Maastricht as seen from Saint Anthony’s Island

By VAN DEN HEUVEL, [?A.] Captain Ingenieur, 1792 

Het Gesigt van de Maas Brugh met den St Pieters Bergh in Perspectief van het St Antony Eyland te Zien. Beneffe seen Medel te der Stad Maestricht en Plaetse van Wyck.

Europe Low Countries
  • Author: VAN DEN HEUVEL, [?A.] Captain Ingenieur
  • Publication place: Maastricht
  • Publisher: Getekent door Van Den Heuvel Captain Ingenieur in den Jaere
  • Publication date: 1792.
  • Physical description: Pen and ink watercolour, signed Van Den Heuvel on lower right corner.
  • Dimensions: 359 by 526mm. (14.25 by 20.75 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 12571

Notes

A picturesque view of Maastricht as seen from the former island of Saint Anthony and drawn by the captain engineer Van den Heuvel.

The view depicts the cities of Wyck and Maastricht on either sides and linked by the only bridge crossing the river Meuse. Mount Saint Peter and its eponymous fort sit proudly in the background, whilst the foreground is completely dominated by the island’s bleaching fields, where some peasants are busy spreading cloth on the ground to be bleached by the sun, or enjoying a moment of pause. The landscape and the buildings are wonderfully detailed, including people on horses crossing the bridge, and flocks flying around the bell towers. Altogether the scene inspires tranquility.

Maastricht’s important strategic location resulted in the construction of an impressive array of fortifications around the city, and its fortress was celebrated as the guardian of the eastern sector of the Dutch republic. During the War of the Austrian Succession, the city was besieged twice by the French, first in 1748 and last in 1794, when the city became the capital of the French department of the Meuse-Inférieure for the following 20 years.

The Collection Schloss Fasanerie in Fulda holds three oil landscapes of Maastricht from 1793, one of which is an almost identical copy of the present watercolour (the figures on the fields are in different positions and some aspects of the landscape slightly differ). Servé Minis, in a book published by the Bonnefanten Museum in 1998, attributed these three works to Van den Heuvel, however now the Fasanerie Collection has given a speculative attribution to Johann Valentin Tischbein, a German portrait painter who was active in Maastricht around 1750–1764. Tischbein was commissioned by the military Governor to create a series of nine portraits of his predecessors.

We were unable to find much information on Van den Heuvel apart from the fact that his name appears in the official registry for military officers as Captain Engineer from 30 January 1785. It is arguable that he was indeed the author of the Fasanerie paintings, rather than Tischbein, whose style is that of an entirely different painter. This would place the present watercolour as a preliminary study for the subsequent oil work; nevertheless, both the border framing the view and the title explaining the scene, suggest that this charming view was meant to be an artwork in its own right.