Photo credit: Dr Johnson's House
This painting recently came to my attention via the Twitter account of @GeorgianLords, citing the description you have here.
I am an architectural historian specialising in 17th-century church architecture and furnishings and I think this painting shows the interior of a Dutch church and not St Giles Cripplegate. I attach an engraving of the latter from about the time of Wesley's life, which is very different to the painting. See, for example, the gothic arches, box pews and galleries. In the painting, you can see very characteristic Dutch church features such as Herrenbanken (the family/manorial pews set against the walls) and the strange type of individual pew (possibly for a magistrate or city official) set against a column. The windows and tracery are also characteristic of Dutch church architecture. I attach photos of these features from Moerdijk, Breede, Naarden and Amsterdam.
An interesting thought is that Wesley did in fact visit the Netherlands three times (1738, 1783 and 1786). If this is a painting made to record one of those occasions, it would, in fact, be much more interesting than one of the many depicting him preaching in England. Of course, we can’t rule out the possibility that the preacher in the painting is not Wesley at all, but there seem enough connections to make it a plausible line of enquiry.
This discussion is now closed. It was established that the painting is not of St Giles Cripplegate and does not show John Wesley preaching. It is a version of an unidentified and probably generic church interior signed by Anthony Vlier (1719–1776) and dated 1769, sold by Bonhams London on 28 April 2010. The picture has been attributed to Anthony Vlier and the title changed to 'Service in a Dutch Church’.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
If this is Wesley in the Netherlands, it would have to be on his first visit in 1738, given his apparent age. His other visits took place when he was a very old man.
The shield on the wall at upper left may be that of a city.
Was there no London church for the Dutch community in the city? Would Wesley have preached publicly in Holland? Did he speak Dutch? If not, was there a significant English community there?
There is actually a book devoted exclusively to Wesley's three trips to the Netherlands, of which the first was apparently the most interesting. The book is here:
Although the plaque attached to the frame of this painting states that is shows "John Wesley preaching in old Cripplegate Church (Dr. Johnson in the congregation). Presented in memory of the late T. B. Benton, Esq., by his family. 1921", a detailed close-up examination of the scene shows that, bar a few at the very front on left and right, almost every person depicted is singing, including the gentleman on the bottom level of the pulpit, below the preacher.
Also, identifying the armorial shield on the wall behind the main preacher, with its winged griffins as supporters of the red-fielded shield, might help he winged griffins, might help determine the chapel's location.
Peter S. Forsaith, in his "Image, Identity and John Wesley: A Study in Portraiture, does not believe that this is a portrait of Wesley:
The style suggests that the work was painted in the second quarter of the 18th century
I wonder if a dress specialist could date it more precisely, keeping in mind that if this is Wesley in the Netherlands, it must be c. 1738.
I have scoured the available literature to find out when Wesley first met Dr. Johnson. All indications seem to point to the 1770s, rather than the 1730s, when both men would have been in their 60s. The title on the plaque could not be accurate if this is the case, as Wesley would have been white-haired and much older that the preacher in the painting. Johnson's own career had hardly taken off at the end of the the 1730s, his first major poem, "London", having only been published, anonymously, in 1738.
Which church, where and when are good questions in themselves here (and might -with luck- suggest who is preaching) but the Wesley/Johnson connection is likely to be wishful thinking: a case, as the Doctor himself advised, in which to 'Clear your mind of cant!'. It may have been a myth started by some past vendor, polished by uncritical acceptance when the painting was given to Johnson's House (itself nearly a century ago).
Dating the dress and any 'nationality' detail more precisely would certainly help.
I cannot tell what the three gold structures on the red shield are. If they were X's, then it would match the shield of the city of Breda, but I do not think that's what they are.
Breda's arms include lions as supporters rather than griffins. This link allows for a closer inspection of the entire painting, whereby the singing faces of the congregation can better be seen:
Next week I should be able to add some good closeups of clothing, stained glass and other notable objects.
Does the collection know any more about the donor in relationship to Wesley and/or Methodism? Specifically, on what basis was this picture thought to depict Wesley preaching? Is it possible that, rather than Wesley being the preacher, he might be seated in the audience, such as the white-haired man at right, just above the figure of the woman at right foreground? In that case, this could be a scene from one of his two visits to Holland in the 1780s.
Marion, when adding those closeups, please be so kind as to send hi-res images of the areas marked out in the attachment below.
Three white X's vertically, on a black stripe between red, are the shield of Amsterdam:
Though that coat of civic arms are not present in the painting.
