Pieter Nolpe, Breach in Amsterdam St. Anthonis Dike 1651

Dike Breach as
“Finest Photo Covering”
367 Years Ago

Nolpe, Pieter (1613/14 Amsterdam 1652/53). Het Door Breecken vande St. Anthonis Dyck buyten Amsterdam … op den 5. Martij 1651. The near-to-the-city St. Anthony or Diemen (now Zeeburg) dike at Houtewael next to Amsterdam broken twice in the St. Peter’s flood (Sint-Pietersvloed) March 5, 1651 with the floods pouring through. On both sides on the top of the main breach gale-lashed people, acting every man for himself. The one constant factor among them the mounted dike-reeve far right. On the left first, designated by the sign, the compact tavern of Houtewael with smoking chimney, surrounded by further people of calmer air. Opposite to this and immediately at the smaller second breach the likewise handsome farmhouse Jaaphannes. Looming high in the quite closely seen middle distance four Amsterdam (church) belfries, supposedly Montelbaan Tower, Zuider Kerk, Nieuwe Kerk, Jan Roodenpoorts Tower and wall of masts of the harbor. Etching after Willem Schellincks (about 1627 Amsterdam 1678). Inscribed: Gemackt en gedruckt bij Pieter Nolpe tot Amsterdam, en van W. Schellinckx getekent., otherwise as above and below. Sheet size 16 × 20¼ in (40.7 × 51.4 cm).

Hollstein 208 & Dozy 152, each II (of III); Nagler (1841) 38 (“Very rare main sheet. In Weigel [1838, no. 924:

The great breach in the dike at Amsterdam after W. Schellinckx …

Capital sheet

[communicated as quite remarkable] 6 Thl.”); Andresen-Wessely 12; Wurzbach, Nolpe, 152 & Schellincks 4; cat. de Ridder 741; cat. Davidsohn 1668. – Cf. also Hans-Ulrich Beck, Jan van Goyen at the breach of the dike of Houtewael 1651 in Oud Holland LXXXI (1966), pp. 20-33.

Also see Stefaan Hautekeete, Roelant Roghman, Works after the breach of the dike at Jaaphannes in Hautekeete (ed.), Holland in Linien – Ndl. Meisterzeichnungen des Goldenen Zeitalters aus den Kgl.-Belg. Kunstmuseen Brüssel (2007), pp. 205-207 with situation map and small comparative illustration of Nolpe’s etching The St. Anthony Dike and Environs after the Dike Break in the Year 1651, see below.

And furthermore Rembrandt’s Diemerdijk at Houtewael & Schellingwou seen from Diemerdik in Rotterdam (Giltaij, The Drawings by Rembrandt and his School in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1988, 18 and 26 resp. with [color] ill. pp. 32 & 73 and 88 f. & 112 resp.; on the latter also notes on the reenforcement of the dike after the breach). A further one in Washington, praised as “Rembrandt’s evocative View of Houtewael near the Sint Anthonispoort (c. 1650), which demonstrates his remarkable ability to express space, light, and atmosphere with any economy of means” (National Gallery Washington 2006 on occasion of the exhibition “Six Centuries of Master Drawings” in celebration of the fifthteen anniversary of the arrival of the Woodner Collection).

“ … and depicted the breach of the dike at exactly the spot where taverns stood and the dike made a sharp bend to the right. At this place called ‘De Bocht’ (The Bend) the Kadyck, which run close to the water and offered the pastures a certain protection from the River IJ, met with the Diemerdijk which … separated the two waters from each other. Before the dike there was the River IJ, which opened here into the Zuiderzee and behind the dike there was a big lake, the so-called ‘Nieuwe Diep’, which originated from a dike burst in the Middle Ages. Only halfway of the dike, at the farmstead Jaaphannes, there was a small widening … ”

(Stefaan Hautekeete, op. cit., p. 205).

Before the address of de Wit (active until 1706). – With fine margin all around. – Some backed tiny(est) tears, quite minimal defect in the upper framing line. The upper margin besides with remains of old narrow backing, the utterly smoothed centerfold only partially minimally perceptible in the subject. In all with not unsympathetic slight touch of patina.

Vibrant impression rich in contrast

of this large dramatic sheet rare of old

with facts-rich caption:

“ VERTONINGE ENDE NAE T’LEVEN AFGEBEELT, HET DOOR BREECKEN VANDE St. ANTHONIS DYCK BUYTEN AMSTERDAM, Veroorsaeckt door de hooge Water-vloet mit een stercken Noord westen wint, op den 5. Martij 1651 (In welcken het water 3 duijmen hoger is bevonden, als het was, Inde seer bekende alderheijligen Vloet Anno 1570). door Welck het waeter, met sulcken force en gewelt is Ingestort, dat het in corten tijt een diepte maeckte van 30 Voeten, mede nemende al het gene sijnnen loop mocht hindren, selfs de dijck Vande diemer meer door brekende die Daer door, sodanigh is ondergelopen dat het water (inde selve) wel 16 voeten hoge stondt, tot seer groote schade, van de Ingelanden, ende de omleggende. soo dat t’water over St. Anthonis Mart warmostraet en nieuwe dijck liep. ”

