Possibly Jonas Witsen, Amsterdam, c. 1707
By descent through Hooft Family
Private collection, France until 1999
La Flèche, Hotel des Ventes, Sale on 21st of November 1999
Private Collection, England
Dirk Valkenburgh – boekhouder – schrijver – junstschilder voor Jonas Witsen. Dirk Valkenburgh, bookkeeper, clerk and painter for Jonas Witsen by Chr. P Van Eeghen
Dirk Valkenburg was born in Amsterdam, where he became a pupil, first of a certain Kuylenburg, then of the portrait-and genre painter Michiel van Musscher and finally of Jan Weenix, the highly successful painter of animals and still lifes. In 1696, Valkenburg left Amsterdam to travel south and here he met with success, first in Augsburg and two years later in Vienna. Around 1701 he returned to Amsterdam, where he acquired citizenship in March of 1703. In 1706 he signed a four year contract with the Amsterdam merchant Jonas Witsen. He was to serve on Witsen's Surinam plantations as bookkeeper and artist making oils, watercolors and drawings of the wildlife; the rare birds and plants found there. Due to illness, Valkenburg returned earlier than planned, probably with the autumn fleet of 1707, but with a large number of finished works nonetheless, in particular drawings. He spent the rest of his life in Amsterdam.
Witsen was known as a promoter of the arts, sciences and music and he inherited the possessions of Van Scharphuizen, being married to Elisabeth Basseliers (1680 – 1702). He became the owner of ‘Waterland’ and ‘Palmeniribo’; in 1702, when his wife died during childbirth he inherited also ‘Surimonbo’ formerly owned by his father-in-law, referent Basseliers. In the Valkenburgh drawings there are three sketches on Surimonbo, two on Palmeniribo and one on Waterlant. The drawings suggest that Witsen commissioned them. They depict nature with meticulous references to the buildings, types of trees and plants and surroundings.
Dutch traders were the first Europeans to enter Surinam in the 17th century yet their first attempts to settle and trade failed – their plans were soon thwarted by the English. In 1667 the English settlement was invaded by seven Dutch ships, leading to the Treaty of Westminster of 1674 where the Dutch were given possession of Suriname and the English of the former Dutch colony New Amsterdam (modern day New York).
The Rijksmuseum owns two of Valkenburg’s works; Plantation in Surinam and a drawing of a View of Palmeneribo’. Eight other Surinamese works by Valkenburg were listed in the auction catalogue of the estate of Witsen’s grandson.