Masters of Mobility


9. German Translations of Dutch Art Literature : Goeree, Beurs and De Lairesse

Marije Osnabrugge

The exchange of knowledge, ideas and practices concerning art takes place in various ways. Whereas we mostly associate artistic exchange with the mobility of artworks and artists, the written word – be it in the form of correspondence or publications – constitutes the third vehicle by which art travelled. Early modern art literature, including biographies, treatises, and published academy lectures, was created within the context of an international network of intellectuals, artists, collectors, amateurs and publishers. The wide range of subjects that is treated in art-related publications testifies of the diversity of their audience. The 17th and 18th century were also a time in which the vernacular languages in different European countries underwent significant developments. As a consequence, readership grew and diversified further. The demand for translations of art literature into other vernacular languages increased accordingly.1 In their essence, translations are the incarnation of the desire to transfer knowledge outside the borders of a country or language area.

In this paper, I focus on German translations of Dutch art treatises. I will examine under which circumstances the translations of the books written by Willem Goeree, Willem Beurs and Gerard de Lairesse were published during the last quarter of the 17th and the first half of the 18th century, in order to illustrate how the practice of translation contributed to the artistic exchange between the Dutch Republic and various German art centres.2

Cover image
Wallerant Vaillant after Jacques Vaillant
Portrait of Willem Goeree (1635-1711), seated before a volume and writing with a quill-pen
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-1898-A-20651


1 Prigot 2017; Maes 2017.

2 The research for this paper was conducted within the context of the project ‘LexArt: Words for Art – The Rise of a Terminology (1600-1750)’ (, based at the Université de Montpellier III – Paul Valéry (principal investigator: prof.dr. M.C. Heck) and funded by the European Research Foundation (2013-2018), in which I was a postdoctoral researcher between April 2015 and August 2017.

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