Michiel Vriendt, frame and panel maker, dealer in paintings

Erik Duverger, ‘VRINDT (DE VRIENDT, FRINT, VRIENDT, VRIENT, VRINT), Michiel, frame and panel maker, dealer in paintings’ originally published in Nationaal Biografisch Woordenboek, vol. 7, 1977, cols; 1030-1036 as ’Vrindt (De Vriendt, Frint, Vriendt, Vrient, Vrint), Michiel, lijst-en paneelmaker, koopman in schilderijen’.
See huygens.knaw.nl for the original document.

Translated by Michael Lomax, 2021
© Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project.

How to cite: Duverger, Erik “VRINDT (DE VRIENDT, FRINT, VRIENDT, VRIENT, VRINT), Michiel, frame and panel maker, dealer in paintings” In Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project. Edited by Justin Davies, translated by Michael Lomax
http://jordaensvandyck.org/article/michiel-vriendt-frame-and-panel-maker-dealer-in-paintings-duverger/ (accessed 8 December 2022)

© Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project (terms and conditions)

VRINDT (DE VRIENDT, FRINT, VRIENDT, VRIENT, VRINT), Michiel, frame and panel maker, dealer in paintings

Erik Duverger

Possibly born in Antwerp around 1590. On 2 March 1617, V. was married in the St James’ Church in Antwerp to Sara Coijmans, also named Sara Rabat. The witnesses were Nicolaas Vrindt and Leonardus Rabat, possibly the fathers of the bridegroom and bride respectively. The husband and wife lived for a considerable time in the parish of St Anthony, where six of their children were born: Elisabeth (1618), Sara (1620), Clara (1621), Franciscus (1623), Maria (1625) and Johannes (1627). Between June 1627 and April 1629, they moved to the Kerkhofstraat close to the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Live-Vrouwekerk), into the house De Blauwe Kat. There Sara Coijmans brought another four daughters into the world, Suzanna (1629), Johanna (1631), Anna Felix (1633) and finally Feliciana (1634). Among the godfathers and godmothers at the baptisms of V.’s children, we mention, inter alia, Elisabeth Brant, possibly to be identified with Rubens’ first wife Isabella Brant; Pascasia Breughel, a daughter of Velvet Brueghel and wife of Hiëronymus van Kessel, painter; Jaspar van den Hoeck, possibly identical with the Antwerp painter Gaspar van den Hoecke; and Anna Pullinckx, possibly a daughter of panel maker Robijn Pulinck. From this data we can already derive that V. lived on very good terms with certain painters and that his relations with his former master and his family were possibly very amicable. V. died in Antwerp on 10 or 11 August 1637. The death duties were then paid to the dean of the Guild of the Jonge Voetboog (Young Crossbow), to the Dean of St Luke’s Guild, and also to the members of the panel makers’ part of the Guild. V. was buried in St Michael’s Abbey, where his tombstone also stood with the inscription: Hier leet begrave(n) den/eersamen Michiel Vrint/tafereelmaker sterf/den 10 avgvstvs 1637 ende de eerbare Sara/Rabat syn hvysvrov/sterf den … /Bidt voor de siele. (Here lies buried the honourable Michiel Vrint, panel maker; who died 10 August 1637, and the honourable Sara Rabat, his wife; who died on … Pray for the soul). Passchier Le Fer, stone carver, made the tombstone.

In 1605 V. was apprenticed to panel-maker Robijn Pulinck. Only in 1615 was he registered in the ‘Liggeren’ [official records] of the St Luke’s Guild as a free master. We know with certainty that he trained at least four apprentices in his workshop: Hans Fermenois starting in 1617-1618, Cornelis Vriend starting in 1619-1620, and Laurijns Cuyper and Hans Rits starting in 1633-1634.

