Jan Griffier the Elder

Amsterdam 1645/52 – London 1718

A Church Interior with Figures

Annotated with the date ‘1673’ centre top (on the clock)
Oil on canvasH. 169,5 cm. | W. 135,6 cm.


Collection Central Picture Galleries | New York | 1969;
Collection S. Nijstad Oude Kunst B.V. | The Hague | 1974;
Anonymous sale Christie’s | 13 July 1977;
Anonymous sale Phillips Ward-Price | Toronto | 15 February 1980 | Lot 17;
Private collection | Toronto

Exhibition catalogue (1974). Oude Kunst- en Antiekbeurs der Vereeniging van Handelaren in Oude Kunst in Nederland. Delft/Amsterdam, p. 45, with ill.;
Kinkelder, M.C. de (1999). ‘Jan Griffier de Oude als architectuurschilder.’ In: Oud Holland, nr. 113, p. 223, ill. 3, as by Jan Griffier I;
Maillet, B.G. (2012). Intérieur d’eglises 1580- 1720. La Peinture Architecturale dans les Ecoles du Nord. Antwerp: Pandora, p. 515, nr. M-S-2323, with ill.

Oude kunst- en antiekbeurs | Delft, 1974 | S. Nijstad Oude Kunst B.V | Stand nr. 7

The present painting is registered at the RKD | The Hague | Nr. 58094


This rare imaginary Church Interior is one of only three known architectural paintings by the landscapist Jan Griffier the Elder. The first, signed ‘J GRIFFIER’, was formerly in the collection of the Earl of Chichester and at present in the collection of J. S. de Cayres Funchal, Madeira. The second is kept in a private collection in the United Kingdom. De Kinkelder argues that all three were painted shortly after Griffier’s arrival in England, around 1670-1672. The genre was unusual in England, suggesting that the works may have been painted on commission. The present painting is the largest of the three and bears the date ‘1673’, so it was most likely painted in London, while Griffier worked in the studio of the Amsterdam born master Jan Looten, who was active in London between 1662 and 1678.

Born in Amsterdam – the exact date of his birth being uncertain – Griffier was a pupil of the etcher and landscape painter Roelant Roghman (ca. 1620-1686). Griffier moved to London soon after the Great Fire of 1666, which he depicted in several paintings. In London he continued his studies under Jan Looten (1618-1681), painting numerous highly finished, small London and Rhineland views. He was admitted ‘gratis’ as a ‘free Brother’ of the London Company of Painter-Stainers in 1677, contributing a Landscape with Ruins to their Hall. He enjoyed the patronage of Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort. Griffier had his own yacht on the Thames, from which he sketched scenery, and he seems to have travelled widely between the main British cities, including London, Windsor, Oxford and Gloucester, evidented by views he painted of the English countryside. Married at least three times: in 1674 to Jane Gilborthorp, in 1687 to Anne Brookes and later to Mary Jones.

Griffier returned to the Dutch Republic around 1695 on his yacht, which was shipwrecked off the Dutch coast and lost his ship and most of his capital. In Rotterdam he again bought a boat to work and live on with his family, moving from one town to another, such as Amsterdam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen and DordrechtIn 1700 he is mentioned in the Album Studiosorum of the Academy of Leiden as being 48 years old and living at the lumber yard of the city. Around 1704 he returned to London, where he moved into a house at Millbank. His son Robert Griffier and grandson Jan Griffier the Younger continued the family landscape tradition. After his death an auction of his pictures took place at Covent Garden, London.

The present painting depicts an imaginary church interior, composed out of elements derived from existing Dutch churches, most notable the Oude Kerk of Amsterdam, with it’s characteristic wooden vaults and beams. In fact, the coat of arms of the city of Amsterdam – consisting of a red shield and a black pale with three silver Saint Andrew’s Crosses, the Imperial Crown of Austria, flanked by two golden lions – is depicted in the stained glass window upper right. Being a native of Amsterdam, Jan Griffer most likely know the Oude Kerk well, and may even have possessed drawing of it’s interior, on which he arguably based the present composition. As such, the present work, which has not been on the market of over forty years, is a rare and notable addition to the masters oeuvre.