Netherlandish Networks

Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Daniel Nijs, c. 1612-15, Oil on Oak, Dayton OH, Art Institute

Another contact of Lady Arundel in Venice was the merchant and agent Daniel Nijs. Nijs was friends with Fialetti, who years before had introduced him to the author Giulio Cesare Gigli. Gigli then dedicated La Pittura Trionfante to Nijs in 1615, his addition to Vasari’s Viten, naming Fialetti as a mutual friend in the dedication. Nijs’ house was known to foreign art lovers as a special attraction in Venice. Lady Arundel herself must have met Daniel Nijs during her first stay in Venice already, when in 1616 Lord Arundel had unsuccessfully tried to buy a collection of antiquities which Dudley Carleton had acquired from Nijs. Nijs had lived in Venice since the late 1590s and was part of the nazione fiamminga, the powerful Dutch trading community in Venice (Christina M. Anderson, The Flemish Merchant of Venice: Daniel Nijs and the Sale of the Gonzaga Art Collection 2015).

Nijs traded in art as well as in luxury goods, furs, perfume, mirrors and glass, with which he furnished the Gonzaga court in Mantua. Nijs’n etwork became important for, among others, Paolo Sarpi, a mediator between Venice and the Vatican. Sarpi had his manuscript of the Istoria del Concilio Tridentino sent via Nijs’ correspondent in London (Maartje van Gelder, Acquiring Artistic Expertise: The Agent Daniel Nijs and his Contacts with Artists in Venice 2011). The work, which could not have been published in any Italian city due to its critical attitude towards the Catholic Church, and its representation of the role of the Tridentine Council, was smuggled into England in small inconspicuous sections. In London the manuscript was translated into English and published under a pseudonym in 1619, shortly before Lady Arundel’s trip to Italy.

Constantijn Huygens, mentioned before, was another Flemish contact in Venice during the Countess’ stay. While in the Serenissima, Huygens naturally also visited the collection of Daniel Nijs, noting it as as very impressive in his travel diary:
„Na het middagmaal werd mijnheer de ambassadeur meegenommen om de bewonderenswaardige kunstcollectie te bezichtigen van de heer Daniël Nijs, Vlaams koopman in Venetië. Naast eindeloze hoeveelheden schilderijen en antieke beelden toonde hij ons een klein tafelvormig kabinet van ebbenhout, met daarin zo veel zeldzame schilderijtjes, medailles, schelpen en soort gelijke curiositeiten, dat je er drie dagen voor nodig zou hebben om alles goed te bekijken, laat stan beschrijven. De verzameling wordt geschat op 16.000 dukaten“ (Frans Blom, Constantijn Huygens: Journaal van de Reis naar Venetië, 2003).

Jacob van Campen, Portrait of Constantijn Huygens and Susanna van Baerle, c. 1635, Oil on Canvas, 95 x 78.5 cm, The Hague, Mauritshuis

Huygens had followed Dudley Carleton as secretary to England in 1618 and had already visited the collection of Lord and Lady Arundel in London together with the draftsman Jacques III de Gheyn. There the two young men were able to get an idea of the erudition and scope of collecting of the English couple. In a letter to Maurits Huygens from Lambeth on July 4, 1618: Huygens writes:
„Hier je menay de Gheyn veoir la galerie a peintures du feu prince par l’adresse de certains gentilshommes anglois qui m’ont grandement obligé. Celle du conte d’Arondel avec les antiquitez etc. de Gheyn m’avoit fait veoir par cy devant. Choses admirables en verité. Au reste nous voicy au païs le plus gentil du monde ou journellement nous voyons des palais et païsages om op clavecingel- dexels te schilderen. Mijn knecht bevalt mij erg goed; wij spreken samen niets dan Engelsch“ (Huygens Correspondence Online and Early Modern Letters Online)

Huygens spent quite some time in London, more precisely in Lambeth, Surrey, on the territory of the noble couple. His first surviving letter is dated June 10, 1618 and was sent from Kent, which was part of the estates of Lord and Lady Arundel, his last letter on October 6, 1618. During his time in London Huygens stayed regularly in the vicinity of the King and the highest elite of the court, as the letters to his father show. Through his confidante Caesar Calandrin, he learned about the history of the Council of Tridentine, written by Sarpi and smuggled by Nijs, before July 17, 1619. In a letter from Caesar Calandrin of Savoy to Huygens in London, the following remark is found:
„(…) met uwe Verclaringh vande XII Artijckelen des Christelicken Geloofs ben ik zeer ingenomen. Onze aartsbisschop [probably the Bishop of Split, Marco Antonio de Dominis (1560–1624) with whom both were in contact] heeft een boek laten drukken over het concilie van Trente, dat door een Venetiaansch senator is geschreven; hij is nu bezig met het tweede deel. Diodati is op de vergadering te Cambridge geweest; heeft hij kans in Leiden benoemd te worden? Gij moest die Remonstranten uitwerpen! Da Savoya per di qua l’Alpi del freto Caletano. Adi 17 Luglio 1619“ (Huygens Correspondence Online).

In 1620 Huygens traveled to Venice as secretary to the Dutch ambassador François van Aerssen. Huygens first letter from Italy, from Vicenza, is dated June 11, his last letter dates to July 4, 1620. Lady Arundel’s relationship with Huygens and later with his wife would last a lifetime. A 1646 letter to Nicholas Lanier shows how closely Huygens and Lady Arundel were. Huygens writes of an attack by Dutch soldiers on his wife, in which a former employee of Van Dyck’s was captured and all possessions, tucked away in two chests, were stolen. The employee was able to free himself and sent a message to the Rhine Count that the person stolen was a friend and chambermaid of Lady Arundel, who then promised to return the boxes: „(…) she was a frend and retayner to Mylady of Arundell (…) he promised that, if Mylady would writ to him within a fortnight, they should be delivered. I have procured the favour from hir (…)“ (Letter from Huygens to Lanier in Antwerp on March 18, 1646, Huygens Correspondence Online).

Last but not least, Huygens himself became known as an art collector and expert (Lex van Tilborg (ed.), Constantin Huygens: Kunstkenner en verzamelar 2013). As his mother was Susanna Hoefnagel, sister of one of the luminaries of Flemish art, Joris Hoefnagel, this comes hardly as a surprise. There was a lot to network about between Lady Arundel and her Flemish friends in Venice.


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