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Dutch School, 17th century

View of the Amphitheatre in the Tiergarten, Cleves, from the North c.1670

RCIN 406170

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Prince Johan Maurits of Nassau (1604 – 79), a cousin of William III, created a famous set of gardens in the hilly woodland setting of Cleves. Little-known today, these gardens were so important in their time that they were the subject of the first surviving set of large garden portraits on canvas. The set of views was first recorded in 1677 hanging in Prince Johan Maurits’ residence at Cleves, the Prinsenhof. It is likely to have been commissioned to decorate the interiors when the palace was built in 1671; within a decade of his death the set was recorded hanging at Windsor Castle. This painting from the set shows the view of the Tiergarten looking towards one of the main vantage points called the the Sternburg (Star Mountain) because of the twelve vistas it commanded. In the centre of the terraced hillside is the famous amphitheatre, built to a design in the style of Palladio by the architect Jacob van Campen (1595 – 1657) in 1666. Amphitheatres and exedras, drawing on classical inspiration, were popular new features of the Baroque garden. Beneath the amphitheatre is a cascade and a series of terraces with large circular basins descending to the base of the hill. At the centre of the first pool is a marble statue of Minerva by Artus Quellinus The Elder (1609 –68), which was given to Prince Johan Maurits by the City of Amsterdam in 1660. A man is seated beside the lowest pool sketching the scene which we see before us. It is perhaps a self-portrait of the artist himself.