And I do realise, Pieter, that you were not suggesting they were.
This picture strikes me as uncharacteristic for Francis Hayman, both in subject and in style. It may not be out of the question, but it is certainly questionable. What is the basis for the attribution?
There's another version signed and dated, sold at Bonhams in 2010:
That is a great discovery, Tim, though the two paintings, while superficially the same, actually contain significant differences in detail. See attached composite for a clear view as to how many of these there are.
From Lou Taylor: Does this help? Please see closer view of three figures at front right of this painting. (Attch 1) The men's coats and bag wigs could date from c 1735, (see Attch. 2 Hogarth, 'Marriage à La Mode'- seated man,) or even in unfashionable circles as late as 1764, (See Attch. 3 Jan Josef Horemans Concert 1764 Antwerp) though by then fashionable men were in slimmer jackets with shorter cuffs. (Attch. 4 Suit c 1760 Met. NY) . The woman is wearing a hooded pelisse, a little like the one on Fig. 2, 1735, but her looped up overskirt poses more of a dating problem. A clearer image of her hair/hat would help a lot.
Tims discovery of another version is interesting.Different windows,funery hatchments, ceiling vaulting and different people. Tims version seems better quality. But it makes me wonder -perhaps a victorian artist churning out possible old masters????????? Lot of it about :-)
The Bonham's painting is by Anthony Vlier and said to be of the English church at Amsterdam , but as Louis says is of superior quality. It is dated 1769
The Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie might well have more information on this artist
1769 is quite late for costumes of this style,
The church is at Begijnhof 48 and was taken over by the English Protestants in 1607
That date is over the entrance. Its present appearances throws some doubt over the identification of the church in these two paintings as being the English church.
The Vries in question was evidently a minor painter. It is not clear if he created the original version of this picture or one after it. However, I seriously doubt this picture has anything to do with Francis Hayman.
I meant to say Vlier, not Vries. It is possible, of course, that he painted both versions.
Artnet lists this artist only as Vlier, supposedly German, and said to have died in 1768. The Bonhams picture is included in his works:
This cannot be right if the Bonham's painting is really dated 1769
The Arnet information may be mistaken, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. The painter is probably obscure and what little is known about him may be rather sketchy.
If he is German one might find him in Thieme-Becker, but Van Vlier is certainly Dutch. There are Van Vliers and Van der Vliers in the Dutch Reformed Church of Albany, New York 1683-1809
The possibility that this is a New England Dutch Reformed Church cannot be immediately ruled out
Russel L Gasoero has compiled a chronological fist of the churches there between 1628 and 2000
I think the manorial pews, window tracery and coats of arms would argue against a New England location.
Please find attached a selection of details cropped from this discussion's painting.
There are only four known works in Vlier's oeuvre, and apart from the one at Bonhams, the most interesting one is:
Dated the year before.
I'm under the impression that his Christian name was unknown until the Bonhams picture came to market - his d.o.b and d.o.d are definitely unknown.
This work attributed to van den Heuvel shares some iconographic similarities:
Whilst the Dr. Johnson and Bonhams pictures might show an actual location, I tend to think the scene is a generic church service genre type.
I agree with Jacinto that the painting under discussion and the Bonhams lot could well be by the same hand. The Getty Union List of Artist Names offers the following:
1. Vlier: Dutch, active 1768
2. Vlier, A.: painter active before 1807
The terminus ante quem for no.2 is provided by auction lot 7 in an Amsterdam sale of 13 April 1807, recorded in the Getty Provenance Index database:
Een Protestante Kerk van binnen te zien, alwaar dienst gedaan word, beneevens eene meuigte [sic] Aanhoorders, zonachtig en fiks geschilderd
Painting on canvas, height 30, width 32 duim
Seller Everard de Burlett
Sold for 15:10 fl to Van den Nulft
Sale date 12 April 1807 and following days (this lot 13 April)
Auction house Schley (Philippus), Amsterdam
If we interpret the queried word ‘meuigate’ as ‘menigate’ then the title may be translated roughly as ‘Interior view of a Protestant church during a service with a crowd of worshippers; sunny [or perhaps light-filled] and heavily painted’. The subject matter and virtually square format of the 1807 lot are similar to both the Dr Johnson's House and Bonhams paintings. Moreover its size (an Amsterdam duim, or thumb, was 2.57 cm, thus 77.1 x 82.24 cm) corresponds almost exactly with that of the Bonhams picture (77.2 x 82.8 cm). The 1807 lot and the Bonhams picture thus might well be one and the same.
