In 1727 the Beeld-snyders Kunst-kabinet was published in Amsterdam. This set of ninety etchings by Matthijs Pool (1676-1740) depicts sixty-nine mainly ivory sculptures and reliefs by Francis van Bossuit (1635?-1692), a carver from Brussels who worked in Italy and in Amsterdam. Pool did not create the etchings from direct observation of the sculptures but after drawings by Barend Graat (1628-1709). Three centuries since its creation this intriguing print series still functions as a work of reference for art dealers, auction houses and collectors.
Over forty of the illustrated sculptures can now be traced or documented, in some cases as copies or later falsifications. The sculptures and prints help us visualize how Van Bossuit, inspired by famous works of art in Rome, influenced Dutch classicist painting at the end of the seventeenth century. Van Bossuit’s small group of cabinet sculptures inspired by famous antique statues and paintings and sculptures of the Italian renaissance and baroque, exerted a key influence on Dutch art. Artists like Willem van Mieris, Barend Graat en Nicolaas Verkolje appear to have adopted Van Bossuit’s poses, figures and compositions. Moreover, Barend Graat and Willem van Mieris inspired other artists when they passed the classicist idiom to the next generation at their respective drawing academies in Amsterdam and Leiden.
Matthijs Pool, etcher, printer and publisher of the Beeld-snyders Kunst-kabinet and son-in-law of Barend Graat gave his etchings a pictorial turn compared to the drawings, making the Kabinet also an artists’ model book. The popularity of Van Bossuit’s works with collectors, professional artists and amateur draughtsmen justified this initiative. Nevertheless the interest in this type of classicism waned in the 1720’s, so the prints did not play a major role in the arts after 1727, but are still seen as an important work of reference and as a major source for this research project.