1. By ‘the museum’ Van Gogh means the Rijksmuseum, which had opened in July; later in the letter we learn that he also went to see other collections.
2. Rembrandt, The night watch, 1642. Ill. 356 [356].
3. See for Rembrandt’s Syndics of the the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild [1835]: letter 121, n. 5.
4. Frans Hals and Pieter Codde, The company of Captain Reynier Reael and Lieutenant Cornelis Michielsz. Blaeuw (‘The meagre company’) (1637). Ill. 152 [152].
5. Theo had visited Amsterdam at the beginning of August (see letter 522, n. 1).
6. Orange, white and light blue were the colours of William I, Prince of Orange, the founder of the Dutch state; they were used for (and to refer to) the Dutch flag.
7. Van Gogh means The fool. Ill. 2154 [2154]. At the time it was believed to be a work by Frans Hals, but is now thought to be a copy of the Hals painting that is in Alain de Rothschild’s collection in Paris. See cat. Amsterdam 1976.
8. Frans Hals, The merry drinker, c. 1628-1630. Ill. 150 [150]. Van Gogh borrowed the term ‘citron amorti’ (dull lemon) from De Goncourt's Chérie, where an artist talks of ‘la nuance citron amorti’, which was a fashionable colour in the eighteenth century (ed. 1884, p. 182). Van Gogh had just read this book (see n. 18).
9. See for Rembrandt’s Jewish bride [2119] and for what Thoré (under the pseudonym W. Bürger) wrote about it: letter 430, nn. 10 and 11.
10. Thoré wrote about Jan Vermeer of Delft in Musées de la Hollande (Thoré 1858-1860, vol. 1, pp. 272-273; vol. 2, pp. 67-88).
11. Thoré discussed Millet’s Sower in his article ‘Salon de 1861’: see letter 298, n. 2.
12. Thoré wrote about the works of Frans Hals in the Rijksmuseum in Musées de la Hollande. He called him a ‘Dutch Tintoretto’ (Thoré 1858-1860, vol. 1, pp. 58-60, quotation on p. 58).
13. The description ‘with a glowing hand’ is probably a quote.
14. In La femme Jules Michelet had written about the painting Charity by Andrea del Sarto in the Louvre: ‘You can only talk or paint like that when you have died several times’ (C’est quand on est mort plusieurs fois qu’on peut dire ou peindre ainsi) (Michelet 1863, p. 187).
15. Fromentin had described Rembrandt’s inimitable spirit in similar terms in Les maîtres d’autrefois: ‘He was a spiritualist through and through; in a word: an ideologist, I mean a soul whose world is that of ideas and language is that of ideas. Therein lies the key to the mystery’ (C’était un pur spiritualiste, disons-le d’un seul mot: un idéologue, je veux dire un esprit dont le domaine est celui des idées et la langue celle des idées. La clef du mystère est là) (see Fromentin 1902, chapter 16, p. 413). Van Gogh was familiar with this book: see letter 450.
16. Van Gogh borrowed the description ‘magician’ for Rembrandt from Jules Michelet, L’amour (book 5, chapter 4, ‘There is no such thing as an old woman’ (Il n’y a point de vieille femme), in which he refers to ‘The powerful magician, Rembrandt’ (Le puissant magicien Rembrandt) (Michelet, L’amour, p. 382).
17. For a partial reconstruction of the content of this consignment see letter 535, n. 1. The ‘two souvenirs of Amsterdam’ (Van Gogh refers to them again in l. 219) are the small panels View in Amsterdam (F 113 / JH 944 [2534]) and De Ruyterkade in Amsterdam (F 211 / JH 973 [2542]), painted on 7 and 8 October. For the identification of the location they depict and the related redating of the second work: cat. Amsterdam 1999, pp. 212-217, cat. no. 41.
[2534] [2542]
18. The novel Chérie (1884) by Edmond de Goncourt tells the story of the brief life of Marie Chérie Haudancourt, a girl living in the Paris ‘beau monde’ at the time of the Second Empire. From repeated references, however, it appears that it was primarily the introduction that held significance for Van Gogh. See letters 550, 559, 560 and 562. Van Gogh’s copy, an 1884 edition, is in the Van Gogh Museum Collection (shelf mark BVG 1341).
19. The two works by Jozef Israëls referred to here are The way past the graveyard, 1856 (Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum. On loan to the Groninger Museum), which was also known as Passing mother’s grave and The Zandvoort fisherman (Ill. 3063 [3063]), and Alone in the world, 1878 (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum). Ill. 2155 [2155].
[3063] [2155]
20. At that time Ernest Witkamp’s painting In the field hung in the Rijksmuseum; the current title is Woman in the field, 1883 (Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum). Ill. 1427 [1427].
21. See for the expression ‘beyond the paint’: letter 439, n. 3.
22. See for the Fodor collection: letter 131, n. 7.
23. Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, A shepherd with his flock, 1843 (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum; on loan from the Amsterdam Museum). Ill. 752 [752].
24. Ernest Meissonier, The deathbed, 1838 (Lost since January 1972). Ill. 251 [251].
25. Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña, A nymph with cupids, 1851 (Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum). Ill. 2156 [2156].
26. Museum Fodor owned three paintings by Johannes Bosboom: A young monk playing the organ, The Bakenesse church in Haarlem and Communion Service in Grote Kerk, Utrecht as well as the drawing Communion Service in Grote Kerk, Utrecht. See cat. Amsterdam 1873, pp. 6 (cat. nos. 13-15) and 25 (cat. no. 295); exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1995-1, pp. 112-113, cat. nos. 18-20.
[963] [595]
27. There were six works by the Dutch painter Antonie Waldorp, who was known for his townscapes, beach scenes and river views, Ships by a jetty in calm weather, A lift bridge over a city canal (1849), Interior of a church in Alkmaar (1845) and View of Spaarnwoude in stormy weather; and the drawings Interior of a Reformed Church and View of Spaarndam (1842). See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1995-1, pp. 154-155, cat. nos. 154-157.
[598] [599] [600] [601]
28. The Fodor Museum had A fish market by the Dutch painter Wijnand Nuijen, 1838. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1995-1, p. 136, cat. no. 96.
29. Fodor had Dogs resting by a fish-cart, 1850, by Rochussen. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1995-1, p. 141, cat. no. 113.
30. This is a reference to the reactions of people to whom Theo had showed Vincent’s work in Paris, among them Portier and Serret.
31. Anton Kerssemakers. He jotted down several recollections of this trip. Quoted in Verzamelde brieven 1973, vol. 3, p. 94.
32. See for Uncle Cor’s art gallery and bookshop: letter 4, n. 2; for Thoré, Musées de la Hollande: letter 15, n. 11.
33. A broom tied to the mast was the symbol of Holland’s mastery of the seas.