As Kieran has pointed out, the picture under discussion and the Bonhams lot are only superficially similar. In fact there are significant differences in the architectural setting. The body of the church in the former has a flat wooden roof while the same space in the Bonhams picture is vaulted; the glazing of the windows is considerably more elaborate in the former. All this might suggest that the artist (if we assume both works are from the same hand) intended the setting to be regarded generically as a protestant church rather than anywhere specific. More likely, though, is that the artist did not have first-hand knowledge of the setting for what is probably a specific historical event -- given the existence of at least two versions of the scene.
Sale date 13 April 1807 and following days (this lot 13 April)
Is there a print from which the artist drew features of both paintings? And could this account for seemingly slightly retardataire features in the paintings such as the style of the costumes?
Attached is another painting attributed to Vlier, showing the same grimacing "Bruegel-like" peasants and local gentry. The style matches the Bonhams painting but not this discussion's, whose occupants have been treated with more respect.
Most of the armorials shown depict their various shields under the closed mask of an armoured helmet. In heraldry this usually denotes a family attached to the monarchy, so the various families represented might have been of major significance. In the enlargeable image on the Bonham's site, the small diamond-shaped plaque on the right-hand side column bears the details of "Obit 1720", which might help in some way to work out who this memorial represents.
There might also be some significance to the inclusion of the "Psalm 77" notifications that adorn the pulpit and one of the church walls. Psalm 77 is the "Psalm of Asaph". One online analysis describes it thus:
"Here is Psalm 77, Asaph writes of a time of great personal suffering during which, much like David, he finds comfort and encouragement. Asaph reflects on a much earlier act of God on behalf of His people—the exodus from Egypt—one of Israel’s finest hours. In pondering this monumental victory over the tyranny of Pharaoh’s slavery, Asaph receives renewed faith and rejoicing to face his own distress. For Asaph, glancing back at God’s mighty deliverance of His people, awakened in him the assurance that the Lord wants to be part of our everyday lives. The common people we read about in scripture are a mirror of the ups and downs we experience, and how God uses our circumstances to show us He is indeed there. Moments of reflection on our journey can become stones of remembrance that we too pick up and look at whenever we need a lift, or a reason to keep going."
In many ways, these two interior paintings are a parody of the style of the previous century's artist, the Dutch Golden Age painter Hendrick Corneliszoon van Vliet (D1611/1612, Delft – 1675, Delft).
A Google search for "van Vliet" + kerk returns many images of similar church interiors with the diamond-shaped armorial achievements hanging on walls and pillars. These paintings by van Vliet strongly suggest that the two paintings are of Dutch church interiors rather than English ones.
I wonder if the creator of the Bonhams painting was signing as Vlier as a play on Vliet.
For an ordered presentation of works by van Vliet see also:
An interesting paragraph fro a Wikipedia entry on "Funerary Hatchments" is worth reading:
"Belgium and Netherlands:
In the Netherlands hatchments (in Dutch, rouwbord, literally meaning "mourning shield") with the word "OBIIT" (Latin:"deceased") and the date of death were hung over the door of the deceased's house and later on the wall of the church where he was buried.
"In the 17th century the hatchments were sober black lozenge-shaped frames with the coat of arms. In the 18th century both the frames and the heraldry got more and more elaborate. Symbols of death like batwings, skulls, hour-glasses and crying angels with torches were added and the names of the 8, 16 or even 32 armigerous forebearers (sometimes an invention, there were a lot of "nouveaux riches") and their genealogical escutcheons were displayed.
"The British tradition of differentiating between the hatchments of bachelors, widowers and others is unknown in the Low Countries. The arms of a widow are sometimes surrounded by a cordelière (knotted cord) and the arms of women are often, but not always, shaped like a lozenge. There were no Kings of Arms to rule and regulate these traditions.
"In 1795 the Dutch republic, recently conquered by revolutionary France, issued a decree that banned all heraldic shields. Thousands of hatchments were chopped to pieces and burned. In the 19th century the hatchments were almost forgotten and only a few noble families kept the tradition alive.
"In Flanders, the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church have kept the tradition of putting up hatchments alive to this day. Noble families have continued to put up hatchments in churches.
"Unlike the British hatchments the Dutch and Belgian examples are often inscribed with dates of birth and death, often the Latin words "obit", "nascent" and "svea" are used to give the dates of death and birth and the age of the deceased. The name and titles are sometimes added along with the arms of various ancestors."
Kieran, based on the close-ups provided by Marion, our picture certainly qualifies as having "grimacing peasants."
