A View through a House, Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1662
This arresting perspective painting by Samuel van Hoogstraten is perhaps this artist’s masterpiece.
A pupil of Rembrandt, Hoogstraten was famed for his ‘trompe-l’oeil’ pictures, meaning ‘deceives the eye’. He excelled in creating tangible three dimensional realities from nothing but oil paint.
The View through a House was commissioned by Thomas Povey and was first displayed in his London townhouse. Povey was William Blathwayt’s uncle, and much of his collection ended up at Dyrham to decorate and furnish his nephew’s newly built house.
Povey was Hoogstraten’s greatest patron in London, he bought two paintings from the artist and both are now at Dyrham. Povey once entertained Hoogstraten to a lavish dinner. The artists described the extravagant evening with ten courses and 24 different wines.
Another frequent visitor to Povey’s house was the diarist Samuel Pepys. He was equally enthralled and appalled by Povey – finding him useless in business matters, but enchanted by his taste and style. In 1663 Pepys visited Povey and saw this new painting, writing in his diary:
" But above all things I do the most admire his piece of perspective especially, he opening me the closet door, and there I saw that there is nothing but only a plain picture hung upon the wall."
What enchanted Pepys still delights us today. We look into a recognisably Dutch house and through several rooms. A curious dog and surprised cat greet us as if we have just entered their world. But our eye is drawn to the group of three people sitting around a table. A conversation is happening, between two men and a women bathed in light. Is this a marriage negotiation?
We are pointed to a romantic story by symbolic elements: the love-letter on the stairs, a caged bird set free, the broom and key on the pillars. If this is a marriage negotiation, who is the fourth man at the window? For his hand is raised and ready to knock upon the glass and break up this discussion, perhaps to declare his true love?