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Carel de Moor

(Leiden 1655 – Warmond 1738)
1 work in the Collection
Print

Bakker, Piet. “Carel de Moor” (2024). In The Leiden Collection Catalogue, 4th ed. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Elizabeth Nogrady with Caroline Van Cauwenberge. New York, 2023–. https://theleidencollection.com/artists/carel-de-moor/ (accessed June 22, 2024).

Biography

Carel de Moor (the Younger) was born in Leiden on 25 February 1655, the son of Carel de Moor (the Elder) and Magdalena de Ridder. Carel’s father hailed from Antwerp and was an ebony woodworker who specialized in making frames. In addition, he was active as an art dealer and also seems to have painted, although no known work by him has survived. He was a member of the Leiden Guild of St. Luke beginning in 1650 and held several board positions.

Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719) indicated that Carel de Moor (the Younger), with whom he was personally acquainted, learned his trade from several masters. According to Houbraken, De Moor demonstrated such a great love of drawing as a young man in Leiden that his father sent him to the illustrious Leiden master Gerrit Dou (1613–75) “to be led to firm ground rules from the beginning.” Subsequently, De Moor left for Amsterdam “to acquire a bolder brush handling” from his former fellow townsman Abraham van den Tempel (1622/23–72). When the latter died unexpectedly in 1672, De Moor, then only seventeen years old, returned to Leiden to further his studies with Frans van Mieris (1635–81). Houbraken wrote that De Moor then continued his training under Godefridus Schalcken (1643–1706) in Dordrecht. Houbraken marveled at this move by De Moor “as he [De Moor] then already understood the art of drawing better than Schalcken, unless he only did it to copy his [Schalcken’s] flattering brush, for which he is famous, in his handling.” If Houbraken is right, his training with Schalcken may not have lasted long, because his earliest signed work, The Duet, dates from 1674, suggesting that he may have completed his training shortly before.

After spending time in Dordrecht, De Moor returned to Leiden where, in 1683, he became a member of the Leiden Guild of St. Luke. Notably, he held the positions of headman and dean multiple times between 1688 and 1711. In 1694, he was also one of the founders of the Leiden Drawing Academy, running it along with Willem van Mieris (1662–1747) and Jacob Toorenvliet (1640–1719) until 1736. In 1688, De Moor married Hillegonda Woel (1660–1716), the daughter of a Rotterdam merchant. The couple had six children, including Carel Isaac, who would follow in his father’s artistic footsteps. Hillegonda died in 1716, and shortly thereafter, in 1717, De Moor ventured a second marriage, this time with Johanna Louise van Molenschot (1654–1720) of The Hague, who “hailed from a distinguished family.” However, this marriage did not last long, as she died a mere three years later.

Carel de Moor swiftly gained recognition and esteem, not only in Leiden but also far beyond its borders. His body of work encompasses history and genre paintings, some of which bear a stylistic and thematic resemblance to the creations of his teachers Dou and Van Mieris. He is therefore often regarded as a representative of the Leiden fijnschilders, who dominated painting in his native city at the time. However, an equally important influence for De Moor in his quest to establish his own style seems to have been the work of Schalcken, as evidenced by paintings such as his Diana Sleeping after the Hunt in the Leiden Collection, which reflects Schalcken’s “flattering brush.” He clearly modeled other paintings on the work of his close friend Jan Steen (1626–79). De Moor even painted portraits of Steen and his wife, which have not survived.

While De Moor was proficient in various artistic genres, his contemporaries primarily admired him for his exceptional talents as a portrait painter. Early on, the Leiden elite found their way to his workshop and were willing to pay the high prices De Moor commanded for his likenesses. His clientele, however, extended beyond Leiden, with patrons coming from such cities as Amsterdam and The Hague. Johan van Gool, for instance, recounts that in 1715 he visited De Moor’s home, where he saw portraits of prominent figures, including “the likenesses of the Lord Van Aerssen, Lord of Hogerheiden, and his wife” alongside those of “the High Honorable Lord Willem Lodewijk of Wassenaer, Lord of Ruiven and Maeslantsluis, and his wife.”

Around 1687, De Moor was “elected by the noble, most honorable magistrates, in the prime of his life, . . . to paint a chimney-piece in the Aldermen’s Chamber, appropriately on Justice.” This commission resulted in Brutus and His Sons (Allegory of Justice), which remained on display in the Aldermen’s Chamber of the Leiden Town Hall until falling victim to a blaze on 12 February 1929. In 1692, De Moor was tasked with painting a group portrait of the governors of Leiden’s Cloth Hall. His talent also garnered official commissions from other cities. For instance, in 1696, he portrayed the governors of the Amsterdam Wine Merchants’ Guild in front of their guild house in Koestraat. And in 1717, he undertook a monumental portrait of the entire magistrate of The Hague, including Willem Lodewijk van Wassenaer, bailiff of The Hague, previously portrayed individually by De Moor in the work admired by Van Gool.

Like the skills of his fellow townsman Willem van Mieris, De Moor’s artistic abilities did not go unnoticed by foreign patrons. In 1692, at the request of Cosimo III de’ Medici (1642–1723), he sent his self-portrait to Florence, where it found a place in the Grand Duke’s famous portrait gallery. In recognition of this gesture, “that art-loving Prince sent him a medal, stamped with his bust, and weighing a pound of gold, hanging from a blue ribbon.” Similar honors fell to De Moor after receiving a prestigious commission from the imperial ambassador to The Hague, Philipp Ludwig Wentzel, Count von Sinzendorf (1671–1742). Around 1710, the latter asked De Moor to paint a double portrait of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736) and John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722), to commemorate their pivotal victory over the French at Oudenaerde in 1708. This portrait was so well received at the Viennese court that Emperor Charles VI (1685–1740) bestowed upon De Moor the title of Knight of the Holy Roman Empire in 1714, an honor that he held until his death. Significantly, De Moor painted the portraits of Tsar Peter the Great (1672–1725) and his wife, Catherine I (1684–1727), in The Hague when they visited the Republic in 1717 during a trip through Europe. The tsar was “so pleased and delighted with this portrait . . . , that he would often lock it away himself whenever he was not present, to ensure that it would not be damaged or harmed during his absence.”

The numerous portraits that De Moor painted for both domestic and foreign dignitaries eventually paid off. Everything indicates that he met with financial success, especially in the latter part of his career. In 1718, for instance, he acquired the Klinkenberg estate near Sassenheim, which he subsequently sold at a profit, and in 1724, he had Leevliet, a country estate, built just outside Warmond, where Jacob Campo Weyerman, Van Gool, and others visited him; De Moor died there in 1738 at the age of 83. His demise marked the end of an era, and according to Van Gool, along with Adriaen van der Werff (1659–1722), De Moor was one of two “Knightly Art Heroes” (Ridderlyke Kunsthelden) who “flourished in our time and wrought wonders in Art, being so deeply imbedded in the sanctuary of Pictura, that, as Art Saints, they may not be mentioned without respect.”

- Piet Bakker, 2024
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