(Report and illustration from life of the breached St. Anthonis Dike outside of Amsterdam, caused by the high water flood at strong northwestern winds, on March 5, 1651, [in which the water was found three thumbs higher as had been in the well-known All Saints’ Flood of the year 1570] through which the water poured into with such power and force that within short time it amounted to a depth of 30 feet, taking everything with it what might have hindered its course, even the dike of Diemer Meer [Diemen, village in 1 km distance 5.16 m below sea-level, the ground of which had been won by draining only in 1629] was breached so that it was inundated and the water [in the same] stood about 16 feet high, to the very great damage of the closer and surrounding country, so that the water run via St. Anthonis [Market?] – Warmoestraat [parallel street to the Damrak, thus best Amsterdam city] and New Dike.)

Far left of this text then yet identification for: A. t’Volck staende tussen de twee Bruecke(n) op den dijck (The people standing between the two fragments on the dike [far right]) / B. Een stuck wt den dijk gebroke(n) (A [mighty] piece [before the opposite second breach] broken off the dike) / C. Houte wael.

Houtewael was a church-less hamlet not far to the east of Amsterdam encompassed within her walls soon after 1660. The dyke began outside the St. Anthonis Poort and ran past Diemen to Muiden. Albeit uniformly called Anthonis, Diemer, and Zeeburgdijk, the caption here yet apparently distinguishes between Anthonis and Diemerdijk.

Anthonis Dijk “named for the nursing ward for lepers, which was not far from it, and its patron saint, St. Anthony” (Hautekeete, op. cit., footnote 5).


which fascinated all kinds of artists of the city just as 180 years later the Londoner Turner was drawn to the burning Houses of Parliament. So Nolpe not just transferred present Schellincks into copper, but still the same year in two large sheets after Jacob Esselens and Jacob Colyn The Broken and Restored — recte being reconstructed, “the citizens come in flocks to watch the progress of the works” (Houtekeete) — Levee of Houte Wael, so Weigel 14335 (1845), priced at only half of present sheet. Their designation with Nagler (37) & Wurzbach (153/54 with orig. title) without the suggestion of a “reconstructed”. Then there are several paintings of the great flooding by Jan Asselyn, the Schwerin version of which engraved by J. J. de Boissieu (1736-1810). And Weigel 11483 listed an etched “Reduced fine copy after J. Asselyn and P. Nolpe” by the natural scientist and amateur artist Eduard d’Alton active at Bonn (1772-1840) at 1 Thlr. + 8 Groschen. Mind, however, Boissieu’s as d’Alton’s engravings are posthumous.

And of course van Goyen’s graphic taking of 1651 Beck (1972) 243 along with the canon of preparing sketches 847/167 to 847/184 of the sketchbook of 1650/51 (among which with /167 “Houtewael, Farmhouse at the Diemerdijk”, see above), of which 243 from almost the same point of view as Nolpe/Schellincks, but only with Zuider Kerk in the vista. And with the quite decisive difference that van Goyen only shows the state after: a calm waste of waters with the curious at the breaches and in boats. The drama of the moment was not in his line.

So that then possibly Nolpe’s

present graphical contemporary reproduction is the one which at all .

Replete with nature triumphant and the finitude of human doings. And graphically of a chiaroscuro priming everything. Quite as Houtekeete assesses Roghman’s representation:

“ Yet the finest photo coverage

the artist did of the

natural catastrophy at Jaaphannes and Houtewael .”

As then Thieme-Becker (1931) accentuate Nolpe’s “large reproductive engravings covered by a tight system of lines and dots, partly

with vibrant chiaroscuro and of pictorial poise ”

as characteristic individual group, Wurzbach (1906/11) qualified him with regard to “his two marvelous cavalcades” “as engraver … of superior significance”, and already Nagler (1841) stated he had “recorded great competence in the treatment of the chisel and the etching-needle”.

That finally Rembrandt’s “most magnificent landscape” (Seidlitz 212, as Bartsch etc., too), the one with the three trees before horizontal town silhouette, is thought of impressions received at the St. Anthony Dike or at the Haarlem Dike, certainly is a locally charming, but only marginal addition to the present sheet. A comparison of the dramatic skies of both, however, their cloud-light-contrasts, downright suggests that Rembrandt’s 1643 etching should have been known and in this respect might have stood sponsor to. In such a manner then yet an additionally quite astounding, indeed capital sheet. And already more than 175 years ago quite rare.

With an anyway already thematic rarity of degree .

Offer no. 15,183 / price on application

“ Thank you so much for that comprehensive background to the above titled (Brierly) print which has intrigued me … ”

(Mr. R. H., July 12, 2014)