About the Jelgerhuis Painting
Last Updated: 2022-10-16 20:38:08

The painting of the bookshop of Pieter Meijer Warnars by Johannes Jelgerhuis has graced at least two covers of academic tomes:
But what do we know about this famous painting, its painter, and the bookshop?

The Painting
The full title of the painting is: 'De winkel van boekhandelaar Pieter Meijer Warnars op de Vijgendam in Amsterdam, Johannes Jelgerhuis, 1820' ('The shop of bookseller Pieter Meijer Warnars on the Vijgendam in Amsterdam, [by] Johannes Jelgerhuis, 1820'). Today, the painting is housed in the collections of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and can be viewed in Room 114.

If you look closely to the left side of the painting, behind the counter you will see a long banner spanning the bookshelves. Some careful sleuthing by Marike van Roon has identified this banner as announcing the auction of 'Overtooms Welvaren'—the last of the printers on cloth in Amsterdam—on 19 and 27 June 1820. Van Roon traces the sources for the text on the banner to announcements published in two newspapers: As van Roon suggests, the painting could not have been painted before 1820, and thus a date of May or June 1820 for the painting is likely. This is further supported by the spring season in the street seen through the doorway.

The Bookseller: Pieter Meijer Warnars (1792-1869)
Pieter Meijer Warnars was bookseller, publisher, and printer, and owned his shop on the Vijgendam ('fig-dam'). The Vijgendam acquired its name apparently from the rotten figs (vijgen) which had been used either to make a dam, or to broaden the road. Roland Koning has blogged and posted some pictures of the Vijgendam, a term which Koning notes fell into disuse by 1957. Following Koning—'Het deel aan het Rokin heette Vijgendam' (The part of [the Dam] on Rokin was called Vijgendam')—suggests a possible location for Warnars bookshop in the in the vicinity of the Dam and Rokin.
A posting by J. Kruizinga Gerrit Vermeer identifies the exact location of Warnars bookshop: 'Meer naar de kant van de Nes heeft de porseleinkoopman Daniƫl Raap* gewoond... . In hetzelfde huis (tegenwoordig nr. 28) is de boekhandel van Warnaars geweest.'

('More to the side of de Nes [street] lived the porcelain dealer Daniël Raap ... . In the same house (today number 28) was the bookshop of Warnaars [sic]').
According to Vermeer, then, the contemporary address of Warnars's bookshop is 28 Nes street.

To date, I have not found a verification of the exact address for Warnars in archival records. A trace of the location of his shop in a census or register also remains elusive. However, the list of streets on the Nieuwe kaart der stad Amsterdam 1829 by D. Veelwaard Jr. lists number 94 as 'Vygen of Middendam', which as per the detail above locates the Vijgendam, and Warnars's bookshop, in Block 94. For a view of the Vijgendam after 1845, click here.
The archival record yields a few details about Warnars. He was born in Amsterdam on 18 February 1792 and babtised in the Kerk Lam en Toren (See archive: DTB Dopen p.275(oud pag. 275), nr.9). Warnars married Jacoba Vetter on 14 November 1821 (See archive: Huwelijksakten van de gemeente Amsterdam, 1821, Reg. 3 fol. 196v).

Around this time, Jacoba Vetter was painted by Charles Howard Hodges, a portrait currently housed in the Rijksmuseum. Some time before 1842 Warnars gave up his bookshop and moved from Amsterdam to Zutphen (See archive: Deel: 012, Periode: 1842-1861, Bevolkingsregister, wijk E (nrs. 204-399), p. 41). Here he lived at least twenty years, until 1862 (See archive: Deel: 039, Periode: 1862-1890, Bevolkingsregister, Vlasveld t/m Wensing, p. 11103). Warnars died on 10 September 1869 at the age of 77 in Brummen (See archive: Burgerlijke stand Gelderland, 145). It is not known what happened to his bookshop upon moving from Amsterdam.

Warnars was also a publisher, including of Jelgerhuis, as per the imprint on Theoretische lessen over de gesticulatie en mimiek published in 1827. In addition to painting, Jelgerhuis was also an actor. As noted on the Rijksmuseum page, 'Door de sterke perspectiefwerking lijkt het winkelinterieur wel een toneeldecor, met op het achterdoek een stadsgezicht' ('Through the strong perspective, the [book]shop interior resembles a stage set, with the city-scape as the background').

Future research on Warnars will hopefully enlighten us on more details of his bookshop and the book trade in Amsterdam.

The Painter: Johannes Jelgerhuis (1770-1836)
Jelgerhuis was an active painter, his skill captured in these paintings of a Winter Landcape and The small fishmarket, to select a few. To view the full collection of Jelgerhuis paintings in the Rijksmuseum, click here.

He was born on 24 september 1770 in Leeuwarden, which is the capital of the province of Friesland. His father, Rienk Jelgerhuis (1729-1806) was also a painter. Johannes Jelgerhuis moved to Amsterdam in 1806 where he was active as a painter and actor until his death at age 66 in 1836.

Further research may reveal more about Jelgerhuis's relationship to Warnars, and the essential question: how did Jelgerhuis come to paint the bookshop of Pieter Meijer Warnars in 1820?

Last Updated: 2022-10-16 20:38:08