Barend Graat’s worry-free retirement

Since the beginning of 2021 volunteers have been helping to digitise the archival notes made by Abraham Bredius (1855-1946). These provide a treasury of information about the lives of Dutch artists of the seventeenth century, including the Amsterdam (decorative) painter, draughtsman, engraver and art collector Barend Graat (1628-1709), who made an arrangement to secure care for himself in old age through his daughter.

Final years free from bother

Not having to worry when you reach old age: is there anyone who does not find this a comforting thought? Barend Graat certainly did, because at the age of 80, when his youngest daughter Geertruijd (c. 1675-1744) married the printmaker Matthijs Pool (1676-1740), he took measures to ensure he could enjoy his final years free from bother. We know this from a notarial act, laying out the terms of the marriage agreement between bride and bridegroom, which was among the texts excerpted at length by Abraham Bredius.

The marriage contract between Matthijs Pool and Geertruijd Graat was drawn up in Amsterdam by the notary Samuel Wijmer, and signed by the spouses-to-be in the presence of their parents on 30 August 1708. Both parties contributed goods as well as money to the marriage. Naturally Bredius paid particular attention to the works of art that were part of the agreement. Thus, as well as noting that Matthijs Pool brought ‘a collection of prints and drawings’, which included ‘The Roman painters’ society [De Roomsche Schilderbent] on 3 large plates’, he recorded that the marriage contract contained ‘a page-long list of prints’, among which were ‘2 sheets of little plates after Larisse’ [Gerard De Lairesse], ‘another after B. Graat’, Pool’s new father-in-law, as well as ‘further portfolios full’ of drawings and prints and a quantity of ‘shop stock’, meaning works of art intended for the market.

1 and 2. Matthijs Pool after Barend Graat, Portrait of Barend Graat, etching and engraving. From: Cabinet de l’art de sculpture par le fameux sculpteur Francis van Bossuit […]. Gravées d’apres les desseins de Barent Graat par Matthijs Pool, Amsterdam 1727. Collection RKD
3. Barend Graat, Pandora, 1676, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

All settled

Bredius goes into more detail about the goods which Barend Graat gave away with his daughter Geertruijd: a house and yard on the Leidsegracht and, ‘as the daughter takes her father to her breast’ – meaning that she will look after his needs – ‘a whole collection of paintings’, consisting of about one hundred works. As often when noting facts which he finds remarkable, Bredius placed exclamation marks in this excerpt. He was clearly intrigued by the fact that the various debts and charges against the dowry provided by Barend Graat would now become the responsibility of his daughter and his son-in-law. In addition, Geertruijd had promised that she would ‘care for Barent Graet his whole life long … and would cover his living expenses, provide drink, a comfortable place to sleep, wash and darn his clothes, in sickness or in health so that he should not have to pay for anything whatsoever for the remainder of his life’. As well as board and lodging, and personal care, Barend Graat had also stipulated that he would have the ‘use for his personal study’ of the drawings and prints which he had given the couple in addition to paintings. What is more, for as long as her father lived, Geertruijd was forbidden to sell or make money from the house and yard on the Leidsegracht, including its contents, without her father’s permission.


But this was not all. Reading the original act, we learn that behind Bredius’s terse note ‘no community of property’ lay a number of stipulations, including the requirement that Matthijs Pool would be responsible for all costs that arose during the marriage. Geertruijd was required to retain any profit that derived from the goods which she had received from her father as dowry within the marriage, however, after deduction of the charges and debts already attached, as well as the costs of repairs and civic taxes. Finally it seems that Barend Graat, who was not ready to give up work entirely, would dip into his pocket and add to household funds as much as he saw fit from his own annual earnings.

Barend Graat did not have very long in which to enjoy the arrangement laid down in the marriage contract. He died about a year later, after an illness lasting a few weeks, at the age of 81. It is to be hoped that Geertruijd cared for him in the manner that he wished.

For the original archival document, see Amsterdam City Archive, Inventory of the Archive of Notaries based in Amsterdam, no. 196 Samuel Wijmer, inv. no. 4843, pp. 155-160.

1. Matthijs Pool after Domenicus van Wijnen, Initiation of a member of the Painters’ Society (de ‘Bentvueghels’) in a Roman inn, Rijksprentenkabinet Amsterdam
2 and 3. Part of Abraham Bredius’s excerpt of the marriage contract of Matthijs Pool and Geertruijd Graat. Collection RKD, Abraham Bredius Archive