Leonaert Bramer - Life


Bramer was born in Delft. In 1614, at the age of 18, he left on a long trip eventually reaching Rome in 1616, via Atrecht, Amiens, Paris, Aix (February 1616), Marseille, Genoa, and Livorno. In Rome he was one of the founders of the Bentvueghels group of Northern artists. He lived with Wouter Crabeth and got into a fight with Claude Lorraine. He dedicated a poem to Wybrand de Geest. Bramer remained on and off in Rome until October 1627, visiting Mantua and Venice, often for deliveries and to meet Domenico Fetti. In Italy Bramer was nicknamed Leonardo della Notte ("Leonardo of the night"). In 1648 he went to Rome for a second time.

By 1628 he was back in Delft, where he joined the Guild of Saint Luke in 1629 and the schutterij. Among his many patrons were members of the House of Orange, but local burgomasters and schepen also bought his paintings in great numbers. He was a many sided artist, designing for tapestry firms in Delft, painting murals and ceilings, some of which are illusionistic in style. He painted real frescos in the Civic Guard house, the nearby stadholder's palaces in Honselersdijk, Rijswijk, the Communal Land Housde and the Prinsenhof in Delft. Due to the Dutch climate they no longer survive.

He evidently knew the greatest of his Delft contemporaries, Johannes Vermeer, as he came to the latter's defence when his future mother-in-law was trying to prevent him from marrying her daughter.

On the evening of 4 April 1653, Leonaert Bramer, a Roman Catholic himself, and a Protestant sea captain, Bartholomeus Melling, called on Maria Thins. They had with them a Delft lawyer named Johannes Ranck. This party had come to convince Maria Thins that the young up-and-coming artist was a good match for her beloved daughter Catharina. Maria's sister was also present giving support and sympathy. "The visitors had come to ask Maria to sign a document permitting the marriage vows to be published. Maria replied that she would not sign such an act of consent. Despite this - a subtle distinction - she would put up with the vows being published: she said several times that she wouldn't stand in the way of this. In other words, she didn't welcome the marriage, but she wouldn't block it.

Bramer remained very productive until his death, which occurred in his home town of Delft in 1674. His style is nervous, but his technique, painting the reflection of light, is very good. His famous "Album Bramer" (drawn between 1642–1654, now in Leiden) contains many sketches after paintings in Delft collections. He was influenced by Adam Elsheimer, Agostino Tassi, a fresco painter. Upon his death, his works were offered for sale in 1674 in an advertisement in the Haarlems Dagblad, probably necessary because of the (depressed) Dutch economy:

May 3rd, 1674

Op Maendagh, den 7 Mey 1674. sal men tot Delft, op de St. Lucas Gilde-Kamer, verkoopen veel treffelijcke Schilderyen, en oock veel treffelijcke raere Kunst en Teyckeningen, soo op Paneel, Doeck als Kopere Platen, als oock verscheyde groote Boecken, vol Konst-werck: naergelaten van den vermaerden Schilder ende Teyckenaer Leendert Bramer Zal:.

Translation: On Monday, the 7th of May 1674, the Guild of St. Luke in Delft shall sell many good paintings, and many good and rare art and drawings, on panel, canvas, and copper plates, as well as diverse large books, full of art work: left by the very respected painter and draftsman, the late Leendert Bramer.

From his inventory it is clear that Gaspar Roomer owned 1500 drawings. Among his drawings, probably the most puzzling set are those he titled "Straatwerken," meaning "street works."

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