The Eighteenth-Century Gentleman Dealer Willem Lormier and the International Dispersal of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Paintings

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  • The Eighteenth-Century Gentleman Dealer Willem Lormier and the International Dispersal ofSeventeenth-Century Dutch PaintingsAuthor(s): Everhard Korthals AltesSource: Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Vol. 28, No. 4 (2000 - 2001),pp. 251-311Published by: Stichting voor Nederlandse Kunsthistorische PublicatiesStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3780967 .Accessed: 16/06/2014 23:19

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  • 251

    The eighteenth-century gentleman dealer Willem Lormier and the international dispersal of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings*

    Everhard Korthals Altes

    In I752, a catalogue was published describing the 376 paintings belonging to the art collector and dealer Willem Lormier (i682-I758). The 36-page booklet served as a guide for visitors to his collection. Among his treasures were works which are now in the finest muse- ums and private collections in the world, such as Gerard ter Borch's "Paternal admonition " (fig. i), A boy blowing bubbles by Frans van Mieris the Elder (fig. 2) and Rem- brandt's Holy Family with a curtain (fig. 3).

    Two copies of the book are in the collection of auction catalogues in the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) in The Hague.' What makes them so special is that they contain Lormier's handwritten records of the paintings he bought between roughly I737 and 1752 (figs. 4, 5). He noted down the names of his suppliers, the sales at which he bought works and the prices he had paid. In addition, the back of one of the catalogues con- tains his accounts for the period I748-58 (see Appendix A, figs. 39-43), from which it emerges that Lormier sold 6o of his best paintings in that decade, many of them to foreign buyers. He carefully recorded the names of the purchasers, the price they had paid and his profit on each transaction.

    This exceptional source makes it possible not only to

    I Gerard ter Borch, "The paternal admonition". Amsterdam, Rijks- museum

    * An abridged version of this article was delivered as a paper at the symposium The shifting image of the Golden Age organized by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on 29 and 30 May 2000; see Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 49 (2001), pp. 2-99. I am grateful to everyone who helped in the preparation of the article, and especially to Peter Hecht, adviser for my PhD research into the international dispersal of seven- teenth-century paintings from the Dutch Republic in the eighteenth century. The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and the Research Institute for History and Culture of the University of Utrecht enabled me to make visit Germany and France. The article was translated from the Dutch by Michael Hoyle.

    The following abbreviations have been used: HdG = C. Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis

    der Werke der hervorragendsten hollandischen Maier des XVIL Jahrhun- derts, i0 vols., Esslingen & Paris 1907-28. Lugt = F. Lugt, Repertoire des catalogues de ventes, 4 vols., The Hague I938-87. RKD = Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague.

    I The annotated copy of the catalogue of Lormier's collection con- taining his accounts for I748-58 is on loan to the RKD from the Mau- ritshuis in The Hague. At the front of the book is an inscription by Hofstede de Groot stating that he bought the catalogue at the C. Telders sale in i89i and suspected that it had once belonged to Carel Vosmaer. The other annotated copy in the collection of the RKD can be consulted on microfiche (Lugt I307).

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  • 252 EVERHARD KORTHALS ALTES

    I -I.,

    2 Frans van Mieris the Elder, A boy blowing bubbles. The Hague, Mauritshuis

    3 Rembrandt, The Holy Family with a curtain. Kassel, Staatliche Kunstsamm- lungen, Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister,

    Schloss Willemshohe

    CATALOGUS VAN

    SCHILDERYEN, van den Heer A G E N T

    WI LL E M LO R I E R. ''- IN 'SGRAVENHA GE;

    Waarop die zyn Cdehildert, D, betcekent op Doek. P. op Paneel. K.... p Koper.

    2ydi alk grmiirn met de Rynlandfi miat ; . ~~~~~12 d t. USOl it

    5Gefcbildert door Wiiem an 4laplJ. # lDeendc P~ wytas en ander bywik, brd 4 V. j g en drie *ietd d. , h. 2 V. I en drie viere

    duim. D. Q. Haring, Brood, Ajuyn, Olver fcheakkan, glazen, O.4'... . Li-

    br. av. 6d., h. iv.mtod. P. MAicbiel Angelo de la Bataille.

    Ee Landfchap, op de voorgrond 8 & I9 figuuren, - AL. _ en een Verkopiag van Druyven, br. 2 v. 5 d., h.

    Flueele Breugel. dEen Undchap met beelden eynde de giot aa V4+ 0L * * O.

    Eg pcbr. v. i eneen fd.,h aod i

    4 The catalogue of Willem Lormier's paintings, with the purchase prices in pen, 752 The Hague, Netherlands Institute for Art His-

    tory

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  • The eighteenth-century gentleman dealer Willem Lormier 253

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    5 Page I 7 of Lormier' I 1752 catalogue, with the names of the sales and former owners on the left and the purchase prices on the right. The Hague, Netherlands Institute for Art History

    form an idea of the dealings of an eighteenth-century art speculator but also tells us more about the way in which seventeenth-century paintings left the Dutch Republic. It is known that foreign collectors sent their agents and advisors to Holland to buy paintings at auction or pri- vately from collectors or dealers. However, because pri- vate sales are rarely documented, there is little specific information on how Dutch seventeenth-century paint- ings became dispersed throughout Europe. The re- markable aspect of Lormier's records, then, is that everything he bought and sold can be tracked fairly pre- cisely. The document also shows which paintings did well on the international market. Despite, or perhaps because of, the keen foreign interest in Dutch art, there

    were still a considerable number of collectors in the Re- public around I750. Lormier's accounts also make it clear that paintings could be a very profitable invest- ment.

    BACKGROUND AND REPUTATION Willem Lormier, whose ancestors came from the north of France, was born in The Hague in i682.2 He was the eldest son in a family of eight children, and followed in his father's profession of solliciteur militair, a not uncommon official in the eighteenth century, whose job was something like that of a banker. Solliciteurs administered the money of private individuals, which they supplied to army offi- cers to pay mercenary forces. The solliciteur's income

    2 G.H.C. Breesnee, "De Haagse kunstverzamelaars Adriaan Leonard van Heeteren en Willem Lormier, en hun voorgeslacht,"

    Jaarboek Die Haghe I948-49, The Hague I949, pp. ii8-38, traces the genealogy of the van Heteren-Lormier family.

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  • 254 EVERHARD KORTHALS ALTES

    came from the interest the money earned.3 Lormier was particularly active in Flanders during the War of the Spanish Succession at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and may have established foreign contacts there which later stood him in good stead in his art busi- ness. In addition to his profession as solliciteur he was the Dutch agent of several foreign rulers, looking after the financial and commercial interests of those of Hesse- Darmstadt and Saxony-Meiningen.4

    Lormier married in 1707 and had a son, who died young in 1735. His wife died five years later. He remar- ried in 174i but died childless in 1758, at the age of 75, and was buried in the Kloosterkerk in The Hague.5 The Lormiers were closely related to the van Heteren family. Willem's sister Margaretha married Hendrik van Hete- ren (i627-I749), a councillor of The Hague, who was likewise a solliciteur militair as well as being the agent of the landgraves of Hesse-Kassel. Van Heteren was a great lover of paintings.6 He had 127 in his collection, most of which remained in the family after his death un- til they were bought by King Louis Napoleon in i809 for the Koninklijk Museum in Amsterdam, the forerun- ner of the Rijksmuseum. It is possible that Lormier's sl