It might be worth pointing out that the congregation in the painting from Dr. Johnson's House are singing Psalm 65, the Psalm of David, as opposed to Psalm 77, the Psalm of Asaph, in the Bonham's work.
It is also noteworthy that In both the picture under discussion and the Bonhams painting the central area of the church -- between the pulpits -- is occupied entirely by plainly dressed women wearing bonnets. They are segregated from the men and more fashionably dressed women at the peripheries.
Not sure if this is helpful, but posting in the hope that someone with more heraldic knowledge takes this on...
One of the coats of arms (the central one) looks like a gold shield with three black chevrons ('or three chevrons sable') which could be this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeschepe (and surrounding communities).
The one on the window on the right is 'azure bend argent' which (among other things) is the old arms of Blois.
The one on the left of the painting looks like it's three white jugs on a red background, which would be something like 'gules three pitchers argent', which (from briefly Googling) could be related to the Conduit family... although these aren't necessarily accurate off the internet.
I can't make out the others really.
On the coats of arms. While the 'Bonhams' picture definitely seems to show three chevrons sable on the central hatchment the 'Hayman' under discussion would appear to be 'Or, three chevrons gules'. These were the arms of the Van Voorst tot Voorst family https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Voorst_tot_Voorst
It may also be of significance that their supporters are griffins, which might suggest a familial link to the arms behind the pulpit. The helm resting on a coronet is indicative of nobility, possibly a marquess? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_heraldry Although I've drawn a blank on the 'gules three pitchers (ewers) argent' blazon. It would however seem to rule out the idea that of it being a municipal (or trade guild) achievement.
I think it is technically a 'knight's helm', though the coronet in which it sits may alter that. No-one has yet commented on the 'Francis Hayman' association; wherever that came from, does anyone think it should stay? Even without the Bonham's version now suggesting 'Dutch school' it doesn't look at all like Hayman to me.
As it happens, Pieter, I questioned the Hayman attribution nearly a week ago--only minutes, in fact, before Tim Williams revealed his find of the Bonhams picture by Vlier. At a minimum, the basis for such an attribution needs to be looked into, and I expect it will not prove especially convincing.
In answer to Pieter's question I think the attribution should change to 'probably by Vlier' (or studio/attributed etc), and the title should change to 'interior of a Dutch church (formerly thought to be Wesley &c).
I would suggest "A Dutch Protestant church service" as a title, since the interior as such is not the point of the picture, as it is in the far finer works of van Vliet previously linked by Kieran.
As for authorship, I would suggest either an attribution to Anthony Vlier or "style of" Anthony Vlier.
Our knowledge of Vlier derives entirely from records of paintings offered at auction and, where they exist, images of these works. Since 1988 at least six pictures have thus appeared, all signed and dated by Vlier, sometimes with 'A' before Vlier and in the single instance of the Bonhams lot with the first name Anthony. The dates range certainly from 1757 to 1769 (the Bonhams lot). An earlier date of 1752 for one work is questioned on the RKD website:
Significantly, the painting under discussion is apparently not signed or dated (unless perhaps an inscription is hidden by the frame). Thus, I agree that the cautious 'Attributed to' would be appropriate, or more precisely 'Attributed to Anthony Vlier (working 1757-69)'.
Jacinto is right: our picture and the Bonhams lot differ from the church interiors of the Dutch 'Golden Age' painters, which usually focus on the architecture rather than liturgical activity. Certainly, therefore, any new title would need to include reference to the service depicted. However, I think there is still scope for investigating exactly what is happening in the picture. That two versions exist might well suggest that this is a specific event worthy of being recorded in replicated images. The fact that the main body of the congregation, in both versions, consists of uniformly dressed women is perhaps a clue. Do they belong to some charitable institution? Are they, for example, inmates of a poorhouse?
The main body of the congregation may represent domestic servants, and perhaps there was some sort of service specifically for them, though not necessarily on a regular basis but as a special occasion.
I do not think we should go off on a 'runner' about the dress worn by the women of the congregation shown in both the two paintings we are discussing, as being ;'uniforms.' They are in fact different from each other- and not any sort of 'uniform'..some are in pink, yellow, blue, grey....Their fichus are different and even the white caps are not all the same and some are wearing black caps or hats- so `I do not see this as a sign of servant or almshouse uniforms.
As to the clear images of three elegant and fashionable figures on the bottom right hand corner of the 'Vlers' 1769 painting, these could well date from around 1769. The woman is in a pink dress with a ruffled hem and lace trimming on her sleeves- no hoops, no deep cuffs as was the fashion earlier. The men's suits, cut with a narrowed flare, unlike the very flared styles of of the 1730-50s- as well as their bag wigs, could also well be c 1769.
