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The Utrecht Archives Acquired Two Drawings by the Brothers Saftleven

The Utrecht Archives (Het Utrechts Archief) acquired two drawings by the seventeenth-century brothers Herman and Cornelis Saftleven. The drawing by Herman appeared in Berlin late last year, the other in Paris earlier this year. Both works were acquired by the city archives with support from its Friends Foundation.

The drawing by Herman Saftleven (1609-1685) has long been known to the art world. It belongs to a series of six drawings he made around 1651 at various locations along the southern ramparts of the city.

Herman Saftleven (1609-1685), Gezicht over de Stadsbuitengracht te Utrecht op de stadswal, 1640-70
Het Utrechts Archief, Utrecht

The drawing by Cornelis Saftleven (1607-1691) was until recently attributed to a nineteenth-century French artist. However, it is clearly a Utrecht drawing by Cornelis Saftleven, whose monogram also appears on the drawing. It is exceptional that old drawings of this kind are still discovered and it has been more than twenty years since a Saftleven drawing was added to the collection.

Few Utrecht drawings by Cornelis are known, as he worked mainly in Rotterdam, which makes this acquisition even more special. This is the first work by the artist in the collection of the Utrecht Archives. It was made sometime in the 1650s or 1660s, at a time when Cornelis was living in Rotterdam and regularly visited his brother in Utrecht. The viewpoint of this drawing is not immediately obvious. Cornelis stood on the southern city wall and drew the back of the Agnietenklooster (now part of the Centraal Museum), with part of the choir of the Nicolaï church on the left.

Cornelis Saftleven (1607-1681), View of the back of the St. Agnes Convent in Utrecht, 1650-70
Het Utrechts Archief, Utrecht

The Saftleven brothers created their works at a time when draftsmen and painters had just established themselves as an independent group of professions. Herman made more than 200 drawings of the city of Utrecht, and they are therefore an important source for those who want to get an idea of what Utrecht looked like in the seventeenth century. Apart from their important informative value, they are also beautifully drawn.

The drawings can be seen from 14 October in the exhibition The drawn city. Utrecht in old drawings 1550-1900, which is accompanied by a catalogue with the same name. They can also be consulted in high resolution on the archive’s website.