From early on in his career Cornelis Springer evolved as the greatest 19th century painter of townscapes and architecture. He grew up in a family of contractors and architects and was first taught architectural and perspective drawing by his eldest brother, Hendrik. Originally destined to become a house painter Springer served an apprenticeship with house and carriage painter Andries de Wit. Both his family and Mr. de Wit provided the opportunity to develop his drawing and painting to his own insight in his spare time. When he demonstrated a great potential to become a excellent artist he was enrolled for the Amsterdam Academy of Arts.
After his college days at the academy Cornelis Springer studied from 1835 until 1837 with a renowned Dutch townscape painter, Kasparus Karsen (1810 - 1896). It was here where he learned the art of painting capriccio city views, something his early career was dedicated to. When Springer reached the height of his fame in the 1850's he made a shift to painting existing city views and only worked on commission for private collectors and art dealers, who were able to choose a composition on the basis of sketches, which was then painted in oil. Haarlem, Zwolle and Enkhuizen were some of his favourite subjects, but his home town Amsterdam was the city he painted most.
The present lot is a wonderful example of such a realistic representation of an Amsterdam city view. Depicted here is the "quasi-huis" of Rembrandt in the Sint Antoniesbreestraat. Evert Maaskamp, an early Rembrandt biographer, claimed in a publication in 1828 that he had discovered the house on the Sint Antoniesbreestraat where Rembrandt resided for a large part of his life in a 17th century document. Later it was revealed by an archivist, Scheltema, that this was not at all the house of Rembrandt, because it was situated further down the Sint Antoniesbreestraat (later renamed as the Jodenbreestraat) and is now know as the Rembrandthuis. It also became known that Maaskamp did not even see the actual document where he based his attribution on and just wanted to exploit the interest for Rembrandt in 1828, when Willem I personally prevented the public sale of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.
Scheltema notes that Cornelis Springer made a painted and a drawn version of the real Rembrandthuis in 1852. At present there are also two other versions known dated 1853 and 1854. Around the same time, in 1853, 1855 ad 1857 Springer also painted three slightly different versions of the house that was indicated by Maaskamp as Rembrandt's. He was aware that this was not the former residence of Rembrandt and identified it as the "Quasi-Rembrandthuis" in his notes.
The present lot, the first from the series of three, painted in 1853, depicts several figures dressed in 17th century attire, hereby giving the scene an appearance of Amsterdam in the Golden Age, making the work even more reminiscent of works by earlier 17th and 18th century Dutch Masters such as Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712) and Isaac Ouwater (1750-1793). As always the architectural details and the staffage of the figures are of a very high quality, displaying his amazing eye for detail and technical skill, without turning punctilious and excessive. Displayed here are also Springer's adept skill at playing with light and shadow, by contrasting the figures in the shadow with the buildings which are blazing in the light. His architectural insight is shown by using a diagonal compositional plan in the painting, giving him the ability to create a sense of spaciousness and depth and providing more room to create the details in the foreground of the painting.
Even though the house depicted in the present painting did not belong to Rembrandt, still Springer managed to create a pleasant and masterful insight in the 17th century neighbourhood of the famous Dutch painter.