In 1679, Johan Maurits (1604-1679), the erstwhile Governor-General of Brazil, presented to the French King, Louis XIV, forty-two paintings. The Governor’s residence in Brazil had been in the old ruined town of Olinda.(2) Maurits had commissioned his financial agent in Amsterdam, Jacob Cohen, to locate suitable works.(3) Of the gift, twelve paintings (and probably one other) were by Albert Eckhout. Twenty-nine were by Frans Post; they included: Eighteen paintings (all described as small [2 x 3 feet], in black frames) dating from the early 1640’s when Frans Post was in Brazil. These paintings were described in a book by Barlaeus that accompanied the gift. A further nine paintings were purchased and these were listed in the original inventory that accompanied the gift in 1679.(4) The Louvre has four of the nine; of the five remaining, which are presumed to have been sold or given as gifts, one description clearly describes this painting. It is the penultimate work in the donor's inventory which was numbered H.H. The description reads:
C’est la ruine de la belle Eglise des Peres Jesuites dans la ville d’Olinda, Laquelle estoit fort ornee d’or en dedans; ils y disent encore la messe, et font leur service.
La Reviere se nomme Bibaribi; de dela c’est un moulin a sucre avec la demeure du seignor, Et plus haut la Chapelle.
NB. Tout ce qu’on voit dans la pais, ce qui a la couleur jonatre, c’est de la Cane, dont ou presse le sucre.
Translated this reads:
“One sees the ruins of the beautiful church of the Jesuit Fathers in the town of Olinda, which was once heavily ornamented inside with gold; They still say mass and hold services there.
“The river is called Bibaribi; by it stands a sugar mill and the owner's house, and higher up the chapel.
“NB. Everywhere you see a yellowish tint to the countryside, it is the cane growing, from which the sugar is pressed.”
1. In 1766, Louis Routy (1710-1794), ecuyer (Esquire or bearer of a Coat of Arms, noble but not necessarily titled), seigneur de Charodon (an “ancient” fief of Montagny-les-Beaune), living in the town of Beaune (Cote-d’Or, 40 km south of Dijon), purchased the land and the seigneurie (lordship) de Gresigny (Cote-d’Or, canton de Venarey, 50 km north-west of Dijon) for the price of 110,000 livres.
Louis Routy was the grandson of Francois Routy of Beaune, notaire royal et procureur (Crown attorney and prosecutor) and the son of Pierre Routy (died 1758), a goldsmith. Pierre bought, in 1740, a charge de conseiller auditeur a Chambre des Comptes de Dole which entitled his children to inherit the title ecuyer. Louis Routy had already assumed the title ecuyer when he married into the aristocracy (and wealth) in 1745. His wife Etiennette was the daughter of Jean-Baptiste Lardot, conseiller changeur pour le Roi (financial advisor to the King) at Beaune and seigneur de Charodon. It was from his father-in-law, at his death in 1754, that Louis inherited the seignerie de Charodon.
Gresigny or Grisanicum had been a bailiwick of la Montagne since the middle of the 11th century. At the beginning of the 14th century it was divided between the two families of Minot and Pontailler. The ancient fief was brought back together in 1569 by Claude Couthier, Marquis de Souhey. The title eventually passed to the Damas de Crux, who, in 1766, sold the land and the seignerie to Louis Routy de Charodon.
The typography of Louis Routy’s bookplate is called Didot and was designed in Paris in 1784. This collector’s label / bookplate, that is on the reverse of our painting, can also be found today in an important 16th century treatise in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut:
Jean Bodin (1530-1596)
Les six livres de la Republique de I. Bodin Anquein
A Lyon De l’imprimieria de Iean de Tournes MDLXXIX
Bodin’s masterpiece, a cornerstone of political science and the first text conceiving government and politics as instruments to advance the common lot, was a study text in Oxford and Cambridge during the author’s lifetime as well as a source of political ideas for many succeeding generations.
It should be noted that the bookplates were printed several to sheet - to be cut and pasted when required. The bookplate in the Bodin book has been cut in a casual manner, badly cropping the border unevenly. This sloppiness may indicate that it was placed there for identification purposes, either just before or after Louis Routy’s death.
