Staked Dutch Furniture in Van Vliet’s 1635 ‘Book of Crafts & Trades’


Whether you realize it or not, we pour a significant amount of the money you send us into our research library. While it might not be as impressive as the mechanic’s library at Winterthur or the American College of the Building Arts, we want to be grounded in the past as we write and edit books.

We use local libraries when we must, but it’s unwise to do research at the University of Cincinnati at 5:30 a.m. in your underwear. And that’s exactly what I was doing this morning as I was trying to shake off some jet lag from my trip to the Northwest. Something led my hand to Jan van Vliet’s “Book of Crafts & Trades” (Early American Industries Association, 1981).

This reprint includes a reappraisal of van Vliet as an artist after many years of academic dismissal or scorn. However, all I could think about this morning were the tables, stools and benches shown in the plates.

Of course, they were practically all staked construction, with the kind of detail only the Dutch can muster. Finding this small cache of amazingly detailed drawings was just what I needed for a couple of the projects in “Furniture of Necessity.”

And so to celebrate, I bought a reprint of a related book from 1568. So, if you wouldn’t mind buying a few extra Lost Art Press T-shirts this week….

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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20 Responses to Staked Dutch Furniture in Van Vliet’s 1635 ‘Book of Crafts & Trades’

  1. Bob Jones says:

    The last image is either a sculptor or an orthopedic surgeon. I’m going to pretend it’s the first evidence of the latter.

  2. Kinderhook88 says:

    Why was he scorned?

    • jenohdit says:

      Compare his work to Rembrandt or Goltzius. The internet makes that pretty easy. I’d say van Vliet’s work is 3rd-4th tier at best by comparison with Goltzius or Rembrandt. It’s charming enough, but just wouldn’t stand out in a print collection.

      Goltzius lived earlier and was an engraver, but kind of set the standard for quality Dutch printmaking. Due to the nature of their production, engravings tend to have an emphasis on the linear. Goltzius had incredible control of his lines as well as tonality. Not a single stroke seems to be out of place or unnecessary.

      Rembrandt was a contemporary of van Vliet. Both made etchings which tend to emphasize tonality by comparison with engraving, but Rembrandt managed to bring a linear quality to his work that seems to be completely lacking in van Vliet’s, at least this batch. Van Vliet’s best work seems to be copies of Rembrandt, which is never a great way to cement a reputation in the art world.

      Compositionally, van Vliet’s work is very simplistic and awkward by comparison with Rembrandt and Goltzius. Finally, his themes although interesting to us in this context don’t have a lot to say beyond the immediate subject matter. The tradesmen have no personalities so the images speak almost exclusively about the occupations rather than the humanity of the persons employed at those tasks.

  3. jdcook72 says:

    [We use local libraries when we must, but it’s unwise to do research at the University of Cincinnati at 5:30 a.m. in your underwear. And that’s exactly what I was doing this morning as…]

    I hope you were not caught by security. To help dissuade this type of thing in the future, T-shirt order (#15228) has been placed.

    BTW, until the site is updated with pictures of the new shirt options, one can see examples of the shirt colors (sans graphic) on American Apparel’s website:

    • hgordon4 says:

      My thought exactly as I was reading the piece! Knowing Chris’s quality as a writer, I’m sure this was tongue-in-cheek intentional…

  4. lblack2x4 says:

    I love that this is where the money goes this and the post about virtuoso are what I love about lost art press. Your commitment to the craft and to getting everything right no matter the cost is amazing and not seen in very many places now. I had to buy a $200 textbook this semester and the quality is nothing compared to what you guys produce for a quarter of the price.

  5. jaweaver says:

    Is that guy on page 1 a sculptor or a surgeon? This image could finally explain the rarely mentioned kidney chisel.

  6. Mh, “Das Ständebuch”, can I buy that, too?
    Let’s see. Amazon: Starting from € 0.81 used, € 5.95 new. Reprint & translation 2006.
    Also, scans available for free accompanied by translations on a UK website:

  7. noelhayward says:

    That would have been an interesting sight at 5.30am in the morning!!

    As an aside, in your research for “Furniture of Necessity”, I hope you are including the 3 legged stool that was used for years when milking cows.

    If you search under Viking Stool Lund you can find evidence of a similar 3 legged stool that dates back to the 11th century.

    Keep up the good work!

  8. Hey Chris check out a site I fell onto Of some interest pertains to furniture of necessity

  9. fitz says:

    There have been worse things to see in the UC library.

  10. Daniel Clay says:

    Some of the legs of staked furniture in the images I’ve seen (including several of the one’s you’ve posted here) are represented with a curvature over their length, sometimes slight, sometimes extreme. It seems like it shows up in images from different sources & time periods. Maybe you’ve written about this before and I missed it, but if not do you have an opinion on that Chris? Maybe a sign of age and heavy use? Or that the legs were riven from curved stock, maybe purposefully oriented to splay feet-out? I’m going to go whip out our book on Bruegel to make sure I’m not nuts . . .

    • Daniel,

      I have yet to find a text that discusses this, yet you see it over and over in drawings and paintings. Interestingly, the surviving examples (from the Mary Rose) do not have curved legs. Nor does the table in Brugge.

      So all I have is my own conjecture, which isn’t worth squat. Could be they used branches. Could be a lot of things.

  11. I’m just glad you didn’t post a photo of yourself sitting on a staked leg stool in your underwear drinking beer while reading Van Vliet. There’s always tomorrow.

  12. jacon4 says:

    Speaking of Dutch influence on American furniture, there was an american turned arm chair that sold at Christie’s in 1998 for 288k. This chair was attributed to Charleston SC and thought to be built around 1680 by french Huguenots. Dale Couch has recently done research on this chair and according to him, this chair was built in Virginia and inspired by Dutch artisans, not french and further, was built not in 1680 but much earlier, 1640 -1660.
    If that is correct, this Virginia turned chair could be the earliest piece of American furniture known to exist.

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