Jan van der Heyden the elder (1637 - 1712)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Jan van der Heyden was a Dutch Baroque-era painter, glass painter, draughtsman and printmaker. Van der Heyden was one of the first Dutch painters to specialize in townscapes and became one of the leading architectural painters of the Dutch Golden Age. He painted a number of still lifes in the beginning and at the end of his career.

He was also an engineer and inventor who made significant contributions to contemporary firefighting technology. He improved the fire hose in 1672, with his brother Nicolaes, who was a hydraulic engineer. He modified the manual fire engine, reorganised the volunteer fire brigade (1685) and wrote and illustrated the first firefighting manual (Brandspuiten-boek). A comprehensive street lighting scheme for Amsterdam, designed and implemented by van der Heyden, remained in operation from 1669 until 1840 and was adopted as a model by many other towns and abroad

He married Sara ter Hiel of Utrecht on 26 June 1661 in Amsterdam. At the time of his marriage, he lived on the most fashionable canal in Amsterdam, Herengracht. He was then already a practising artist. His earliest dated works are two drawn portraits of his brother-in-law Samuel ter Hiel and his bride, Jacquemijntje van der Passe date 1659. His earliest dated painting is from 1663.

Van der Heyden’s painted mostly cityscapes and other depictions of groups of buildings, although he did paint about forty pure landscapes. Some of his works are relatively faithful depictions of an actual location, but many others are entirely imaginary architectural fantasies.

Jan van der Heyden moved in 1680 to the Koestraat near the St. Anthonismarkt, Amsterdam. Here he built a new family home and a factory for producing fire equipment. In collaboration with his eldest son, also called Jan van der Heyden the younger, he published in 1690 an illustrated book on fire-fighting, entitled ‘Beschrijving der nieuwlijks uitgevonden en geoctrojeerde Slangbrandspuiten’ (‘Description of the recently invented and patented hose fire engines’) [07/4341].

When he died on 28 March 1712, Van der Heyden was a wealthy man and had in his possession some seventy of his own paintings. His influence on other seventeenth-century artists was limited, but he was an extremely important source for architectural painters of the following century, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.


Born: 5 March 1637 in Gorinchem

Died: 28 March 1712

Gender: Male

Works by Jan van der Heyden in the RA Collection

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Works associated with Jan van der Heyden in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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