Documentation on art

Sam’s corpus of documentation has been built up in order to collect as much information as possible about Dutch still-life and flower painting from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Sam has also given much care to the aesthetics of the collections, creating separate files for each work of art, containing photographs and transparencies, descriptions of the original works including identification of the flower and insect species, and data on provenance, exhibitions and literature.

Sam’s extensive documentation that he has built up over the last 40 years, includes over 120.000 photographs, reproductions, slides, and an extensive library containing sources from the sixteenth century until the present, data and annotations of over 30.000 studied original art works. This documentation is believed to be the largest en best organised on the subject. Next to a large body of cross-referenced literature data, the files include data on attribution, provenance and condition of artworks, and symbolism. Furthermore, the library covers all relevant topics such as plant and animal species, including herbals and original hand-coloured works on flowers and animals (e.g. by Maria Sibilla Merian) and iconology (including emblem books) of still life.

This data often includes much more information than can be found in any other documentation centre, due to a thorough attempt to collect and read all literature available on the objects and subjects of study and by visiting many large and small public and private collections all over the world. The photo material, acquired by Sam and several professional assistants, includes many detailed photographs, and more than 15,000 slides.

Next to the artwork documentation Sam has built up extensive documentation on many artists, always specifying the source of all documents used. Further documentation contains thousands of additional annotations on flowers, fruits or plants in paintings and drawings other than still-life. This includes works from all periods and all cultures, and also covers other objects, such as furniture decorated with marquetry or other techniques.

Highlights of this extensive corpus of further documentation are:

  • Dutch and Flemish flower paintings and still life until the end of the eighteenth century, often with annotations and identifications, ordered in categories.
  • Dutch and Flemish still-lifes of the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Modern and older European and non-European still lifes.
  • Drawings and engravings of flowers and plants.
  • Paintings, drawings and engravings of animals, birds and insects.
  • An iconological system with annotations on subjects, allegories, etc.
  • A biological system on items portrayed in artworks with annotations on identification of species, their introduction, cultivation and variation.
  • Data on the introduction and cultivation of flowers and fruits in relation to art.
  • Precious objects in still-life painting.
  • Flowers in breviaries and other old manuscripts.
  • The tulip in art and documentation on tulip-related literature, with complete photo sets of 20 out of the circa 50 known ‘tulip books’ (albums of watercolours).
  • Flowers in arts and crafts.
  • Flowers in Antiquity and Far Eastern art.
  • Music in art.

A part of the documentation, of ca. 40 of some of the most interesting artists has been processed in the database of the RKD in the ‘Segal Project’.

This work has been done over the time of three years by Drs. Sander Erkens, made possible by the sponsorship of Brian Capstick in London. See publication of Rieke van Leeuwen in RKD-Bulletin 2010/1.