Circle of Hendrick Danckerts

The Hague 1625 - Amsterdam 1680

View of Greenwich circa 1660

Oil on canvas: 90.2 x 128 cm. 35 1/2 x 50 3/8 in.

Provenance: US private collection

Born into a family of artists, Danckerts began his career at The Hague becoming a Master there in 1651.  Sometime after 1653 he travelled to Italy and joined the community of Dutch-Italianate painters in Rome specialising in luminous views of the campagna.  By 1657 he was in England, quickly appointed court painter to Charles II at the Restoration, and employed to execute views of the newly occupied royal palaces at Windsor, Hampton Court and Greenwich.  At the last the new king had erected a new wing to complement the Queen’s House designed for Queen Henrietta Maria by Inigo Jones. This gives our view a terminus ante quem as the new wing has not been started and instead there are the remains of the old Tudor Palace of Greenwich consisting of two towers, the one on the left on the site of the old gatehouse and that on the right standing beside the flat area which delineates Henry VIII’s old Tilting Yard.  The landscape is therefore a significant historical document illustrating the evolution of the Tudor building into the baroque palace, designed by Jones’s pupil John Webb, that we see today.  To the left crowning the hill is the Royal Observatory built on the foundations of the old Greenwich Castle on the recommendation of Sir Christopher Wren in 1675.  It was initially called Flamsteed House after the first Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed. 

Interestingly Danckerts has abandoned the Italianate landscape style and adopted a more tonal Dutch idiom.  The atmospheric cloudscape in particular is resembles landscapes by his contemporary Jacob van Ruisdael.  Such was the status of Danckerts’ royal views that several copies were requested, notably by the diarist Samuel Pepys,who records on 3rd.March 1668/69:

“And here at the ‘Change I met with Mr. Dancre, the famous landscape painter, with whom I was on Wednesday; and he took measure of my panels in my dining-room, where, in the four, I intend to have the four houses of the King, White Hall, Hampton Court, Greenwich, and Windsor.”

On 5th.February of the same year he wrote:

“to Dancre’s where I find him beginning of a piece for me, of Greenwich, which will please me well.”  Seven days later he records: “to Dancre’s and there saw one picture of Greenwich in doing which is mighty pretty.”

Danckerts also worked for the king’s brother James, Duke of York, who reputedly owned twenty-eight landscapes by the artist of which sixteen are still in the royal collection.  However anti-Catholic and anti-royalist sentiment compromised his career in England, and he returned to end his days in Amsterdam.  Danckerts was also a prolific engraver of royal and aristocratic portraits after

Dutch painters.  As well as the royal collection, his paintings are in the Government Art Collection and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, which has a later version of this view with Charles II’s palace where the old Tudor building stood.