• NamePeeter Neeffs d.ä.
  • Activity/Titlepainter
  • Sexmale
  • Variant namesstavningsvariant: Peeter Neefs I
    stavningsvariant: Pieter Neeffs I
    stavningsvariant: Peeter Nefs I
  • Nationality/DatesFlemish, born c. 1578, dead 1657 or 1661, dead 1656 - 1661
  • PlacesPlace of birth: Antwerpen, Belgien
    Place of death: Antwerpen, Belgien
BiographyPainter of church interiors and draughtsman. A
member of an extended Antwerp family of painters,
all of whom specialized in paintings of church interiors.
Pieter Neeffs I’s place and date of birth are
uncertain. According to Jantzen (1910), he was probably
born in Antwerp around 1578, just after his elder
brothers who were born in 1576 and 1577. It is not
known who his master was; based on the similarity of
the artists’ styles, Jantzen proposed that he probably
studied at Antwerp around 1590/1600 with Hendrick
van Steenwyck I and his son, Hendrick II. Pieter
enrolled as a master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke
in 1609. Two of his sons, Lodewijck and Pieter II,
were also painters, working in their father’s style.
Pieter II, who collaborated closely with his father
after c. 1640, was apparently never enrolled as an
independent master in the Guild. Apart from his
sons, Neeffs had at least one other pupil, Lauwereys
de Cater, who became his apprentice in 1612 (but
whose work remains little known).
Neeffs was the leading Flemish specialist in perspectival
views of church interiors, one of a small
number of Antwerp painters who developed the genre
in emulation of Steenwyck I, the pioneer in the genre.
Many of Neeffs’ paintings can be seen to be inspired
by, and in some cases directly copied after, similar
works by the Steenwycks, including a large portion of
his nocturnal scenes of late evening church services.
Very little is known about Neeffs’ training and early
work. The earliest record is a signed picture of the
Interior of a Gothic Church, inscribed with the date
“1605”, in Dresden (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen,
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister), painted some four
years before his enrollment as an independent master
in the Guild, and very similar to a painting by Steenwyck
II (1609) also in Dresden. There are few known
surviving dated works until the 1630s. In 1636 he
painted an Interior of St. Paul’s at Antwerp (Amsterdam,
Rijksmuseum). Thereafter Neeffs and his sons were
very productive and must have had an active studio.
Neeffs’ son and namesake, Pieter II, worked in his
father’s style and their paintings are often quite difficult
to distinguish. On at least one occasion the father
signed his work “DEN AUDEN NEEFS”. Those
works dated before c. 1640, when Pieter II would have
become involved in the workshop, are generally considered
superior in quality.
Although Pieter I concentrated almost entirely on
church interiors, he also painted at least one exterior
view of a Renaissance palace, as well as a small number
of “Liberations of St. Peter”. The figural staffage in the
church interiors by the various members of the Neeffs
family were painted by artists such as Frans Francken
II and his son Frans III, Jan Brueghel I, Sebastiaen
Vrancx, Adriaen van Stalbemt, David Teniers II,
Gonzales Coques and Bonaventura Peeters.