What is intriguing to me is that the paintings are so similar in viewpoint, composition, the arrangement of some groups of figures, e.g. the two children and dog in lower left corner, that they must be closely related in some way, but on the other hand important differences have been pointed out in the window tracery, architecture of the roof, pulpit canopy, etc.
I am not sure on the basis of these two photos if there is significant difference in quality.
To me, this all points towards them being two variations of some generalised subject by the same artist, a subject that had sufficient popular appeal to warrant such repeats. We may be wasting our time looking for a particular church or event.
The idea that it was an English chapel may have arisen from knowledge of a painting by John Griffiths of Middle Temple exhibited in 1765 as no 11 at the Free Society of Artists with the title Enthusiasm displayed in the character of Methodist preacher and his congregation in Moorfields . Presumably Wesley, his chapel was then in the Foundery in Windmill Hill, Tabernacle Street, Moorfields
Griffiths seems not to have been a member of the Middle Temple
John Griffiths was the head porter at Middle Temple. His painting was engraved by Robert Pranker and those engravings sold by Griffiths at various print shops. The preacher in this picture is in the open air. There are also numerous different engravings of John Wesley preaching in the open air to be found on the internet. However there is another engraving entitled " Enthusiasm Displayed by the Moorfield Congregation " made in 1729 by George Bickham and it features the Rev George Whitefield . And it is rather rude in the great British Cartoon tradition of Gillray.
The Rev Whitefield went to America and died there-- and there are also american engravings of him preaching in the open air.
But none of these engravings bear any resemblance to the painting under discussion- except that immages of Methodist preachers and their congragations seem to have been very popular.
Andrew Greggs suggestion that this is just a generic church seems plausable . Similar images on a theme churned out with slight variations to supply a demand.
Louis, all I was doing was pointing to a similar exhibited subject - not suggesting was that Griffiths painted the Dr Johnson House picture which is quite evidently of a Dutch chapel and by a Dutch painter
Hello, sorry, I only saw this today.
The church, both, seems imaginary and most of the time so are the coats of arms. Yet, in this case there is something remarkable. Take the Bonham version:
The arms the left of the pulpit seems Wtterwijck or Uterwijck:
It is the only family with this arms and they are from Overijssel.
The arms in the window could be Zwolle (white cross in blue), capital of Overijssel or a bad copy of the Bentick arms (do I see a split in the top?).
The arms on the back wall (black, not red) seems Van Haersolte:
They are also from Overijssel. The Haersolte tot Yrst branche had a house in Hattem, just south of Zwolle, but in Gelderland:
Then there is this Hattem family I know nothing about, but with arms that look like the one in the front right:
Both the Wwterwijck and Haersolte arms seem very specific. Add to this that using a cantor instead of an organ during services remained longest in this part of the country and it seems as if it can hardly be a coincidence.
And yet I am not convinced.
"Antony Joannes Vlier, Mr. Schilder [master painter] in de Hes op de hoek van de Lombardsteeg" [(living) in the Hes at the corner of the Lombardsteeg] was buried on 22 August 1776 in the Nieuwe Zijds chapel in Amsterdam.
The only other mention in Amsterdam is as a witness under a (very standard, non specific) teastament in 1750 of a Lutheran couple of Frederik (Friedrich) Johan(n) Muijen and Helena Emelia Beijer.
Oops, I missed the coat of arms in the top of the window, which is indeed Overijssel. And the other, next to Zwolle is Deventer.
Since the Haersolte family coat of arms is also in the top of the other window, they are the key to solve which church is supposed to be depicted in the Bonham painting.
The easiest way find out might be in:
P.C. Bloys van Treslong Prins, Genealogische en heraldische gedenkwaardigheden in en uit de kerken der provincie Overijssel, 1925.
Should have been put online long time ago, but alas. Checking will have to wait until after the corona crisis.
The Johnson House painting is the copy, could be by Vlier as well.
I suppose it is worth checking, eventually, if Wesley visited or preached in Overijssel, which is no doubt covered in the book about his trips to Holland linked above.
But even if he did, the painting can only be of his 1738 trip, while all costumes, on both versions, are 100% 2nd half 18th Cent., making it highly unlikely that there is a version predating 1769.
But it remains remarkable that the Bonham church was "said to be the English Church in Amsterdam" as well.
So, any oher possible English candidates?
Something else: if the painting was about Wesley (to commemorate his visit 30 years earlier) or any other Englih visitor, shouldn't the focuss be on the preaching instead of on the singing?
