artushof and the Rechtstädtische Rathaus.
After this training Aerts accompanied Paul Vredeman de Vries from 1596 until 1599 to Prague, where he assisted him (he was one of five/six assistants) in the decoration of the ceilings and the reception rooms of the castle of emperor Rudolf II.
In 1599 their roads split: de Vries went to Amsterdam, where he remained until his death in 1617, while Aerts must have returned to Gdansk where he worked independently for only a few years as he already died in 1603.
About our painting
There are very few paintings known by Aerts, probably less than five. Only one of them is signed and dated 1600.
Hendrick Aerts seems today best known as the author of a lost church interior that through the engraving by Johannes van Londerseel (Antwerp 1575 – 1625 Rotterdam) inspired many painters of perspectives for several decades.
Aerts borrowed the figure of the praying pope in the centre and of the procession in the left background from two engravings by Maarten van Hemskerck (published in Hollstein, Nr. 498 and 497).
As to the anti-catholic contents of the Latin text that Londerseel added in the engraving under the original composition by Aerts it can be translated as follows: “In the Lateran church the bishop of Rome prays to the Holy Trinity, while a priest is celebrating mass. Behind it he carries Christ in the form of holy bread in adoration. Does the pope think he is God?”
Saint John Lateran was indeed the church of the bishop of Rome. But a question that nor the main specialist on Aerts, Bernard Vermet, nor any other specialist has asked is if the church that Londerseel has engraved after Aerts and that he says to be Saint John Lateran in Rome is indeed a view of that church. One should indeed remember that the early perspectives from the late Mannerist period were all, except for the views by Hendrick van Steenwijck the Elder of the Dom in Aachen, fictitious views of non existing churches and palaces.
The interior of the church of Saint John Lateran that one sees today was conceived in 1650 by Francesco Borromini: it was a Baroque makeover of the old basilica.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because our painter has given a poetic, monochrome and almost modern vision combined with a meticulous attention to perspective, tempered by an atmospheric rendering of the light with its silvery shimmers. Although the figure staffage was of minor interest to him most figures have been borrowed from the original Aerts-Londerseel composition.