Saenredam's paintings are almost always church interiors in which the luminous and balanced treatment of the architecture has the elegance of an abstract design. In this painting Saenredam not only gives an apparently accurate portrayal of the details of the Cathedral of Saint John, but also creates a unified feeling of spaciousness and light. The town of 's–Hertogenbosch, near the Dutch–Flemish border, became part of the United Provinces, a group of northern Dutch states that were Protestant and seceded from the Catholic south in 1629, only three years before Saenredam visited it. Thus the cathedral, unlike other Dutch churches, still retained the decorations associated with Catholic ceremony, notably the elaborate black and white baroque altar with its statues of the Virgin and Child and Saint John, and the altar’s memorial tablets to the Catholic Habsburg rulers Philip II and Albert of Austria.

Saenredam subtly changed the proportions of columns and arches to enhance our sense of a soaring architecture. Abraham Bloemaert’s Adoration of the Shepherds, depicted on the high altar in Saenredam’s painting, was a work Saenredam had seen elsewhere and inserted in lieu of the altarpiece that had been stripped from the Saint John cathedral during the Reformation. In Saenredam's preparatory drawing of the apse one sees that a curtain actually hung over the altar at that time. Saenredam's portrayal of 1646 is thus an imaginative reconstruction of the church.


  • Title: Cathedral of Saint John at 's-Hertogenbosch
  • Date Created: 1646
  • Physical Dimensions: w870 x h1289 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Samuel H. Kress Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on panel
  • Theme: Netherlands, interior
  • School: Dutch
  • Provenance: Possibly Pierre Daguerre, Bayonne and Amsterdam, in the early eighteenth century; possibly by inheritance to his daughter, Marie Anne Daguerre Harader, Itxassou, near Bayonne, mid 18th century; parish church, Itxassou;[1] (D.A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam), by 1937.[2] J.A.G. Sandberg, Wassenaar; (Wildenstein & Co., New York); sold February 1954 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[3] gift 1961 to NGA. [1] This early provenance was provided by Robert Poupel, Cambo les bains, France (letter, 13 June 1970, in NGA curatorial files). He writes that during the seventeenth century Bayonne carried on a thriving sea trade with the Netherlands. Pierre Daguerre, who married Elisabeth de Papenbroeck, the daughter of one of the Dutch settlers in Bayonne, lived for a period in Amsterdam where he acted as the "King's agent in the City of Amsterdam." Poupel believes that Daguerre purchased the painting and then passed it to his daughter Marie Anne Daguerre. In the 1720s she married Jacques de Harader, squire of Lassale Vignolles, who owned extensive landed estates at nearby Itxassou. Although no written records exist, he believes that the Daguerre Harader couple presented the painting to the local parish church. [2] The painting was lent by Hoogendijk to the 1937 1938 exhibition held in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. [3] The bill of sale (copy in NGA curatorial files) is dated 10 February 1954, and was for fourteen paintings, including Saenredam's Interior of St. John's Cathedral at Bois le Duc; payments by the Foundation continued to March 1957.
  • Artist: Pieter Jansz Saenredam

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