Post, Frans Jansz (1612–1680)

views updated

Post, Frans Jansz (1612–1680)

Frans Jansz Post was a Dutch painter known for his Brazilian landscapes. Born in Haarlem in the Netherlands, Post was the nephew of the noted architect Pieter Post, famous for his work on the Mauritshuis at The Hague. Post was part of Johan Maurits's artistic entourage and most probably accompanied the governor-general of Dutch Brazil when he arrived in America in 1637. Post traveled widely in Brazil and accompanied Maurits on a number of military campaigns. One of Post's main tasks in Brazil seems to have been preparing sketches of a variety of fortifications and buildings. His first dated work in Brazil was a view of Itamaracá, north of Pernambuco, in 1637. His last dated work (1640) was the island of Antônio Vaz, renamed Mauritsstad, which became the capital of Dutch Brazil and in the early twenty-first century is part of downtown Recife. However, a drawing of Mauritsstad with Vrijburg (the name Maurits gave to his palace on the island) reveals Post's presence in Pernambuco in early 1644 because of the inclusion of a bridge connecting the island to Recife.

Post seems to have left Brazil shortly after completing this drawing and before Maurits departed in May 1644. Many experts believe that Post visited Dutch-controlled parts of West Africa on his return to Europe and later contributed a number of drawings (dated 1645) of Elmina, Luanda, and São Tomé that were the basis of engravings for Caspar Barlaeus's Rerum per octennium in Brasilia (1647). However, some other authors, pointing to the absence of African landscapes by Post, argue that the artist could have based the drawings on the work of another.

Post made many sketches in Brazil, but only a relatively small number of his known paintings seem to have been completed there. The great majority of his landscapes were painted in the Netherlands after his return. In these works he occasionally regrouped buildings or had them facing in the wrong direction. These paintings include many architectural details of forts, town houses, palaces, sugar mills, sheds, churches (often in ruin), convents, chapels, monasteries, plantation houses and their outbuildings, and thatched huts. The landscapes also show many aspects of daily life, especially that of the region's many African slaves. Because of Post's eye for detail, his paintings and sketches have been invaluable to a wide variety of scholars of seventeenth-century Brazil. Good examples are his drawings of both water- and animal-powered sugar mills and their labor forces. His last dated landscape portrayed Pernambuco's várzea, or sugar-producing region (1669).

The remaining years of his life were ones of decline. In 1679 Post was described by Jacob Cohen, banker and agent of Maurits, as "covertly degraded by drink and trembling" (Whitehead, p. 180). The following year Post died in Haarlem, where he had reestablished his residence in 1646 after returning from Brazil.

See alsoArt: The Colonial Era; Brazil: The Colonial Era, 1500–1808; Maurits, Johan.


Joppien, Rudigier. "The Dutch Vision of Brazil: Johan Maurits and His Artists." In Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, 1604–1679, edited by E. van den Boogaart, pp. 297-376. The Hague: Johan Maurits van Nassau Stichting, 1979.

Larsen, Erik. Frans Post, interprète du Brésil. Amsterdam: Colibris Editora, 1962.

Smith, Robert C., Jr. "The Brazilian Landscapes of Frans Post." Art Quarterly 1, no. 4 (1938): 238-267.

Sousa Leão, Joaquim de. Frans Post, 1612–1680 Amsterdam: A. L. van Gendt, 1973.

Whitehead, Peter J. P., and Marinus Boeseman. A Portrait of Dutch 17th Century Brazil: Animals, Plants, and People by the Artists of Johan Maurits of Nassau. Amsterdam and New York: North-Holland, 1989.

                                      Francis A. Dutra