At his death, V. left behind a widow with eight minor children. His brother Nicolaas and his good friend Hendrik Wiggers were appointed guardians over the latter.  Until 1638 Sara Coijmans continued her late husband’s business together with her brother-in-law Nicolaas Vrindt. With a view to this her partner produced his masterpiece in order to exercise, as a free master, the profession of frame and panel-maker, and in 1637-1638 he was in this capacity a member of the St Luke’s Guild. A short time after, the entire business of the late V. was fully liquidated. The clerk of the carpenters’ trade association, together with those of the painters and the silversmiths informed their guild brothers of the public sales to be held on October 1638 in the house of the deceased. Not only wooden goods and furniture, but possibly also quite a number of paintings then came under the hammer. A special call had been made to a number of painters in order to sell the artworks publicly after they had first been cleaned. The public auction brought in more than three thousand six hundred guilders, while the remaining unsold movable goods were estimated at almost thirteen hundred guilders.

The proceeds of the estate, totalling more than seven thousand three hundred guilders, show that V. had done good business during his lifetime and that he was probably a capable professional. In addition, it is not excluded that he also traded in paintings. This is suggested, not only by the large number of artworks, that were perhaps in store as inventory in this dwelling, but there is also the declaration of Lucas Floquet. The latter maintained that V. and his guild brothers not only busied themselves with their trade, viz. with the making of frames and panels, but that they continuously employed, both inside and outside their dwellings, a number of painters, whose artworks they sold for their proceeds and profit.

V. also played a role in his trade association – he was a member of the St Luke’s Guild and that he himself had come to the aid of financially. At his death, the “association [natie] of panel-makers” still owed him 64 guilders, but the heirs viewed this as a bad debt. It is not clear whether V. was or was not involved in the putting together of the first ordonnance [ordonnantie] of the frame and panel- makers on 11 December 1617. What is clear is that in 1623 he was already the elder [ouderman] of the trade. On 28 November of that year, he gave a declaration in this capacity, together with Guilliam Gabron, Jacques van Haecht, Michiel Claessens and Lambrecht Steens in front of the Antwerp notary H. van Cantelbeeck to the benefit of the deans of the Meerseniers (pedlars) of the city of Brussels. They confirmed that in Antwerp it was not the painters but the panel makers who produced the panels, without the painters being involved. And that a completed panel is not a painting, but just a material which can be painted on.

A few years later, in 1627, V. was one of the leading figures in the protracted court case against Antwerp painter and merchant Lucas Floquet, who had dared to employ a free panel-maker inside his dwelling. Floquet himself maintained that the proceedings were brought by just four frame makers, viz. V., Lambrecht Steens, Michiel Claessens and Guilliam Gabron, and that against the general interests of the other members of the profession. Subsequently, it is true, ten members of the panel-making profession stated their support for the court case, but Claessens, Steens, Gabron and V. were undoubtedly the driving forces behind the court case, that was possibly settled in 1628.  In that year V. himself was the profession’s examiner [keurmeester], with the task of approving and branding the frames and panels of his fellow-craftsmen.

V. also stood in good stead with the members of the St Luke’s Guild. In 1619-1620, when Cornelis de Vos was the Dean, it was decided to make a portrait of Abraham Grapheus, painter, calligrapher and clerk of the Guild, who had lent and continued to lend so many outstanding services to his colleagues. To V. fell the honour of providing the frame for the artwork, and perhaps also the panel, though this is not expressly mentioned in the document. In the guild accounts for that year we read: “Paid to Michiel Vrient, panel maker, for the frame for the portrait of Abraham Graffeus, 4 guilders. The execution of the portrait was entrusted to Cornelis de Vos, who produced a lively and original portrait that decorated the guild chamber until the end of the 18th century.

