HOUCKGEEST, Gerard
(b. ca. 1600, The Hague, d. 1661, Delft)

Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, with the Tomb of William the Silent

1650
Oil on panel, 126 x 89 cm
Kunsthalle, Hamburg

His first known depiction of an actual church interior is his unexpected New Church in Delft with the Tomb of William the Silent, dated 1650, now at Hamburg. By the time it was done Saenredam had been painting pictures of identifiable churches for more than two decades; however, juxtaposition of any by Saenredam with Houckgeest's New Church shows straightaway what is novel about his painting.

In Saenredam's church interiors the line of vision is always at an angle of about 90º to the centre of the nave or to the wall of the building he depicts. In the Hamburg picture Houckgeest, like Saenredam, has kept the field of vision relatively high, but he had the brilliant new idea of shifting his position to the side to give an angle of about 45º to the principal axis of the New Church. The new position creates intriguingly intricate diagonal views across the church. He also has considerably shortened the distance between the viewer and the closest architectural element portrayed, the massive column near the centre. Although the best-known monument in the Netherlands is subordinated to the huge pier and is partially obscured by another one, the allegorical sculptures figure of Freedom on Willem's tomb gains emphasis by the new scheme.

The general tonality of the painting is light, yet there is a striking gain in contrast in the values of his colours, a pronounced change from Saenredam's delicate monochromatic mode. Bright rays of sunlight, which are never found in Saemnredam's interiors, now enter the church and relive the powerful weight of the columns. People in the church have gained emphasis too, and their clothing provides some vivid colour accents.