This panel and its pendant (64.65.3
) were painted by Van der Heyden about 1668–70. The Haarlem painter turned architect Pieter Post (1608–1669) designed the Huis ten Bosch (House in the Wood) about 1645 as a summer residence for Amalia van Solms, wife of the Stadholder, Prince Frederick Hendrick. The house was conceived as a villa suburbana
at the eastern end of the center of The Hague. At the prince's death in March 1647, Amalia resolved to make the country house into a memorial of his life and career. The large central hall, which is shaped like a Greek (equal-armed) cross and is crowned by a domed cupola with windows, was decorated with an elaborate program of historical, allegorical, and mythological paintings on the walls and the vaults. The subjects were conceived by the Stadholder's secretary and artistic adviser, Constantijn Huygens, in consultation with the dowager princess. Huygens and Post referred to the entire structure as the Sael van Oranje, or Oranjezaal (Hall of Orange), in honor of the House of Orange-Nassau, but the name was later applied to the central hall alone. The painter and architect Jacob van Campen (1595–1657), whom Post had assisted in building the Mauritshuis and other projects, was appointed designer of the pictorial compositions and supervisor of a team of Dutch and Flemish painters, including himself and Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678). The project was completed in 1651. Post also designed the gardens, in collaboration with the land surveyor Pieter Florisz van der Sallem and the Stadholder's head gardener, Borchgaert Federic.
Today, the Huis ten Bosch remains a royal residence and the decorations of the Oranjezaal are intact. But the exterior of the house and the gardens were altered at early dates. The parterres were redesigned in 1686, and again in the 1730s, when the architect Daniel Marot added two long wings to the front corners of the house.
At present, six autograph pictures by Van der Heyden are known to represent the Huis ten Bosch and its property; another painting, dated 1665 or 1668, depicts part of the parterre garden and one of the ivy-covered pavilions, or Groene Kabinetten (Green Cabinets), without a view of the house. The Museum's pair of paintings offers the most comprehensive views of the house and the formal gardens behind it.
A smaller panel of about 1670 in the National Gallery, London, appears to bring the view in closer to the garden façade of the house not by actually recording it from a closer vantage point, but by cropping the present composition or a version of it. A similar relationship exists between the Museum's painting of the house from the side and a small panel, also of about 1670, in the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Thus, these four paintings are probably based on a single pair of drawings made at the site. Van der Heyden's two other views of the Huis ten Bosch are entirely different. A panel in the Cannon Hall Museum, Barnsley, South Yorkshire (National Loan Collection Trust), shows the front (north side) of the house receding obliquely from a vantage point close to the northwestern corner of the building. Finally, Park by the Huis ten Bosch
, in the Museum Wuyts-Van Campen in Lier, Belgium, may be described as a landscape painting that includes in the distance one of the garden pavilions of the Huis ten Bosch and a house that bears some resemblance to the princely dwelling as seen from the side.
One can well imagine Van der Heyden turning to the subject of the Huis ten Bosch without being asked to by a patron. Views of various existing country houses were in the artist's collection at his death, and he also painted imaginary estates, including the superb Architectural Fantasy
of about 1668–70 (National Gallery of Art, Washington), featuring a Dutch Palladian villa reminiscent of buildings by Van Campen and Post.
[2013; adapted from Liedtke 2007]