In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Haarlem's thriving art community made the city an important center of artistic activity, second only to Amsterdam in influence. Inventories from this period serve as key implements in describing collectors' tastes, and they also provide information about the social habits of living among and displaying luxury goods. This book transcribes for the first time a selection of one hundred twelve important documents discovered by author Pieter Biesboer in the notarial archives of Haarlem. It also contains indexes by artist and subject, as well as a list of more than thirty-five hundred documents in which art objects are listed, found in the Archiefdienst voor Kennemerland in Haarlem.
Biesboer's introductory essay provides an in-depth survey of the history of collecting in Haarlem during the seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. The inventories of citizens, patricians, merchants, artists, and silversmiths are included, along with the inventories of the Convent of Saint Jan, the Prinsenhof, Saint Elisabeth's Hospital, the Old Men's Almshouse, the Orphanage, and other almshouses. Together they present a comprehensive look at commissioned paintings for public buildings and institutions by artists such as Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, Frans Hals, Johannes Verspronck, and Cornelis Holsteijn. In addition to paintings, Biesboer catalogues a small number of drawings, porcelain, lace, sculpture, and jewelry.