The subject, singing in a church, is very, very rare and with such a prominent role for a cantor even more. It almost looks like a statement. This is at the very end of the Dutch "organ struggles" (wars?, fights? I don't know if there is a common English equivalent for the "orgelstrijd") which finally died out after the introduction of a new, more melodic psalmbook in 1773.
So, any oher possible English connections?
Is there a mid 18th cent. English equivalent of the Dutch "orgelstrijd")
The picture may have nothing to do with Wesley, but it would only have to be of his 1738 trip if he is shown preaching. It could be of a later (1780s) trip if he is shown seated in the audience, such as the white-haired man at lower right. That, however, would be too late for Vlier if the latter died in 1776.
The Bonhams listing may have made assumptions that, while not implausible, were still supposition. It certainly sounds from Bernard's evidence that this is a church in Overijssel, not Amsterdam, and his observations about the "organ wars" are very interesting and quite possibly relevant. The picture does seem to be more about the singing than the preaching, and the figure of the cantor is relatively more prominent than that of the minister.
I suppose this could be seen as a kind of genre scene showing a more "provincial" or "rustic" area of Holland, where cantors were still used instead of organs.
Indeed. And no English connections, I'm afraid.
Meanwhile I found the painter's birth as well:
Anthonij Johannes Vlier, bapt. 22 June 1719 in Zwolle, son of Christiaen Vlier, procurator (attorny-at-law) in Zwolle since 1697, and Anna Adriana Steels, daughter of Elisabeth de Rooij and Guilielmus Steels, also referred to as William Steels (and more English that that I can't make it).
As for Mark Kirby's initial question: the church's architecture is fantasy, or otherwise really really badly reproduced. If it looks like anything, it would be a hall-church, which would fit the region, but the capitals are more like simplified Brabantine gothic "cabbage leaves" capitals from Holland (like those in the Van Vliet paintings mentioned above).
And the last coat of arms is of the Van Isselmuiden family.
They lived in House De Rollecate in Vollenhove.
They were the neighbors of the Van Haersoltes who lived in the Toutenburg Castle, also in Vollenhove.
The Wtterwijck/Uterwijck family owned the Havezathe (=Manor) Cannevelt in Vollenhove
So I go for Vollenhove (beautiful little town, b.t.w.).
One suggestion: "Provincial Dutch Church Service," attributed to Anthony Vlier (1719-1776) or (active 1757-1769).
A descriptive note could say the following:
Depicted is the interior of a village church in Overijssel with a cantor leading the congregation in singing while the minister stands at his pulpit. The picture was formerly thought to represent John Wesley preaching in Old Cripplegate Church in London with Dr, Johnson in attendance.
This is from the Church of St Nicholas in Vollenhove, in the province of Overijssel. It is rather similar to our picture (which may not have been an exact but rather an approximate rendering by the painter):
Needless to say, I was only led to St Nicholas by Bernard Vermet.
Well done to Bernard and Jacinto. Here is a link to a page on St. Nicholas.
The image on it of the coats of arms includes one for the Van Isqelmuiden family. The site might allow for the examination of other church interiors, if St. Nicholas is not the correct one.
Also, on the basis of Bernard's information, attached is an annotated image of the Bonham's painting. Can Bernard identity the three remaining arms, encircled in red and attached as an enlargement? One on the window seems to contain (at a guess) three black swans. Can he also identify the flag with the bblue/purple rectangle on the gold field?
My apologies, spell checker keeps changing Van Isselmuiden to Van Isqelmuiden
So far I can't make anything of the others. Could be fantasy, although those in the window might be related to Haersolte.
The Johnson's House version is a copy of the Bonham version: The architecture and coats of arms are simplified, psalm 65 is very joyfull, but makes less sence here (see below). The copy seems by Vlier himself.
There are no connections to England at all.
Anthony Johannes Vlier was baptized in Zwolle on 22 June 1719. His father was a procurator (attorny in law). Anthony was burried in Amsterdam on 22 August 1776. In 1650 he signed as a witness a testament in Amsterdam, meaning the he probably already lived there in those days.
This makes it extra remarkable that the 1769 painting has so many identifiable details: funerary hatchments with the coats of arms of Wtterwijck/U(i)terwijck, Haersolte and Isselmuiden. Windows with the coats of arms of Overijssel, Zwolle, Deventer and, again, Haersolte.
