Auction of Important Paintings

Wednesday February 11th 2004 at 3pm

View: 10am - 2pm

Click on photo to enlarge

Click on painting to enlarge

Oilpainting entitled “Cork Harbour 1738”

by William van der Hagen

(b The Hague, fl c. 1720; d Ireland, 1745).

(48 x 91cm – 19 x 36 ins) depicting the island of Haulbowlinewith the castle which was the former clubhouse of The Water Club, and numerous sailing vessels in Cork Harbour.The Water Club of Cork Harbour, now the Royal Cork Yacht Club, was established in the year 1720 and is recognised as being the oldest yacht club in the world.




For sale by auction of February 11th at 3 p.m.

Signed and dated 1738, this recently rediscovered painting has a strong claim to be the earliest surviving painted depiction of Cork harbour and is an exciting addition to the small oeuvre of William Van de Hagen. Van der Hagen is often seen as the founder of the great school of landscape painting which flourished in Ireland in the eighteenth century producing pioneering work in both the topographical and ideal landscape genres. Born in Holland, probably in The Hague, he travelled extensively and views are known of Gibraltar, Sicily and even North Africa. Van der Hagen settled in England (where he painted in Northamptonshire and Yorkshire) but moved to Ireland in, or about, 1722, where he soon became the country’s first resident professional landscape painter. His presence is first noted by Harding's Impartial Newsletter in 1722 where he is recorded as “lately arrived from London” and as painting sets for the Theatre Royal. Some ten years later he is recorded as painting the scenery for a staging of Cephalus and Procris, which was described at the time as “finer painted than ever seen in this kingdom”.

In addition to his work in the theatre, Van der Hagen was busy with other commissions from his earliest days in Ireland where he soon became the country’s first resident professional landscape painter. Pasquin describes the artist as a “painter of landscape and shipping in Dublin and other towns in Ireland…He was a most remarkable genius”. This accords with the number and variety of the commissions that van der Hagen completed in the twenty-three years that he was in Ireland. Two years after his arrival he painted an altarpiece for St Michan’s Church, Dublin, which has not survived nor has the “painted glory” for St. Patrick’s in Waterford. In 1728 he was commissioned by the tapestry maker Robert Baillie to “take prospects” of the places to be depicted for the newly built House of Lords and two of his paintings were worked up into tapestries. Presumably connected with this commission is his View Of Derry (formerly Derry City Council) and The Landing of King William at Carrickfergus (Ulster Museum).

Given his scene painting background and facility for composition it is not surprising that he also found work as a decorative painter. One eighteenth-century source notes “he painted many houses in this kingdom”; for example at Curraghmore, County Waterford he completed a trompe d’oeil scheme with the staircase decorated with “beautiful paintings by Van der Egan (sic) such as columns, festoons etc. between which are several landscapes” while the ceiling was “painted in perspective and represents a dome, the columns seeming to rise, through a flat surface”. Given the temporary nature of these decorative schemes, it is remarkable that one of van der Hagen’s grisaille rooms has survived almost intact, although now dismantled. This was completed for the Christmas family of Whitfield Court, County Waterford, and comprises eighteen panels of gods and goddesses. Similar designs were to be found at Seafield Hall, Donabate, where feigned statues of classical figures appeared on six panels on two long walls of the Saloon. Van der Hagen clearly had close ties of patronage with the Waterford area. In addition to these house decorations and the work at St. Patrick’s Church he was commissioned to paint a large view of the city of Waterford for which, in 1736, he was paid £20 by the Corporation. This bird’s eye view is one of the earliest extensive views of an Irish city. Based on stylistic similarities with this work it is possible to attribute to him the painting of the Duke of Dorset’s State Ball in Dublin Castle and possibly a bird’s eye view of Carton.

Other Williamite tapestries which Robert Baillie commissioned Van der Hagen to “take prospects” was the Attacking of Cork and Kinsale by the Duke of Maryborough, so he was clearly already familiar with the topography of the Cork coastline when he came to execute this work a decade later. Indeed given his country of origin, Cork must have been a congenial town for Van der Hagen to visit and find patronage as it housed a sizeable Dutch population as a result of close mercantile links between the port and the city of Amsterdam, reflected in aspects of the city’s distinctive architecture. Seven Ovens Quay was named after its Dutch owner Theodore Vansenhoven and Amsterdam’s Meer Dyke was replicated in Cork as the Mardyke riverside walk. Van der Hagen’s work anticipates by more than a decade Anthony Chearnley’s Panorama of Cork in Charles Smith’s history of the city and by two decades Butt’s View of Cork from Audley Place (Crawford Museum, Cork) and A View of the Harbour of Kinsale (NGI), both of which were formerly attributed to Nathaniel Grogan.

The present work depicting Cork Harbour, with lively details of shipping, is stylistically best related to Van der Hagen’s views of Derry and Waterford. It shows the island of Hawlbowline crowned with its castle also shown, from a bird’s eye view point, in Stafford’s Paccata Hibernia. The Castle was the former Clubhouse of the Water Club, now the Royal Cork Yacht Club. The Water Club was established in 1720, only a decade or so before Van der Hagen painted his picture and is now recognised as being the oldest yacht club in the world. The tantalisingly incomplete provenance of the work suggests that it may have been commissioned by Lord Inchiquin, one of the founding members of the Water Club.

It is an important rediscovery both for filling a gap in the oeuvre of this pioneering artist and as probably the earliest of the many painted depictions of Cork harbour to have survived.






Auctions held at WOODWARDS Auction Rooms, Cook Street, Cork, Ireland, and in Fine Homes throughout the country

Full Catalogue Available by Email or post- Send request to us at