New Castle, Delaware
New Castle's Dutch Master
Community History and Archaeology Program
Portrait of Peter Stuyvesant attributed to Henri Couturier, who lived in New Amstel (New Castle) in the
He owned a lot at the corner of Chestnut & 2nd streets sold in 1680 to John Moll (lot 11). Portrait
courtesy of New York Historical Society.
Henri Couturier-- New Castle's Old Dutch Master
* Henri Couturier was a skilled Dutch painter who did business in and lived in New Amstel (New Castle).
* His monogram/seal appears on a shipping invoice and on portraits of wealthy men from New Amsterdam.
* His wife stated in court that he had painted A
portrait of Governor Stuyvesant.
well known portrait of Stuyvesant (above) has been
* This portrait has also been attributed to other Dutch residents of New Amsterdam
* Couturier's monogram on the other portraits may have been an early 20th century falsification.
The Dutch colony of New Netherlands (1620's - 1664) existed during the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600's. Artists of this period such as Rembrandt,
Vermeer and Hals produced portraits, landscapes and scenes of everyday life.
While many paintings were brought to the New World, only a handful of Dutch painters
were known to have worked here, with painting a side-occupation.
Records from the Burgomaster's Court
around 1660 show that Henri/Hendrick/Hendrik Couturier/Coutrie/Coettrier
(the spelling varied, even on the same page of a court document!) lived in New Amstel (New Castle)
on the South River. Among his trading partners was Augustine Herman formerly of New Amsterdam, now a
mapmaking consultant to Lord Baltimore, and soon to be the Lord of Bohemia Manor himself.
An invoice for goods shipped in 1663 to New Amstel lists Henrick Coettrier as one of the recipients for 9 p. duffels
(a coarse woolen fabric). It shows the trademark/shipping monogram for Couturier, the same as appears on portraits
of Philipse and van Cortlandt.
Please also note that Peter Lucassen was to receive "1 case of pictures", presumably destined for the houses of the town.
It's been estimated that more than a million pictures were produced in Holland in the mid 1600's.
The huge number of painting would have kept prices low and made it difficult to earn a living as a painter for any but the most gifted.
Many wealthy and not so wealthy people possessed paintings. The database on the
Frick collection of
estate inventories shows that many Dutch individuals had many paintings. The
New Castle County Orphans Court extracts (1770-1830) does not list a single painting.
According to a biographical note by Charles Harris in 1927, Couturier was born in Leyden, the
birthplace of Rembrandt. On Couturier's marriage certificate his occupation was that of "schilder" (painter). Ten months later
he is listed on a document as a "a grosgrain cloth manufacturer (groff greysnreder)". Since his first child was born about this time, he
probably needed a steady source of income. That he actually was a painter is shown by his becoming an "original member" of the Leyden
St. Luke's guild. Chapters of this guild existed in other
cities as a sort of artists' union that regulated who could sell paintings.
The Stuyvesant portrait is believed by many to be by Couturier because of an item
in the Burgomasters records for Friday, June 12, 1663.
Appearing before them,
including Oloff van Cortandt (who Couturier also may have painted),
"The wife of Hendrick Coutrie appearing, she is told, the Burgomasters had learned,
that she sold in retail; therefore she is bound to purchase the Burgherright.
She answers, it was given to her husband by the Director General : asked,
whether she had not given something: for it to the General, she says,
her husband has painted the portrait of his Honour and drawn pictures of his sons."
Note that we do not know what painting of Stuyvesant he did, only that he did paint one. Harris
believed that Jacob Stryker painted the Stuyvesant portrait. However
Ruby1 states that the only evidence that Stryker was a painter at all is from
family documents created 200 years later.
As told by C. A. Weslager in The Swedes & Dutch in New Castle
(1987), available at the New Castle Public Library,
Couturier "also became a leading political figure as a burgomaster and a member
of Alexander d'Hinoyossa's council during the period when
the City of Amsterdam owned the colony. After the Duke of York's forces seized the town,
he was one of the six burgomasters who signed the oath of
allegiance to England on October 1, 1664 "on behalfe of themselves
and all the Dutch and Swedes inhabiting the Delaware
Bay and River" (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd series 5:574-75).
On January 23, 1657, Governor Stuyvesant, at the behest of
his council, ordered that thereafter all merchants desirous of
doing business in New Netherland were required to purchase a
Burgher right and to keep a shop in New Amsterdam in "their
own or a leased house or room" and only those possessing the
Burgher right "may keep open shops or trade elsewhere in the
province." This explains why the Couturiers had stores and
residences in both towns. According to two ordinances passed by Governor Stuyvesant
and his council in 1657, an applicant paid twenty guilders Dutch
money for a "small" Burgher right and fifty guilders for a
"great" Burgher right. Those who did not possess a Burgher right
could not do business.
"A foremost contemporary authority on early New York portraiture, Mary Childs Black
is of the opinion that the portraits
of Peter Stuyvesant and his son Nicholas William, both executed
in a similar crude, harsh style on wood panels of similar
size, were painted by Couturier. She also believes that a portrait
of Cornelis Steenwyck, New York's third mayor, and a member
of Governor Lovelace's council, may also be the work of
Couturier (Personal correspondence;, Dec. 15, 1986)".
"On April 15, 1675, a Dutch official named John Moll took
possession of a house in New Amstel, which he noted in his
flawed English was "whare Mrs. Coutrie Leved in Laest heer". [Based
on the Heite map
shown above, the Moll lot is likely to be that at the corner of
2nd and Chestnut, although Moll later purchased other lots.]
The picture of William Stuyvesant is a bit of a mystery. It is dated 1666, 3 years after Mrs. Coutrier said that
her husband had painted the governor and his sons. It has been variously described as crude, poorly painted,
the horse out of proportion and William looking like a dwarf!
It's hard for us to imagine what life was like for Couturier at this time. Unlike Leiden which had
a population of 40,000, New Castle had only 27 households in the
1671 census. New Amstel probably looked like New Amsterdam which
was considerably larger, but still a village. The Couturiers lived in both New Amstel and New Amsterdam. It's interesting
that Mrs. Couturier was a merchant in her own right in addition to being the mother of perhaps 8 children. Three were
baptized in 1662 in the Dutch Reformed Church, New Amsterdam presumably because
the Dutch minister in New Amstel had died in 1659 and was not replaced until 1679.
Paintings currently or previously attributed to Henri Couturier
New York Hist. Soc.
Oloff van Cortlandt
- unknown painter
- unknown painter
New York Hist. Soc.
New York Hist. Soc.
- Couturier (by NYHS)
of the Orphanmasters of New Amsterdam 1655 to 1663
Golden Age Painting |
List of Dutch painters
1. Going Dutch: The Dutch Presence in America 1609-2009, Goodfriend, Schmidt &Stott, eds
Dutch Art and the Hudson Valley Patroon Painters, Louisa Wood Ruby
About the Van Cortland and Philipse paintings: She notes that in the "Gilded age" and early 20th century,
"unscrupulous dealers and collectors
inscribed the names of important men ... and attributed them to known artists such as Couturier".
2. See also Mary Black "Remembrances of the Dutch Homeland in Early New York Provincial Painting in
New World Dutch Studies in Dutch Arts and Culture in Colonial America 1609-1776, Blackburn & Kelley eds 1987
James L. Meek '10