Haarlem or Antwerp ca. 1585 – Amsterdam 1650
View of the River Seine in Paris, with l’Hôtel de Nevers, the Tour de Nesle and the Grande Galerie du Louvre on her Banks
Oil on panel
H. 38.7 cm. | W. 53 cm.
Private collection | United Kingdom
Bruson, J.M. & Leribault, Ch. (1999). Peintures du Musée Carnavalet: catalogue sommaire. Paris: Paris Musées, p. 410, with ill.;
Charageat, M. (1949). ‘Une vue du Louvre et de l’Hotel de Nevers par Abraham de Verwer.’ In: Bulletin du Musée de Carnavelet, April 1949, pp. 3-6;
Foucart, J. (2009). Catalogue des Peintures Flamandes et Hollandaises du Musée du Louvre. Paris: Gallimard, p. 287, with ill.;
Giltaij, J. & Kelch, J. (1996). Lof Der Zeevaart: Hollandse Zeeschilders van de 17e Eeuw. Rotterdam: Museum Boymans, p. 133;
Nihom-Nijstad, S. (1983). Reflets du Siècle d’Or: Tableaux Hollandais du dix-septième Siècle. Paris: Fondation Custodia, pp. 152-153, no. 92. ill. 44
This charming topographic painting provides the spectator with a tranquil view over the Paris of the forth decade of the seventeenth century. In this decade Abraham de Verwer travelled extensively through the Southern Netherlands and the North of France. He lived and worked in Paris between the years 1637 and 1639. During his stay, De Verwer produced several depictions of this city, some of which are kept in Parisian museums and other collections, which – like the present painting – offer us a rare window into a long gone and partly forgotten age and additionally recollect some of the destroyed historical monuments of Paris.
The painting depicts the River Seine, with on her South bank the Medieval mansion l’Hôtel de Nevers (see fig 1), just east of the historic Tour de Nesle (seefig. 2). At their right, the three towers of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, largely destroyed in 1793, rise above the low rows of houses (se fig. 3). The Tour de Nesle was one of the four large guard towers of the old city walls of Paris, constructed at the beginning of the 13th century by Philip II of France. The tower was situated on the South bank of the Seine, facing the old castle of the Louvre on the opposite side of the river. Originally known as the Tour Hamelin, it was a cylindrical structure of approximately 10 metres in diameter. Its height was around 25 metres, with a stair turret reaching a bit higher still. This medieval watchtower served for guarding the upstream entrance to the city. After having been demolished in 1665, the mansion and tower became the place of the Collège des Quatre-Nations (later occupied by the Institut de France) with the famous Bibliothèque Mazarine. In front of the ‘Grande Galerie’ of the Louvre on the North bank of the Seine, stands the Tour du Bois, that Medieval remnant of the time when the Louvre formed a rampart for the capital, with at its foot the Porte Neuve, which Henry IV had triumphantly rode through some forty years earlier. Like the Tour de Nesle, this tower protected the upstream approach into the city towards the Île de la Cité.
This view over the Seine is striking in its calmness and tranquillity. Although the road alongside the old city wall and occupied by horsemen, soldiers, street vendors and commoners and workmen are unloading the moored boats sandy banks of the Seine, the atmosphere is almost that of a village. A barge with a single mast floats down the calm river, on which the facade of the Louvre is serenely reflected.
As mentioned in the above, Abraham de Verwer left the Netherlands around 1637 for France. In April 1639 De Verwer wrote a letter to Frederick Hendrik, Prince of Orange, stating that he had visited France and made some paintings with views of French cities. Thanks to Sir Constantijn Huygens’s assistance, the secretary of the Prince, De Verwer was able to sent two scenes of Paris to the Court of the Dutch ‘Stadhouder’. Shortly thereafter, on October 21st 1639, De Verwer received 400 gulden from Frederick Hendrik “for two paintings with the view of the Louvre of Paris and for two other views which he delivered to His Highness” (see: Giltaij & Kilch, 1996, p.133).