Drawings of Utrecht by Herman Saftleven


A small book titled Wandelen over de Utrechtse stadswal. Tekeningen van toen en foto’s van nu (A stroll along Utrecht’s city walls. Old drawings and new photographs), is published by the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History on 25 November. The book is part of a larger project on the artist Herman Saftleven (1609-1685), which is supported by the Friends of the RKD.

1. Herman Saftleven, Paardenveld, c. 1663, collection De Grez, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels
2. Maite Meijlink, Paardenveld, 2022

Herman Saftleven in Utrecht

Herman Saftleven was born in Rotterdam into a family of painters. Around 1632 he settled in Utrecht, where he produced a great many drawings as well as paintings. Equipped with drawing paper and black chalk, he often wandered along Utrecht’s ramparts and the Stadsbuitengracht ring canal, to make images of his city. Over the course of some thirty years he made at least 150 drawings of the city walls, as well as views along them, or taken from the ramparts.

City walk

Laurens Schoemaker, curator of historical topography at the RKD, has for many years been conducting research into the work of Herman Saftleven. He has chosen twenty of the artist’s drawings to map out a walk around the centre of Utrecht. As you follow the five-kilometre route along the Stadsbuitengracht you find yourself momentarily transported back to seventeenth-century Utrecht. Schoemaker has written an introduction, followed by a detailed description of the route, which provides much information about the city’s history and encourages you to look carefully.

1. Herman Saftleven, Weerdpoort and Weerdbrug, c. 1663, collection Het Utrechts Archief
2. Maite Meijlink, Weerdbrug, 2022

Modern photographs

The Utrecht photographer Maite Meijlink was invited to provide photographs for the book, transposing Saftleven’s seventeenth-century drawings to Utrecht as it looks now. Meijlink is a third-year student in Image and Media Technology at Utrecht College of the Arts (HKU), specialising in film and photography. Taking inspiration from Saftleven’s drawings, she has created new images of the old city walls, or what remains of them. Her main aim was to capture the expression and mood of the original drawings. Past and present are brought together in Meijlink’s muted black-and-white photographs.

More Saftleven

Wandelen over de Utrechtse stadswal. Tekeningen van toen en foto’s van nu is available from 25 November from webshop.rkd.nl, www.matrijs.com and in Utrecht bookshops. An online walking route accompanies the publication. In the week following the publication of the book, the exhibition Utrecht through the eyes of Herman Saftleven and Maite Meijlink opens at the RKD, showing a selection of the drawings and photographs. The exhibition runs until spring 2023. In 2024 the digital RKD Study on Herman Saftleven will be launched, providing a complete catalogue of Saftleven’s drawings of the city walls of Utrecht.

1. Cover of Wandelen over de Utrechtse stadswal. Tekeningen van toen en foto’s van nu
2. Photographer Maite Meijlink, 2022

Bekijk dit boek

Wandelen over de Utrechtse stadswal. Tekeningen van toen en foto’s van nu


Laurens Schoemaker