Jan Ekels I is mostly known as a painter of cityscapes of which the majority are of his hometown, Amsterdam. This present pair are the only known depictions of the town of Leiden that have come down to us.
The compositions show views of the Marekerk and De Waag in Leiden. The Marekerk was built in 1649 and was the first protestant church in The Netherlands. The Waag was built in 1657 and is a masterpiece of Dutch classicism. It was here that goods were weighed and subsequently put on the open market for sale.
Ekels I was born in Amsterdam, where he was apprenticed to the landscape painter Dirck Dalens III. His fellow pupil in Dalens' workshop, Jan ten Compe, also specialised in cityscapes. Ekels showed himself a master in finely rendering masonry and brickwork and elegant staffage (see R. van Eynden and A. van der Willigen, Geschiedenis der Vaderlandsche Schilderkunst, Haarlem, 1817, II, pp. 186-7). The present paintings are good examples of his ability to depict urban atmosphere and textures in architecture.
Mr. Charles Dumas of the RKD, The Hague considers the present pair of views to be one of Ekels I most accomplished works (written communication, 28 February 2006).