Salomon de Bray

(b Amsterdam, 1597; d Haarlem, 11 May 1664).

 

Painter, draughtsman and designer, architect, urban planner and poet. From 1617 he was a member of the civic guard company of St Adriaen in Haarlem, where he is thought to have trained with Hendrick Goltzius and Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (though there is no evidence for this). He remained in Haarlem until his death. He was a sensitive and intelligent man who played an important role in various cultural projects and institutions in the city. In 1627 he was paid for sketches of the Zeylpoort in Haarlem; he co-founded the Haarlem Guild of St Hubert, for which he designed a drinking horn (drawing, 1630; Konstanz, Städt. Wessenberg-Gemäldegal.); in 1631 he helped reform the Haarlem Guild of St Luke, serving on its executive committee from 1633 to 1640; the same year he published a collection of engravings, with commentary, of the most important buildings by Hendrik de Keyser under the title Architectura moderna; in 1634 he supervised the repairs to an organ in a Haarlem church; and he took an interest in many architectural projects for the city, contributing, among other things, a plan for the enlargement of the city and models and drawings for the Nieuwe Kerk. In 1644–5 he was summoned to Nijmegen as a consultant architect to supervise the alterations to an orphanage and an old people’s home, and in 1649–50 he contributed to the painted decoration of the Huis ten Bosch outside the Hague.

 

1. Drawings and designs.

Salomon was active as a draughtsman throughout his career, beginning with a landscape drawing executed when he was 19 (Leipzig, Mus. Bild. Kst.), which foreshadows the work of Rembrandt. There are numerous drawings of religious subjects, of which one group of precise and carefully drawn sheets stands out; despite their high degree of finish, some were used as preliminary studies for paintings, such as Judith and Holofernes (1636; Konstanz, Städt. Wesenberg-Gemäldegal.) for the painting of the same subject (Madrid, Prado); a drawing of the Annunciation (1641; Carcassone, Mus. B.-A.) for a picture formerly on the Dutch art market; and Rebecca and Eliezer (1660; Hamburg, Ksthalle), which served as a basis for the painting (Douai, Mus. Mun.). De Bray also left behind numerous architectural drawings, such as that for the rebuilding of the Haarlem Stadhuis (1629; see fig.).

 

2. Paintings.

Salomon’s painted oeuvre includes landscapes (e.g. Berlin, Gemäldegal.) and numerous religious and mythological scenes, for example Jael, Deborah and Barak (1633; Utrecht, Catharijneconvent), a forceful rendering of the biblical text, in which Jael is seen resolutely preparing to kill Sisera with the hammer and nail in her hand. This painting is typical of de Bray’s manner of composing a scene of three figures, and in its powerful colour and treatment of light it reveals similarities with the work of Caravaggio. In the two large paintings that de Bray contributed to the Oranjezaal at the Huis ten Bosch, he adopted, perhaps unconsciously, the fashionable Flemish style and colouring of the other painted decorations in the programme.

Salomon was also active as a portrait painter, the earliest known example being the Portrait of a Nun (1622; Berlin, Gemäldegal.). From the middle of his career is the small, but superbly painted Portrait of a Woman in Profile, 1636; (Sotheby's Sale, New York, 2004 for $1,500,000, see von Moltke, no. 82).

 

 

An unusually harmonious example is the Portrait of a Woman (1652; ex-art market, London, see von Moltke, no. 87).

In his capacity as a portrait painter, de Bray may have known Frans Hals, for he signed and dated (1628) the portrait of a small girl who appears in the left foreground of Hals’s Portrait of a Family in a Landscape (c. 1620; Viscount Boyne, on loan to Cardiff, N. Mus., see 1989–90 exh. cat., no. 10); this child’s portrait could, however, have been a later addition.

Salomon de Bray’s skills at observation are also evident in his genre pieces, such as the Shepherdess with a Straw Hat and its pendant Shepherd (both 1635; Dresden, Gemäldegal. Alte Meister). Such subjects were interpreted by de Bray with freshness and great liveliness, qualities also apparent in The Flute-player 1641; (July 2004, Paris Private Sale, see von Moltke, no. 98) and the Girl Combing Her Hair

 

(Paris, Louve, see von Moltke, no. 104), the latter perhaps inspired by a composition by Caesar van Everdingen. Salomon’s painting of a View in a Temple (c. 1630–35; ex-art market, Berlin, see von Moltke, no. 116) is the only known example of an architectural subject in his oeuvre.

 

WRITINGS

Architectura moderna ofte bouwinga van osten tyt [Modern architecture in buildings of today] (Haarlem, 1631); ed. E. Taverne (Soest, 1971)

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

J. W. von Moltke: ‘Salomon de Bray’, Marburg. Jb. Kstwiss., xi–xii (1938–9), pp. 202–420

E. Taverne: Salomon de Bray’s ontwerp voor de drinkhoorn van Het Loffelijke Gilde van St Hubert te Haarlem’ [Salomon de Bray’s design for the drinking horn of the Haarlem Guild of St Hubert], Ned. Ksthist. Jb., xxiii (1972), pp. 261–71

——: ‘Salomon de Bray and the reorganisation of the Haarlem Guild of St Luke: 1631’, Simiolus, vi (1972–3), pp. 56–69

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