Johannes Huibert Prins
The Hague 1757-1806?
A Capriccio View of a Dutch Town with a Canal by a Church, with Figures near a Bridge in the Foreground

PROVENANCE: Anonymous sale. Mak van Waay, Amsterdam 15 April 1958, lot 427.

C.P. van Eeghen (his mark, not in Lugt, on the verso), Amsterdam; thence by decent.

Signed and dated 'J.H. Prins f 1791' on the log pile in the centre of the picture

Pen and brown and black ink, watercolour, black ink framing lines

455 x 414 mm. (17 7/8 x 16 1/4 in.)


Prins was as a painter and draughtsman of minutely detailed street scenes and interiors. Although he started to work as an artist at an early age, his father, who returned to Holland a rich man after a career in the colonies, insisted that he attend a university. Prins earned degrees at the University of Leiden in 1781 as Magister atrium liberalium and Doctor philosphiae, but he then devoted himself solely to painting and drawing. He spent two years in Brabant and France, where he made numerous studies, but he found his greatest inspiration in Dutch art of the seventeenth century, particularly in the architectural paintings of Jan ven der Heyden and his follower, Gerrit Berckheyde. It was from these two that he took his detailed depiction of masonry, as well as the habit of combining architectural elements from different sources to create imaginary buildings. The method was continued in the next generation by the Utrecht artist Jan Hendrik Verheyden. The nature of the relationship, if any, between these two artists is unknown. Due to Prins restless nature Prins moved from town to town, residing first in The Hague, then settling in Utrecht and later Leiden. In 1784, his talent for oratory led to his appointment to the committee of the Pictura artists society in The Hague. After a few years he quarreled with his colleagues and left for Leiden, taking the petty cash with him. He was an alcoholic and was forced to abandon his painting then his drawing. He is supposed to have died from drowning in 1806.

Our drawing is a superb and characteristic example of Prins working in this watercolour medium, and this work is in a fantastic condition. It can be compared to numerous works by the artist, including one in the Rijsprentenkabinet1. Prins created imaginary locations, mostly from the 1780s and 1790s. According to Niemeijer

One striking detail is that all the houses originate from a much earlier architectural period. None of them stems from the artists own day

The watercolour has come directly from the important collection of the Van Eeghen family2.

1.J.W. Niemeijer, Eighteenth-Century Watercolours from the Rijksmuseum Print room, Amsterdam, Zwolle, 1993, number 51.

2.B. Bakker, E. Fleurbaay, A.W. Gerlagh, De verzameling Van Eeghen, Amsterdamse tekeningen, Zwolle, 1988.