The Kalverstraat in Amsterdam has been one of the most well known streets in The Netherlands for over six hundred years. The name of the street refers to the trade in cows, oxen and calves which took place here until 1626. Following the disappearance of the cattle-market, the Kalverstraat became one of the most fashionable shopping streets in Holland.
The present lot shows the Kalverstraat seen from the South, towards the Dam. In the distance, the Nieuwe Kerk is just visible. Elegant houses and well kept shop fronts characterise the linear overall composition. Hendrik Gerrit ten Cate would have been very familiar with this part of the city. Born and raised in Amsterdam, the artist's preference for city views grew as the city around him became more beautiful. Ten Cate would eventually become the tutor of the important city view painters Kasparus Karssen (1810-1896) and Cornelis Springer (1817-1891).
At the beginning of the 19th Century the Kalverstraat was teeming with public buildings, tearooms, French hairdressers, art dealers and print shops. Italians played an important role in the art trade with leading firms such as Buffa, Lurasco and Grisanti establishing lavish galleries here. The horse-drawn busses, carriages and carts also determined the atmosphere of the street.
The Kalverstraat became the focus of public celebrations in the first half of the 19th Century. On New Years Eve people gathered in the coffee shops to celebrate and during public holidays the street was illuminated by a large number of lights.
The people in the Kalverstraat were very diverse. Boys from the Latin School and students from the 'Amicitia Nos Jungit' society would hang around, and merchants, estate agents, retailers and clerks would also show up for work every morning. Beautifully dressed ladies walked up and down the street, observing and participating in the bustling environment. In the first part of the century the busy traffic was often considered to be unpleasant and dangerous for pedestrians, as there was no pavement here at the time. Several ideas were put forward to improve the situation, but effective change was not realised until the nineteen sixties. Before the second half of the century a beginning was made with the modernisation by asphalting a part of the street.
The Kalverstraat has always been much loved by its inhabitants. In 1902, for example, the poet H. van de Goude wrote:
Kalverstraatje flirten met mooi weer en warme zon,
Ieder Amsterdammer zou wel willen, dat ie't kon.
's Middags tegen vieren als de Beurs is afgeloopen,
Vooral als de Gulfjes een paar puntjes zijn opgeloopen.
Och, och, wat kan 't dan vol zijn van chique meneertjes,
En elegante dametjes, allen in de mooiste kleertjes,
Zoo aardig lonkend en zoo ' quatre ipingles gesoigneerd,
Of het aan geen dubbeltjes of rustige hartjes mankeert.
(D. Kouwenaar, Tussen Dam en Muntplein. De levensgeschiedenis van de Kalverstraat, The Hague, 1950.)