ABRAHAM RADEMAKER (Lisse 1676/77 – 1735 Haarlem)

Abraham Rademaker

Abraham Rademaker (Lisse 1676/77 – 1735 Haarlem)

The Annual Fair on the Boterplein, Amsterdam, by Night

Watercolour and bodycolour, framing lines in black ink and gold leaf, countermark IV, 157 x 234 mm (6.2 x 9.2 inch)

Signed and annotated ‘A. Rademaker. fecit. Amsteldami.’ (white bodycolour, lower right)

Private collection, Belgium


This extraordinary sheet by Abraham Rademaker depicts the annual fair or ‘jaarmarkt’ which was held in September each year on the Reguliersplein or Botermarkt (now the Rembrandtplein) in Amsterdam.1 The fair lasted fourteen days, occasionally even three weeks, and held a huge attraction to customers and pleasure-seekers from Amsterdam and far beyond. Although it started out as a normal market, the event quickly developed into the city’s main ‘kermis’ or funfair, with performances by comedians, circus acts and equestrian drills. The large temporary wooden structure or tent in the centre of the scene was probably constructed for horse drills and other shows. The fair was infamous for its excesses of alcoholic consumption and violence and was much opposed by the more orthodox city leaders, but its huge popularity ensured its endurance from the seventeenth century until 1875.2 The Rembrandtplein is still one of the main centres of entertainment in Amsterdam.

Another version of this composition by Rademaker dating to c.1710 is preserved in the Amsterdam City Archive (see last fig.).3 This drawing is not signed and is executed in almost monochrome washes, and varies in small details, such as the groups of figures – it also appears more quickly executed and it probaly served as the model on which our more finished drawing was based. The thrill of the nightly spectacle is certainly much more powerfully expressed in our drawing with its vibrant colours and dark evening sky. The signature and inscription on our sheet also indicate that this was intended for sale to a collector as an independent work of art, whereas the monochrome drawing in the Amsterdam City Archive probably remained part of the artist’s studio holdings.

It is rare for Rademaker to use the watercolour/bodycolour technique for actual topographical representations, in general he reserved this technique for imagined scenes. A highly comparable view of a nightly house fire on the corner of the Dam square and Kalverstraat of c. 1720 is preserved in the Amsterdam City Archives.4 This sheet has an identical signature and inscription to our drawing, also in white paint.

Abraham Rademaker is best known for his drawings of topographic views. He started his career with drawings of arcadian landscapes and imaginary panoramic landscapes.5


1. I am grateful to Theo Bakker for kindly identifying the subject of this watercolour and for providing further information in an email of 27 March 2013.

2. See A. Halberstadt, ‘Botermarkt en Kaasplein’, Jaarboek Amstelodamum, 8 (1910), pp. 155-80.

3. Inv. no. KOG-AA-2-22-396; it is probably this version which was sold at the auction of Sybrand Feitama, Amsterdam (Bernardus de Bosch), 16 October 1758, Album G, no. 53 ‘Een kermis op de Botermarkt te Amsterdam: zynde een Nachtlicht; met Oostind. Inkt, h. 5 ¾, br. 8 ¾ d.’ (9 Dfl to Kok together with the next lot).

4. Collectie Atlas Splitgerber, Amsterdam City Archive.

5. See C.J. Kaldenbach, ‘Abraham Rademaker (1676/77-1735); nieuwe biografische gegevens en een verkenning van zijn getekende werk’, Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 4 (1985), Leiden 1987, pp. 165-78.