Online: The Montias Database of 17th-Century Dutch Art Inventories

March 7th, 2010

John Michael Montias, the American economist, can be credited to have “completed” Vermeer’s portrait after analyzing every shred of evidence directly concerning the Delft master and any person who in one way or another came into contact with him. He worked with passion and discovered new, important documents which have lead to a serious revision of the artist’s life, art and dealings with his principle patron, Pieter van Ruijven. A Delft archivist raccounts that Montias was often the very first to enter and the last to leave the archive’s premises. The fascinating results of his study can be read in Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History (Princeton University Press, 1989).

Very recently, the Frick Library has provided an invaluable internet interface with the database compiled Montias during his studies.

from the Frick website:

The Montias database, compiled by late Yale University Professor John Michael Montias, contains information from 1,280 inventories of goods (paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, etc.) owned by people living in 17th century Amsterdam. Drawn from the Gemeentearchief (now known as the Stadsarchief), the actual dates of the inventories range from 1597-1681. Nearly half of the inventories were made by the Orphan Chamber for auction purposes, while almost as many were notarial death inventories for estate purposes. The remainder were bankruptcy inventories. The database includes detailed information on the 51,071 individual works of art listed in the inventories. Searches may be performed on specific artists, types of objects (painting, prints, drawings), subject matter etc. There is also extensive information on the owners, as well as on buyers and prices paid when the goods were actually in a sale. While not a complete record of all inventories in Amsterdam during this time period, the database contains a wealth of information that can elucidate patterns of buying, selling, inventorying and collecting art in Holland during the Dutch Golden Age.

Leave a Reply