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Summary Article: Verhulst Rombout (1624 - 1698)
from A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, Andromeda

The Flemish sculptor Rombout Verhulst was active in the northern Netherlands. Born in Malines, Verhulst trained there and in Antwerp. It is uncertain whether he ever visited Italy, but he was living in Amsterdam by 1646. He enlisted as a stonemason in the guild in 1652, and signed several of the most beautiful reliefs, among them Silence and Fidelity, in the new Amsterdam Town Hall. He obviously enjoyed a higher standing than the other assistants in the workshop of the master sculptor of the project, Artus Quellinus.

Verhulst subsequently turned to carving funeral monuments, including those of Admiral Tromp (c. 1654; The Old Church, Delf), and Admiral de Ruyter (c. 1676; The New Church, Amsterdam). He adapted the local tradition of using variously colored marbles for the architecture and figurative carvings, but infused them with a new monumentality. His effigies are extremely realistic, with a sensuous appreciation of surface textures in the flesh of the faces and hands, and in the freely flowing hair. His sculpture has a robust, Rubensian feeling, conveyed with a brilliant technique of handling marble. He modeled in clay as a preliminary to such schemes, and the sketches that survive have an astounding immediacy (there are examples in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

The monuments have complex, Baroque cartouches framing the inscriptions, and coats of arms, populated by plump putti and other allegorical figures. He naturally applied his talent for portraiture to the carved portrait bust, with results that surpass the paintings of his Dutch contemporaries. Verhulst was also expert in carving narrative scenes in low relief; such scenes traditionally appeared on tombs and on the exteriors of certain public buildings in the Netherlands, for example on the Buttery in Leiden. His style of sculpture prevailed throughout the north Netherlands all during the second half of the 17th century, and forms a crucial component in any estimate of Dutch art in that period.

A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, © Andromeda 1995

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