All coats of arms point towards Overijssel. There are several candidates like Kampen, Wijhe and Hasselt, but most of all, I think, Vollenhove, which had connections to all three families and a hall church with two aisles and round capitals, though without decoration, but the architecture is very unrealistic and of poor quality anyhow. Vlier was not a very good painter of architecture, but more likely he made this in Amsterdam and without a proper image of the church he wanted to paint available.
The subject, singing in a church with a prominent role for the cantor is extremely rare. Psalm 77 makes sence because it it one of the psalms of Asaph, who was, to quote a Dutch site, "the archetype of a cantor and composer of church hymns." (Still many Dutch church choirs are named after him). Cantor (and schoolmaster) in Vollenhove since 1768 was Jan Laan, but more interesting might be the minister of that time: Johannes Cuperus, who was born in 1733 in Vollenhove as well (as son of then minister Angelus Jac. Cuperus). In 1769, the year of the Bonham painting, Joh. Cuperus published a sermon: "Der Staten Verbodsdag plegtiglijk gevierd op den 15den Februarij 1769 in eene kerkelijke Redevoering over Klaagliederen 3 vs. 37-40" [The national day for thanking, fasting and praying is solemnly celebrated on 15 February 1769 in a church speech on Book of Lamentations 3: 37-40]. Psalm 77 is one of the psalms of lamentation and would fit the bible teaching of that ceremony.
St Nicholas, or the part of it in the photo I found, is clearly not identical to our picture, albeit there are similarities. I suppose ours might be a simplified rendering of it (architecturally), with the emphasis on the armorial devices, but I am sure Bernard can say more on the subject.
And indeed, Bernard had just said a good bit more. Vlier, then, was born in Overijssel, whose capital is Zwolle.
This link contains many photos of the interior of St Nicholas, which happens to have a late 17th-early 18th century organ. Just click on the white dots at the bottom of the main photos for more:
Bernard, regarding one of the unidentified crests in the church window, is the a family from the region of Overijssel that has in its coat of arms "drie zwarte merletten". I can find them in the family the family of Strick, but they appear to be from the Utrecht region:
Alternatively, perhaps there is a town in the the region of Overijssel that contains them?
Perhaps there are some clues here:
As appear above, these heraldic birds do appear, albeit in red, in the arms of IJsselmuiden:
I don't think these last coats of arms are realistic. The funerary hatchment next to the Haersolte one could be Ittersum but I do not think Vlier would have bothered to be correct even in such small details. He painted this in Amsterdam, with hardly any knowledge of the real situation. Big chance not even those other three funerary hatchments are real and were hanging where they are hanging now. I suppose Vlier knew/remembered these were important families in Vollenhove and took their coats of arms form a "wapenkaart" like this one:
(The most important family in Vollenhove, b.t.w. was Sloet, but Vlier forgot that one).
Everything in architectural glass is calculated. It’s a design process that uses a very different criteria to fine art. Most people have no experience with the processes and techniques and thus don’t tend to realise that elements can stand out when put in places and in combinations that they do not belong. This post is coming from this different perspective, and will sound a little unusual.
I find it difficult to have trust in these windows, I don’t personally feel that you can believe what you see with regards to the architectural glass in this painting.
The left window consists of a left light, right light and top light. This painting is giving the impression that it’s a window that’s largely made up of diamond quarries.
Just as it reaches the top light, the leadwork randomly changes to square quarries. (You can see it clearer on the ArtUK Welcome page)
Also, If they are supposed to be diamond quarries, then what are all those horizontal lines doing there, throughout the window, where they don’t belong? Neither can they be support bars either, in the intervals and numbers that they appear. (The horizontal lines are on all of the windows, which is very wrong)
The heraldic shields on the left window seem to be giving very mixed messages as to techniques, style, leading style. The colours used give the initial impression that they are supposed to be painted and coloured with silver stain and cobalt oxide, but why are they the shaped and leaded up looking as they are? Maybe they are supposed to represent pot metal glass instead, but that doesn’t feel right either. The design of these heraldic devices also seems quite wrong. Leadlines are never randomly placed in a window as they have a purpose to bridge the aesthetic with the functional.
All these little random things could possibly be explained by pointing out that it is a third party that has painted it with no experience. Although it really doesn’t feel that he was looking at a specific object either.
A heraldic shield was there for a reason, to be displayed for all to see. The coat of arms on the right would not look as much out of place if it was in the left light, or the right light, the top light, in it’s own roundel (doesn’t have to be round) or even in a window that consisted of one light.
