Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/De Baan, Johannes

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DE BAAN or DE BAEN, JOHANNES (1633–1702), painter, was born at Haarlem in 1633, and losing his parents when only three years old, was placed under the care of his uncle, Piemans, a painter of the school of old Brueghel. On the death of his uncle, he went, being thirteen years old, to Amsterdam, and worked under Jacobus de Backer, with whom he remained about five years. He studied particularly the styles of Vandyck and Rembrandt, and soon evinced a strong predilection for the former. In 1652 he executed a large and important etching representing the burning of the old town hall at Amsterdam. He then went to the Hague, and we find him in 1660 a member of the Painters' Guild of St. Luke in that town, of which he eventually became director. Here he began to gain repute as a portrait-painter, and painted portraits of Henri de la Tremouille, prince of Tarentum (painted 1664 and engraved by Philippe), the Count d'Horn, and other notabilities. Owing to his increasing reputation, he was summoned by Charles II to England, where he executed portraits of the king, the queen, Catherine of Braganza, the Duke of York, and other court celebrities. His success is said to have aroused the jealousy of Sir Peter Lely; but De Baan soon returned to his own country. Here he painted various portraits of the celebrated brothers, John and Cornelius De Witt; one of these, a large picture representing the two brothers as the victors over England at Chatham, was in the town hall at Dordrecht, and was torn to pieces by the mob after the fall and murder of the De Witts. Portraits of the two brothers are in the Amsterdam Gallery; also a painting by De Baan of their bodies (etched by Rogman); two others were engraved in mezzotint by Blooteling. In 1672 De Baan was invited by the Duke of Luxembourg to paint a portrait of Louis XIV at Utrecht. Being a devoted patriot, he declined, for the sake of his fellow-countrymen, to execute for his own profit the portrait of his country's invader. Louis XIV was so much struck by his conduct that he employed De Baan as one of his principal agents in selecting a collection of the best works of Dutch masters to be taken to Paris. De Baan also declined the position of chief painter to Frederick William, elector of Brandenburg, whose portrait he had painted. He was invited to the court of Friesland to paint the portraits of the prince and princess there, and here his success again brought on him the jealousy and hatred of his rivals, and nearly cost him his life, since after his return to the Hague he three times narrowly escaped assassination. In 1692 his enemies spread a report that he had lost his sight; hearing this, the Prince of Ansbach-Brandenburg had his portrait painted by De Baan as a conclusive proof to the contrary. De Baan painted numerous portraits of the leading members of the house of Nassau; that of John Maurice, prince of Nassau, governor of Brazil, is in the museum at the Hague; and that of the Prince of Nassau-Ziegen at Berlin is usually considered as his masterpiece. He painted some pictures for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, including his own portrait, which was placed in the Gallery of Painters at Florence. Among other notabilities painted by him were Admiral Tromp, Vollenhove, Beverningk, Thaddeus de Lantmann, Leo van Aitzema, Jan de Bisschop, and others, many of which have been engraved; he also painted pictures of corporations at Amsterdam, the Hague, Leyden, and elsewhere. He does not appear to have been more than a second-rate artist in spite of his success, and Appelman is said to have painted the landscape backgrounds to his pictures. He died at the Hague in March 1702. By his wife he had six children, of whom one, Jacobus de Baan, followed his father's profession. He was born at the Hague in 1673, and at the age of eighteen attained a success as a portrait-painter equal to that of his father, under whom he studied at the Academy of the Painters' Guild of St. Luke at the Hague. He came to England after the accession of William III and painted portraits of the king, the Duke of Gloucester, and many of the nobility at court. Subsequently he went to Italy and painted pictures for the Grand Duke of Tuscany at Florence, eventually passing on to Rome. Here he was a zealous student, and from his size was nicknamed the Gladiator by his companions. Unfortunately his progress in art was ruined by his extravagance and dissipation, and he died in 1700, aged 27, at Vienna, whither he had gone in the train of a German prince. Besides portraits he painted history and conversation pieces.

[Nouvelle Biographie Générale; Descamps's Vies des Peintres; Immerzeel's Levens en Werken der Hollandsche en Vlaamsche Kunstschilders, &c.; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Dallaway and Wornum, iii. Appendix; Nagler's Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon, ed. Meyer; Obreen's Archief voor Nederlandsche Kunstgeschiedenis, iii–iv.; Drugulin's Catalogue of Foreign Portraits; Catalogues of the Museums at Amsterdam, the Hague, &c.]

L. C.