The ‘Huis met de Hoofden’ or ‘House with the Heads’ on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam got its name because of the statues on the facade at the level of the first floor. The building on the Keizersgracht was built in 1622 for the stocking dealer and art lover Nicolaas Sohier. The Renaissance facade is attributed to Hendrick de Keyser, but was probably built and completed by his son Pieter de Keyser. The facade is beautifully decorated. The entrance consists of a double sidewalk and a gate. The sidewalk is still equipped with seventeenth-century balusters.
As for the heads in the facade, there is a legend that they refer to six thieves who had tried to break in the house and were then beheaded by the maid. However, the ornaments are said to be images of six Roman gods: Apollo with the laurel wreath (the arts); Ceres with the grain (agriculture); Mercury with the winged helmet (trade); Minerva (wisdom); Bacchus with the grapes (wine); and Diana with the half-moon (hunt).
Shortly after Sohier moved to the house in 1634 he sold the property to Dutch entrepreneur and industrialist Louis de Geer. Along four generations the house remained in possession of the family De Geer, who made it a nerve center of exchange for ideas in respect to trade, science, philosophy and culture. Comenius, members of the prominent Elsevier publishing family and possibly Spinoza are said to be guests of the De Geer. Between 1752 en 1775 Anthoni Grill rented the house from the inheritants, who sold it in 1779.
In 1811 art dealer Cornelis Sebille Roos settled in the building. After 1865 an Hogere Burgerschool was established in the house, followed by a public trade school in 1869. After a restoration in 1907 by the municipality, it served the Conservatorium van Amsterdam from 1909 to 1931. A fur trade and a city’s bureau for monuments and archeology were also later established.
Today it houses the Embassy of the Free Mind, founded by the Ritman family, which was established in this special canal house in 2017. This museum manages, among other things, the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica.
Cornelis Springer was a 19th-century Dutch artist and one of the most important Dutch cityscape painters. Working within the tradition of 17th-century Dutch Golden Age painters such as Jan van der Heyden and Gerrit Berckheyde, Springer emphasized form and receding perspectival space through the play of light as it cuts across buildings. Born on May 25, 1817 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, he went on to study at the Amsterdam Academy of Art, and then as a private pupil of Kasparus Karsen. He became a member of the Amsterdam painters collective Felix Meritis and won a gold medal for a painting of a church interior in 1847. He is known for watercolors, etchings, and drawings, especially of city views and town scenes that he sketched while traveling around the country.He was awarded the Leopold order of Belgium in 1865, and in 1878 he was invited with Jozef Israëls to advise the Dutch Ministry of Public Affairs on the plans for the Rijksmuseum.
The artist died on February 20, 1891 in Hilversum, Netherlands. Today, his works are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, and the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, among others.
Acquired directly from the artist by Collection C.F. Roos in Amsterdam, 20th of August 1853;
Frederik Muller, Amsterdam 1932, lot 414;
Collection Mensing, The Netherlands;
thence by descent to the current owners.
– Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam: Retrospective Exhibition Springer and the book launch of W.Laanstra, 1984.
– Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht 1984: Retrospective Exhibition Springer
– Rijksmuseum Twente, Enschede 1985: Retrospective Exhibition Springer
– Zuiderzee Museum, Enkhuizen. ‘Door het oog van Springer’ 12 december 2015 – 10 april 2016
– W. Laanstra “Cornelis Springer”, p. 84, no. 53-6. Amsterdam, 1984.