If the coat of arms is so important a symbol to be displayed in the window, what on earth is a mullion doing going strain through the middle of it? It’s not something that I would expect to see, a decision I would really not expect the designer to have taken. This really stands out to me. This is also something that an artist with no experience of architectural glass may not realise. It feels like the artist chose his tracery, chose his windows and placed them together whether they were natural bedfellows or not.
As I said about the architecture: you should not take it too serious. Same for the windows and everything else.
It is an 'allusion' of the Vollenhove church (if you can use that word in English for objects as well), not the church itself.
It is moot now, but the attribution to Hayman was hardly plausible.
Thank you Bernard, for your well informed comments from the Netherlands on these interesting paintings. You confirm, with local knowledge, that we should not be looking for a specifc church, although heraldic evidence alludes to the region of the artist' birth. The full name and dates of the artist to whom we can attribute the Johnson House version are now well established and a date of c. 1770 for the painting is reasonable. Some of the armorials are based, though little more, on known ones. Is there anything else we need to find out to adequately answer the original questions?
I meant to ask Bernard if he is the Bernard Vermet of the Foundation for Cultural Inventory in Amsterdam? If he is, we on Art Detective would be very grateful of he could promote the Art Detective website, and particularly its Dutch and Flemish discussions, to his friends and colleagues in CODART and encourage their participation..
I suppose MK's initial questions were answered: yes it is Dutch and no I do not think there is any English connection. If the Bonham remark "said to be the English Church in Amsterdam" was based on, f.i., a note on the back of the painting, I suppose the catalogue would have said so and the 1807 sale does not mention it either. So I think it is pure coincidence that both versions were linked to the UK. Do not know if I made it clear enough that I am sure the Johnson's House coats of arms are fictional, as far as they are not copied from the Bonham original. This "orgelstrijd" stuff was an initial thought I do not think has anything to do with it. Here is a nice earlier example of the same subject: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/58798
(And yes, that's me and I will).
One last remark: the dress of the lady in the front of the Johnson's House copy is a "robe à la polonaise":
This is basically a 1770's and '80 dress, so a little later than the 1769 Bonham original. From around 1775 the women hair cuts really go "up" (see same wiki image), so the Johnson painting can't be much later than the Bonham one. My source, Irene Groeneweg (to whome I always turn when in need of info on clothing) finds the difference in quality far too big for the Johnson painting to be still by Vlier himself. I can't deny the difference, but for now find it not entirely impossible that Vlier, affected by the burden of live, still made it himself, not long before his death in 1776.
I feel we can now conclude this discussion. After many substantive contributions (the finding of the Bonhams painting signed and dated by Vlier, the dating of costume, architectural and heraldic discussions, etc.), we can say that the painting is not of St Giles Cripplegate and does not show John Wesley preaching. It is a version of an unidentified and probably generic church interior signed by Anthony Vlier and dated 1769, sold by Bonhams London 28 Apr 2010.
Anthony Johannes Vlier was baptised in Zwolle on 22 June 1719 and was buried in Amsterdam on 22 August 1776. The church and armorials in the Bonhams version are based on those of Vlier's home region Overijssel. The version in Dr Johnson's House, although not as fine as the Bonhams verson, may also be Vlier and can be dated to c. 1770. I think it would be safe to describe it as 'Attributed to Anthony Vlier' and titte it merely 'Church Interior during a Service'.
That should have been tagged as a formal recommendation to Art UK, but the options did not display!
Or "Dutch Church Service."
I covered this in my book 'Image, identity and John Wesley' [Routledge, 2018], p191 under 'Unauthenticated likenesses' (as stated by another contributor. I stated then that it is more probably a Dutch church interior but am glad to have further more specific details.
'Interior of a Dutch church during a service' (to be precise, perhaps?)
"Service in Dutch Church Interior" (trying to be terse)
All sorts of permutations are possible. My suggestion should indeed have included the word 'Dutch'. I would go for 'Service in a Dutch Church', but titling is ultimately the responsibility of the collection.
Your title sounds good, Andrew, a little tighter than mine.
A further thought: in 'Image, identity and John Wesley' I took advice from architectural church historians in Holland, who told me that some of the architectural detail seemed characteristic of NW Holland, possibly Friesland. But it is entirely within the Dutch tradition of painting church interiors that it is nowhere specific, so modelled around churches in Overijissel could well be the case.
Thank you all. The collection has been contacted.
A pity that there is no response from the collection after almost a year.
Thank you for all the suggestions and later prompts to update this record. I had no reply from either of the email addresses associated with the collection, but I have tried again today as they may be working again.
The collection's answerphone states that they will reopen on 6th November. I don't expect any response before they do.