WITHOOS, Matthias
(b. 1627, Amersfoort, d. 1703, Hoorn)

View of Amersfoort

c. 1671
Oil on canvas, 205 x 430 cm
Museum Flehite, Amersfoort

Withoos could never have seen Amersfoort as it appears in this colossal bird's-eye view; it must have been composed in his studio. The walled city, seen from the northwest, occupies the centre of the composition. Within the walls the Lievevrouwekapel can be recognized by its tall tower, the 'Lange Jan', and further to the left is the Sint Joriskerk. The Utrechtsepoort on the right marks the beginning of the road to Utrecht while at the Koppelpoort on the left side the river Eem flows out of the city past the new neighbourhood on the harbour. In the foreground three horses haul a cart loaded with sacks across the landscape.

A characteristic feature of such bird's-eye views is the representation of the town in profile, seen from a relatively low altitude. The reason for choosing this angle is obvious: bird's-eye views were made by combining a number of different panoramic studies made from elevations such as mills, church towers or bastions. In the Netherlands such views were produced from at least the first half of the sixteenth century.

On 13 November 1671 the Burgomasters of Amersfoort proposed that the Town Council purchase the View of Amersfoort 'ornament' for the Town Hall 'now and in the future.' On 27 November it was decided to pay Withoos 200 silver ducats, a sum so large that it must have been for this big canvas. Judging from descriptions and floor plans of the old Amersfoort Town Hall, the painting was subsequently hung in the council chamber. It has remained in municipal possession to this day. Although the Town Council probably did not commission the canvas, such a large cityscape was most likely intended for a government building. Since Withoos himself had a seat on the Town Council in 1671, he could have executed the painting with the assurance that he would be able to sell it to the Municipality.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.