From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Schilder-Boeck is a book by the art historian Karel van Mander written in 1604. It was actually compiled from three books in total; the first was a translation from Giorgio Vasari's list of artist biographies called the Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, the second was a similarly styled "Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters", and the third was a translation of Ovid's stories Metamorphoses followed by an explanation of figures. The book sold well, though Karel van Mander died quite soon after publication. A second posthumous edition was produced in 1618, and it is this second edition which has been translated by Hessel Miedema into English with a facsimile of the original and 5 volumes of notes on the text.
Karel van Mander's "Schilder-boeck" (Painter book), written in Mannerist Dutch and published in Haarlem in 1604 by Passchier van Wesbusch, describes the life and work of more than 250 painters, both historical and contemporary, as well as contemporary art theory for aspiring painters. During his travels and stay in Italy, van Mander had read and was influenced by Giorgio Vasari's famous biographical accounts of painters in his book Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, often referred to as the "Vite". It was published in 1550 and republished in 1568 with woodcuts, which is the version Van Mander probably studied. He set about translating this great work into Dutch and it was during this project that he was offered the commission to inventory Haarlem's art collection, a job that resulted in the Netherlandish chapters of his book. In both books, the lives of the painters are told in the standard "Vita di ..." manner of Catholic saints, extolling the virtues of the painters one by one in several chapters. In van Mander's book, many chapters on Greek and Italian painters were simply translated into Dutch from the Italian "Vite", but the original biographical details on Haarlem painters is unique and was the result of van Mander's commission.
At the time van Mander was writing, Haarlem was recovering from its period under Spanish occupation, and though officially all Catholic property had been seized by the state since 1572, the city fathers had agreed to let nuns and monks 'die out' in their convents and monasteries, rather than seizing all of their possessions immediately and putting them out on the street. Indeed, putting the monks and nuns out of business had resulted in many more poor on the streets already, and when the new poorhouse "Oudemannenhuis", or "Old men's home" opened its doors in 1609, most of its occupants were Catholics. After van Mander's book was published, the Haarlem council hired Frans Hals to restore the more important paintings from the inventory and in 1628 the collection was moved to the city hall. All of the art that was considered too "Roman Catholic" was sold to Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen on condition that he "remove them outside the city walls".
Karel van Mander's book also contains a translation of Ovid's stories from Metamorphoses, meant for the artist who needed themes to paint that were based on mythology rather than religion. Symbolism was very important in painting at the time, and the use of Ovid's characters, combined with proper use of artist symbolism allowed the artist to tell a specific story. The last chapters of his book describe the meaning of animals and other figures.
Vasari's work on Italian painters
Vasari's work was already half a century old by the time van Mander published and for this reason he only translated about half of Vasari's biographical sketches, and he added Italian artists from his years in Italy, such as Tintoretto who became known after Vasari's work was published. What follows is a list of Vasari sketches that van Mander did translate and include in his work: