Skip to main content

The Design Practices of the Dutch Architectural Painter Bartholomeus van Bassen

Axel Rüger and Rachel Billinge
Technical Bulletin Volume 26, 2005


Bartholomeus van Bassen was the first Dutch painter to specialise in the genre of architectural painting. He played a pivotal role in the development of the field as well as working as a successful architect. After a brief history of his life and account of the history of architectural painting the article describes in detail the results of the examination using infrared reflectography of several paintings by or associated with van Bassen. 

The National Gallery's Interior of the St Cunerakerk, Rhenen reveals detailed and precise underdrawing for construction of the interior and perspectival system suggesting that the composition was worked out on the panel rather than on paper for later transfer as Saenredam did. Similar use of underdrawing was found in 'Interior of a Church with a Procession' (Berlin), whereas the National Gallery’s other van Bassen, Interior of a Church, shows a different approach to underdrawing confirming doubts over the attribution. 

Three paintings of imaginary palace interiors were also examined and are discussed in some detail. These too show extensive construction lines for the perspective and a tendency to work out the composition on the panel. Finally, the question of staffage is addressed with an account of van Bassen’s known staffage painters, the usual practice, and two interesting occasions when van Bassen, working with Esaias van de Velde, seems to have deviated from normal practice to work closely together from early stages of the design.


architectural painting, art history, Bartholomeus van Bassen, church interiors, Dutch, infrared reflectography, palace interiors, perspective, staffage, underdrawing, Esaias van de Velde

Download article

The Design Practices of the Dutch Architectural Painter Bartholomeus van Bassen, Axel Rüger and Rachel Billinge (PDF 12.49MB)

To cite this article we suggest using

Rüger, A., Billinge, R. 'The Design Practices of the Dutch Architectural Painter Bartholomeus van Bassen'. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 26, pp 23–42.

Problems opening files? Get Adobe Reader [External link]