Taking account of the good name that V. enjoyed in the Antwerp art circles, it comes as no surprise that he supplied panels and frames to important and also second-ranking artists in this environment. V.’s estate inventory lists numerous painters and a number of dealers in paintings who still owed money to the estate, among them Pieter van Avont, Hendrik van Baelen, Hans van den Berch, Michiel van Eertbruggen, Hans van Eyck, Hans van Ierschot, Jacob Kersavont, Willem van Lamoen the Younger, Pieter Neeffs, Pieter Paul Rubens, Jan Baptist Verbruggen, Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert, and Artus Wolfaert. Well-known Dutch painter Jan Lievens, who lived in Antwerp from 1634 to 1643, was also in debt to V. Even more artists were in debt to him, such as Jan Brueghel the Elder or the Younger, Hiëronymus van Kessel, Jacob van Ierschot, Hans van Mechelen, Leonard Rabat, Willem de Vos, and Hans de Witte. But the heirs did not hope to collect the debts of these latter persons, which they regarded as bad and dubious debts. With great certainty we may assume that V. delivered frames and panels to all these painters and dealers. On closer inspection of their work one sooner or later comes across V.’s monogram, consisting of the letters M and V, on the reverse of their paintings. In this way G. Gepts has discovered the monogram on a panel by Jan Brueghel the Elder, Flowers in a Vase (Antwerp, Royal Museum of Fine Arts). But V.’s clientele was more extensive that what we can assume from his estate accounts. Because on the reverse of a work by Joos van Craesbeeck, depicting a Tavern Scene (Antwerp, Royal Museum of Fine Arts), we find also V.’s monogram, and the latter artist was not in debt to V.

With Rubens in particular V. was in recurrent contact. In 1626, for example, he was paid for enlarging the panel on which Rubens was to paint the Ascension of the Virgin for Antwerp Cathedral. From the 1628 accounts of the estate of Isabella Brant, Rubens’ first wife, we learn that V. had received 162 guilders for panels delivered and 100 guilders for delivered frames. This tells us that Rubens repeatedly called on the services of this frame and panel-maker, whose work was undoubtedly of particularly high quality. In 1638, Rubens still owed around 87 guilders to V.’s heirs, the third-highest amount owed to the estate for panels and frames. Today we still find V.’s monogram on the reverse of certain of Rubens’ works, including on the portrait of Isabella Brant (London, Wallace Collection), on the portrait of Gaspar Gevartius (Antwerp, Royal Museum of Fine Arts), on the Defeat and Death of Maxentius from the series depicting the History of Constantine (London, Wallace Collection), on the panel of the Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek from the series depicting the Triumph of the Eucharist (Washington, Nat. Gallery), on one of the panels with the allegorical figures of Justice and Plenty (New York, art trade), and on at least four panels presenting episodes from the History of Achilles: Achilles being dipped in the River Styx, Achilles being instructed by the centaur Chiron, Achilles defeating Hector and the Death of Achilles (Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen).

Sources and literature

Antwerp City Archive, Weesmeesterkamer WK 695 (1638) f° 152-167v°; – J.B. van der Straelen, Jaerboek der vermaerde en kunstryke gilde van Sint-Lucas binnen de stad Antwerpen behelsende de gedenkweerdigste geschiedenissen in dit genootschap voorgevallen sedert het jaer 1421 tot het jaer 1795. Antwerp 1855, 94.  – Verzamelingen der graf- en gedenkschriften van de provincie Antwerpen. Antwerp 1859, part IV, 102; – P. Rombouts and T. van Lerius, De liggeren en andere historische archieven der Antwerpsche Sint-Lucasgilde. Antwerp 1872, part I, 434, 514, 521-522, 544, 548, 559; part II, 54, 89; – M. Rooses, L’Assomption de la Vierge. Tableau du maître-autel de la cathédrale d’Anvers, in Rubens-Bulletijn, I (1882) 64; – Id. L’œuvre de P.P. Rubens. Histoire et description de ses tableaux et dessins. Antwerp, 1888, part II, 177; Id., Staat van goederen in het sterfhuis van Isabella Brant. Rubens-Bulletijn IV (1896), 175, 178; – G. Gepts, Tafereelmaker Michiel Vriendt, leverancier van Rubens, in: Jaarboek Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, 1954-1960, 83-87; – M. Jaffé, Unpublished drawings by Rubens in French Museums, in: Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1965, 177; – Wallace Collection Catalogues, Paintings and Drawings. London 1928, 287; – C. van de Velde, Rubens’ Hemelvaart van Maria in de kathedraal te Antwerpen in: Jaarboek 1975 Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, 273-274; – E. Haverkamp Begemann, The Achilles Series, in: Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, X (1975), 45-46, 95, 102, 132, 139.