A View through a House
Samuel van Hoogstraten (Dordrecht 1627 – Dordrecht 1678)
The painterly technique of illusionism reached new heights in 17th-century Holland where artists like Samuel van Hoogstraten experimented with the effects of trompe l’oeil, a French phrase meaning ‘deceives the eye’. Van Hoogstraten excelled in creating optically seductive views that blurred the distinction between appearance and reality, flatness and depth, truth and artifice, transience and permanence. Van Hoogstraten was one of Rembrandt’s most successful pupils and his interest in optical illusions, demonstrated by his celebrated peepshow in the National Gallery, London, attracted the interest of natural scientists of his time. His accomplished trompe l’oeil still lifes have also been called ‘threshold’ paintings. These works seemingly confound the limits of representation by tricking the eye into ‘seeing’ beyond the threshold of the image to artificial views and objects that do not actually exist. This large-scale painting at Dyrham Park, more than 2 meters high, is one of the most arresting of van Hoogstraten’s threshold pictures. It offers a view through a classical archway, above which hangs a birdcage, into a staircase hall and a succession of rooms. The door of the cage has been left open and a parrot perches on the threshold of the cage, much like we are perched on the threshold between the ‘real’ world and van Hoogstraten’s painting. Indeed, each of the animals in the picture – parrot, dog and cat – seem more startled to see us than we them. The painting was purchased by William Blathwayt from his uncle Thomas Povey. It was while it was in Povey’s care that it had a particularly esteemed admirer. Following a visit to Povey in 1663, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary ‘…above all things, I do the most admire his piece of perspective especially, he opening me the closet door and there I saw that there is nothing but only a plain picture hung upon the wall.' Today the painting hands at the end of a corridor at Dyrham Park, drawing the eye through a succession of rooms to give the illusion that the space is much longer than it really is.
Oil painting on canvas, A View through a House, by Samuel van Hoogstraten (Dordrecht 1627 – Dordrecht 1678), signed and dated S. V. Hoogstrat... 1662, and dated 1662 on the map. A perspective view through a classical archway, above which hangs a birdcage, into a staircase hall and a succession of rooms. A dog stands in the foreground, and a cat by the doorway into the room beyond the staircase hall. Two men and a woman can be seen seated around a table in the second room, and one of the men is reflected in a mirror on the opposite wall.
Painted in London in 1662 for Thomas Povey (1613/14 -c.1705); purchased by William Blathwayt (?1649-1717) in 1693; thence by descent; Sotheby's, 29 February 1956, lot 51; purchased by Colnaghi; purchased by the Ministry of Works, along with the house, contents and garden, from Mr J. R. W. Blathwayt in 1956, and transferred to the National Trust in 1961.
Dyrham Park, The Blathwayt Collection (National Trust)
Makers and roles
Samuel van Hoogstraten (Dordrecht 1627 – Dordrecht 1678), artist
The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, 1985 - 1986, no.70
Catalogue of Old Master paintings the property of J. R. W. Blathwayt, Esq. ., lot 51, p.11 Walton 1986 Karin-M. Walton, An Inventory of 1710 from Dyrham Park, The Furniture History Society, vol. XXII, London 1986, pp.25-80, p.36, under the Gilt Leather Closet Walton 1986 Karin-M. Walton, An Inventory of 1710 from Dyrham Park, The Furniture History Society, vol. XXII, London 1986, pp.25-80, p.58 De Zichtbaere Werelt: Schilderkunst uit de Gouden Eeuw in Hollands Oudste Stad (exh cat; ed. Peter Marijnissen), Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht, 29 - November 1992 - 28 February 1993, no.45, p.196ff. Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry (exh cat) Louvre, Paris, 20 February - 22 May 2017, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 17 June - 17 September 2017, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 22 October 2017 - 21 January 2018, pp. 227, 230. Prized Possessions: Dutch Paintings from National Trust Houses (exh. cat.), Holburne Museum, Bath 25 May - 16 Sep 2018; Mauritshuis, The Hague, 11 Oct 2018 - 6 Jan 2019; Petworth House, West Sussex, 26 Jan - 24 Mar 2019., pp. 16-7