Entombment of Christ

by Johannes Voorhout

When Amstelkring historical society bought the current museum building towards the end of the nineteenth century, several paintings were included in the deal. One of these was this Entombment of Christ by Johannes Voorhout, an artistic though not a famous painter. Jesus’s body lies elegantly draped on a shroud. But the corpse is heavy: two disciples are clearly struggling with the weight. Further back, left, is the Virgin Mary; in the foreground is a basin of water and a towel. The pale body contrasts sharply with the reddish earthy tints of the rest of the painting. An ominous red glow in the evening sky lights up the horizon: not only is the daylight fading, the Light of the World has just been extinguished.

Johannes Voorhout (1647-1723) was the son of a master clockmaker in Amsterdam. His father, ‘realising that he liked drawing’ found him an apprenticeship with a painter in Gouda. He also received lessons in Amsterdam from artist Jan van Noordt. In 1672, a disastrous year for the Dutch Republic, attacked by enemies on all fronts, he and his wife Margaretha Vos moved via Frederiksstad (in Schleswig-Holstein) to Hamburg where he continued his successful career as an artist. A few years later he was persuaded by his friends to return to Amsterdam. There he expanded his career. As a Catholic artist, he made many altarpieces and often painted for Amsterdam’s private churches. He was especially attached to Begijnhof chapel. Five of the ten children he and Margaretha brought into the world were baptised here, and two of their daughters lived in the courtyard as Beguine sisters. 

Johannes died in early 1723. He was buried in the English church, as was his wife later, and their two Beguine daughters. Perhaps Margaretha needed money fast, or maybe there was some other reason - anyway she did not wait long to cash in her inheritance. On 24 April, a sale was held on Keizersgracht, near Utrechtsestraat, of ‘a selection of artistic and pleasant paintings left by the widow of Johannes Voorhout, all painted by her husband.’