2. Olinda was the capital of the district of Pernambuco. In 1630 the Dutch captured the town from the Portuguese; a major victory on both sea and land. The seizing of the port and town was crucial and was the turning point for the Dutch in securing Brazil. In November 1631, the Dutch started to dismantle Olinda, taking from the larger buildings the hard stones imported from Portugal and India. These and other materials were transported and stored in the town of Recife, to where, two months earlier, the government had relocated. All remaining inhabitants were ordered to leave and every building, stone and mud, was set afire. The burning of this beautiful religious centre may have prevented the Portuguese and Spanish from reoccupying the town but later served to inflame the Roman Catholics and incited their support of the guerrillas forces against the 'heretic' protestants.
The seaport of Recife stood to the south on the end of a long sandy spit connected to the mainland at Olinda, at the confluence of the Bibaribe and Capiberibe rivers. On the large island in the estuary opposite the town, Johan Maurits was building the new town of Mauritstad when Post recorded it in 1643.
The compositions in Post’s later paintings, i.e. those that were made after his return to Holland, are not strictly accurate. Major buildings have been moved, and some imported from other towns.
3. On his return from Brazil in 1644, Johan Maurits filled his Mauritshuis in The Hague with a vast quantity of Braziliana.
In 1647 he was appointed Stadholder of Cleves, Mark and Ravensburg, by the Elector Frederick Wilhelm. He moved to Cleves and it is likely that most of the contents of the Mauritshuis were dispersed to his other houses and castles. A considerable amount of the Brazilian material was given away.
When, in 1678, Maurits commissioned Jacob Cohen, his financial agent in Amsterdam, to locate suitable paintings for the Royal gift, Cohen’s first port of call was the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Cohen took all that he could find of the Frans Post paintings. These were eighteen Brazilian period landscapes in black frames. Nine further paintings, all from the post-Brazilian period, were purchased by Cohen in Amsterdam, Zeeland and Haarlem. One he bought from the widow of Maurits Post (Post's nephew) and one from Pieter Post’s (Post’s brother) son-in law. The group that he bought in Haarlem were from a gentleman named Morthamer, a director of the West-Indische Compagni; the remaining works from various dealers.
Jacob Cohen had the paintings restored and also visited Frans Post with a view to requesting him to accompany the Royal gift. Sadly, this was not to be. Jacob Cohen reported to Johan Maurits that: ... he had fallen so much to drinking and become so shaky that his friends did not think him fit to be presented to the King, being besides too old to travel.
4. Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen, Governor-General of Dutch Brazil from 1637 to 1644, had employed Frans Post to travel with him to Brazil in 1637. Post left the South American shores for home in 1643. Maurits’ gift to Louis XIV of contemporary views of Brazil was presumably to secure France as an important market for Brazilian sugar. On 12 December 1678, Jacob Cohen wrote to Maurits and listed the eighteen small Brazilian landscapes in black frames. These had all been painted in Brazil and were described in a book written by Barlaeus (Caspar van Baerle) in 1647. On 9 January 1679
Cohen wrote, listing six more landscapes by Post. These were to complement three others that he had already sent to Maurits in Cleves. These nine works had been painted on Post’s return from Brazil between 1647 and 1669.
The inventory of the French Royal collection of 1709 lists the twenty-nine paintings by Frans Post: twenty-three works 2 x 3 feet and six works 3 x 4 feet. The original eighteen, which were all painted in Brazil, were all 2 x 3 feet. It is probable that the eighteen works first mentioned by Cohen became twenty in number by the time of the gift, accounting for the two other the paintings measuring 2 x 3 feet. Since these were not mentioned by Cohen, we must assume that Johan Maurits had them in his possession in Cleves and added them to the gift.
In 1784, when Louis Durameau made his Inventaire des tableaux du Roi, he identified the twenty-nine paintings by Post in storage at Versailles. In 1802 eighteen of the paintings entered the Musee Maritime. Eleven had disappeared. It is assumed that they were either sold or given as gifts. However, it is of some significance that towards the end of the ten years between 1784 and the year of Louis Routy’s death in 1794, France was shaken by the most turbulent event in its history - the French Revolution, 1792.
The paintings by Frans Post in the collection of the Musee de Louvre today from the post-Brazilian period number four, each 3 x 4 feet. This leaves five post-Brazilian paintings now unaccounted for from the 1709 Royal inventory; three of which measure 2 x 3 feet. The inventory does not state individual sizes, but the description of our painting is precise and accurate.
Purchased by Jacob Cohen in 1678, on behalf of Count Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen (Prince Maurice de Nassau).
Louis XIV, received as a gift from Prince Maurice de Nassau
Louis Routy de Gresigny
Private collection, Connecticut
The panel is untouched and in original condition, neither warped nor shaved