New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program 
New Castle's Dutch Master

Portrait of Peter Stuyvesant attributed to Henri Couturier, who lived in New Amstel (New Castle) in the 1660's.
He owned a lot at the corner of Chestnut & 2nd streets sold in 1680 to John Moll (lot 11). Portrait courtesy of New York Historical Society.

Henri Couturier-- New Castle's Old Dutch Master

* Henri Couturier was a skilled Dutch painter who did business in and lived in New Amstel (New Castle).
* His monogram/seal appears on a shipping invoice and on portraits of wealthy men from New Amsterdam.
* His wife stated in court that he had painted A portrait of Governor Stuyvesant.
* THE well known portrait of Stuyvesant (above) has been widely attributed to Couturier.

* This portrait has also been attributed to other Dutch residents of New Amsterdam
* Couturier's monogram on the other portraits may have been an early 20th century falsification.

The Dutch colony of New Netherlands (1620's - 1664) existed during the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600's. Artists of this period such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals produced portraits, landscapes and scenes of everyday life. While many paintings were brought to the New World, only a handful of Dutch painters were known to have worked here, with painting a side-occupation.

Records from the Burgomaster's Court around 1660 show that Henri/Hendrick/Hendrik Couturier/Coutrie/Coettrier (the spelling varied, even on the same page of a court document!) lived in New Amstel (New Castle) on the South River. Among his trading partners was Augustine Herman formerly of New Amsterdam, now a mapmaking consultant to Lord Baltimore, and soon to be the Lord of Bohemia Manor himself.

An invoice for goods shipped in 1663 to New Amstel lists Henrick Coettrier as one of the recipients for 9 p. duffels (a coarse woolen fabric). It shows the trademark/shipping monogram for Couturier, the same as appears on portraits of Philipse and van Cortlandt.

Please also note that Peter Lucassen was to receive "1 case of pictures", presumably destined for the houses of the town. It's been estimated that more than a million pictures were produced in Holland in the mid 1600's. The huge number of painting would have kept prices low and made it difficult to earn a living as a painter for any but the most gifted. Many wealthy and not so wealthy people possessed paintings. The database on the Frick collection of estate inventories shows that many Dutch individuals had many paintings. The New Castle County Orphans Court extracts (1770-1830) does not list a single painting.

According to a biographical note by Charles Harris in 1927, Couturier was born in Leyden, the birthplace of Rembrandt. On Couturier's marriage certificate his occupation was that of "schilder" (painter). Ten months later he is listed on a document as a "a grosgrain cloth manufacturer (groff greysnreder)". Since his first child was born about this time, he probably needed a steady source of income. That he actually was a painter is shown by his becoming an "original member" of the Leyden St. Luke's guild. Chapters of this guild existed in other cities as a sort of artists' union that regulated who could sell paintings.

The Stuyvesant portrait is believed by many to be by Couturier because of an item in the Burgomasters records for Friday, June 12, 1663. Appearing before them, including Oloff van Cortandt (who Couturier also may have painted), "The wife of Hendrick Coutrie appearing, she is told, the Burgomasters had learned, that she sold in retail; therefore she is bound to purchase the Burgherright. She answers, it was given to her husband by the Director General : asked, whether she had not given something: for it to the General, she says, her husband has painted the portrait of his Honour and drawn pictures of his sons."

Note that we do not know what painting of Stuyvesant he did, only that he did paint one. Harris believed that Jacob Stryker painted the Stuyvesant portrait. However Ruby1 states that the only evidence that Stryker was a painter at all is from family documents created 200 years later.

As told by C. A. Weslager in The Swedes & Dutch in New Castle(1987), available at the New Castle Public Library, Couturier "also became a leading political figure as a burgomaster and a member of Alexander d'Hinoyossa's council during the period when the City of Amsterdam owned the colony. After the Duke of York's forces seized the town, he was one of the six burgomasters who signed the oath of allegiance to England on October 1, 1664 "on behalfe of themselves and all the Dutch and Swedes inhabiting the Delaware Bay and River" (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd series 5:574-75). On January 23, 1657, Governor Stuyvesant, at the behest of his council, ordered that thereafter all merchants desirous of doing business in New Netherland were required to purchase a Burgher right and to keep a shop in New Amsterdam in "their own or a leased house or room" and only those possessing the Burgher right "may keep open shops or trade elsewhere in the province." This explains why the Couturiers had stores and residences in both towns. According to two ordinances passed by Governor Stuyvesant and his council in 1657, an applicant paid twenty guilders Dutch money for a "small" Burgher right and fifty guilders for a "great" Burgher right. Those who did not possess a Burgher right could not do business.

"A foremost contemporary authority on early New York portraiture, Mary Childs Black 2, is of the opinion that the portraits of Peter Stuyvesant and his son Nicholas William, both executed in a similar crude, harsh style on wood panels of similar size, were painted by Couturier. She also believes that a portrait of Cornelis Steenwyck, New York's third mayor, and a member of Governor Lovelace's council, may also be the work of Couturier (Personal correspondence;, Dec. 15, 1986)".

"On April 15, 1675, a Dutch official named John Moll took possession of a house in New Amstel, which he noted in his flawed English was "whare Mrs. Coutrie Leved in Laest heer". [Based on the Heite map shown above, the Moll lot is likely to be that at the corner of 2nd and Chestnut, although Moll later purchased other lots.]

The picture of William Stuyvesant is a bit of a mystery. It is dated 1666, 3 years after Mrs. Coutrier said that her husband had painted the governor and his sons. It has been variously described as crude, poorly painted, the horse out of proportion and William looking like a dwarf!

It's hard for us to imagine what life was like for Couturier at this time. Unlike Leiden which had a population of 40,000, New Castle had only 27 households in the 1671 census. New Amstel probably looked like New Amsterdam which was considerably larger, but still a village. The Couturiers lived in both New Amstel and New Amsterdam. It's interesting that Mrs. Couturier was a merchant in her own right in addition to being the mother of perhaps 8 children. Three were baptized in 1662 in the Dutch Reformed Church, New Amsterdam presumably because the Dutch minister in New Amstel had died in 1659 and was not replaced until 1679.

Paintings currently or previously attributed to Henri Couturier

Peter Stuyvesant

New York Hist. Soc.
Current attrib:
- Couturier
Oloff van Cortlandt

National Gallery
Current attrib:
- unknown painter
Frederick Philipse

National Gallery
Current attrib:
- unknown painter
William Stuyvesant

New York Hist. Soc.
Current attrib:
- Couturier
Cornelis Steenwyck

New York Hist. Soc.
Current attrib:
- Couturier (by NYHS)

Online Resources:

Google Books:
Minutes of the Orphanmasters of New Amsterdam 1655 to 1663

Golden Age Painting | List of Dutch painters

1. Going Dutch: The Dutch Presence in America 1609-2009, Goodfriend, Schmidt &Stott, eds
Dutch Art and the Hudson Valley Patroon Painters, Louisa Wood Ruby
About the Van Cortland and Philipse paintings: She notes that in the "Gilded age" and early 20th century, "unscrupulous dealers and collectors inscribed the names of important men ... and attributed them to known artists such as Couturier".
2. See also Mary Black "Remembrances of the Dutch Homeland in Early New York Provincial Painting in
New World Dutch Studies in Dutch Arts and Culture in Colonial America 1609-1776, Blackburn & Kelley eds 1987

James L. Meek '10