PhotoLexicon, Volume 2, nr. 3 (September 1985) (en)

Jan Goedeljee & Zn

Hedi Hegeman


The name of Goedeljee & Zoon (‘… & Son’) is irrevocably linked to a large nineteenth-century photographic legacy of cityscapes depicting Leiden and its environs, as well as portraits of professors, students, and members of middle-class society living in the city. Festivities such as parades, masquerade parties and carnivals in this college town were also part of the Goedeljee’s repertoire. The oeuvre that the studio of Goedeljee & Zn. has left behind serves as a diverse reservoir of images depicting a half-century of regional history.




Jan Goedeljee is born on 24 August as the son of Nicolaas Goedeljee, a bookbinder living in Leiden, and Antje Richter.


On 24 May, Goedeljee marries Sara Catharina Wagemans. The couple purchases a house on the Papengracht. Like his father, Jan is a bookbinder.


On 30 August, Goedeljee’s son, Johannes, is born.


Goedeljee is registered in the Leiden city address book both as a bookbinder and a photographer.


Goedeljee releases a photo album entitled ‘Photographische Gezichten in s’Rijks Akademietuin te Leiden’ (‘Photographic Views in Our National Academy Garden in Leiden’), which includes twelve photos.


In an advertisement appearing in the Leidsch Dagblad of 23 December, Goedeljee refers to himself as ‘Photograaf van Z.K.H. Prins Alexander der Nederlanden’ (‘Photographer of His Royal Highness Prince Alexander of the Netherlands’).


Johannes Goedeljee is listed as a drawing instructor starting in this year. He lives with his father, Jan Goedeljee.


In addition to his activities as a bookbinder and photographer, Jan Goedeljee starts up a funeral business.


Johannes moves to Hoogewoerd 160. He becomes engaged to Carolina Janses, though the marriage never comes to fruition. In the engagement certificate, Johannes refers to himself as a photographer.


Jan Goedeljee moves in with his son. They establish the partnership, ‘J. Goedeljee & Zn’.


Jan Goedeljee stops working as a bookbinder.


On 3 July, Johannes marries Maria van der Does.


Goedeljee Sr. moves to Hoogewoerd 152, where he resides until his death. The studio remains at No. 160. Approximately in this same year, the Goedeljee firm publishes a Catalogus van Land-, stad- en zeegezichten (‘Catalogue of Land-, City- and Seascapes’), with the numbers and titles of 550 photos that can be purchased.


Cornelis Roeland is born on 6 May, Johannes Goedeljee’s second son. In 1910, Cornelis is cited in the municipal registry as a photographer. There are no known works attributed to his name.


On 16 October, Jan Goedeljee dies. His son continues the business on his own, still at the address Hoogewoerd 160.


The loss of Goedeljee Sr. and the growing number of photography studios (there are fourteen photographers established in Leiden around 1900!) prove to have substantial consequences for the company, with the business liquidated in 1910. Alphons Louis Gérard Muns (born 1883, The Hague) takes over the house and the studio. Even under its new owner, however, the company exists only for a short period, as Muns dies in 1912. Johannes Goedeljee is now living at Doezastraat 19-a in Leiden.


Johannes moves to Rijnsburgerweg C 40-a. He is registered with the city as a photographer at the Leiden University Library. This is not a permanent position, however.


Johannes Goedeljee dies on 26 May, shortly after moving to Pieterskerkstraat 14.


At about the age of forty, Jan Goedeljee, a bookbinder in Leiden, made the historic decision to become a photographer. This decision would play a part in ensuring that nineteenth-century Leiden would become one of the photographically best-documented cities in the Netherlands. Goedeljee was a pioneer in the field of photography. The research conducted here was unable to determine how or from whom he learned about photography. In any event, he began referring to himself as a photographer in 1865. Moreover, an album with photos published in 1866, which features photos of the Hortus Botanicus (‘Botanical Garden’) of Leiden, indicates that by this time he was already an accomplished professional.

Goedeljee is certain to have been a highly energetic man, who managed to combine his work as a photographer and a bookbinder with the profession of running a funeral home. He was also highly active in various trade associations, serving as the chairman of the ‘Vereeniging “Nut en Genoegen”‘(‘Utility and Delight’ Association) and the treasurer of the ‘3 October’ association.

Goedeljee’s son, Johannes, was a drawing instructor prior to becoming his father’s business partner. As with his father, little is known about the son’s training to become a photographer, though he presumably learned the trade from his father. The division of tasks between the father and son within their partnership cannot be reconstructed.

The Goedeljees earned their income as photographers largely from portrait photography. Goedeljee Sr. referred to himself as a ‘Court Photographer’ of His Royal Highness Prince Alexander of the Netherlands and Princess (!) Hendrik. With this title came a certain status, which also drew clients to the studio. These were frequently professors and students in the circles of Leiden University. Members of the middle class in Leiden, however, could also turn to Goedeljee for a ‘chic’ large-format portrait, as well as a simple carte-de-visite or cabinet card portrait.

In taking portrait photos of university professors, Goedeljee was following in the footsteps of Leendert Springer, the daguerreotypist who had previously introduced this genre of photo portraiture in Leiden. In the 1860s and ’70s, Bernard Bruining was the only other photographer operating in the same field whose work could be compared with the quality that Goedeljee provided.

Goedeljee also practiced another traditional genre of portrait photography in Leiden: the masquerade portrait. Every five years, historical parades were held in Leiden centred around a given theme related to the Dutch nation’s history. Students would have their portraits taken wearing historical costumes, typically in the carte-de-visite or cabinet card format. Goedeljee also registered the parades, as well as the accompanying festivities such as fairs, on photographic plates, occasionally in collaboration with Hendrik Jonker, a fellow photographer whose studio was on the Apothekersdijk.

Goedeljee was undoubtedly highly taken with his city. With minute precision, he compiled a topographic dossier, which included every important building and monument, the most important streets, squares, parks, places of interest, and every picturesque corner of Leiden. In addition to the city centre, Goedeljee photographed the surrounding areas of Leiden, even as far away as Katwijk. Around 1884, Goedeljee put together a Catalogus van Land-, stad- en zeegezichten (‘Catalogue of Land-, City-, and Seascapes’), comprising all of his topographic photos. This catalogue could be perused in bookstores, with the sale of photos arranged via the bookstore or directly via the photographer himself. It was the same way that Pieter Oosterhuis distributed his own work in Amsterdam.

Like Oosterhuis and Jacob Olie, Goedeljee’s documentation of the city was primarily based on individual objects, i.e. without paying any particular attention to the way in which its inhabitants lived. On one hand, this was due to the traditional way in which architecture and cityscapes were portrayed topographically—as people were accustomed to seeing in prints. On the other hand, it was linked to the economically attractive role of the photographer in providing service to the emerging tourist industry. The desire for photographic images as a souvenir of the places one had visited was growing. There was very little interest in social issues at this point, in part because photography as yet played no part in the illustrated press.

Even before Katwijk became accessible via the steam tram in 1881, with writers and painters arriving in large numbers to capture its picturesque atmosphere, Goedeljee took photographs of this seaside village—as yet to become a popular beach resort—including views of the church, life on the beach, and the fishermen’s boats ‘in the harbour’ or at sea. In terms of subject and technique (sombre, monochrome half-tints), these charming photos are reminiscent of paintings of the Hague School. Goedeljee’s photographs perhaps also contributed to Katwijk’s ‘accessibility’ to artists, no less so than the arrival of public transportation.

Jan Goedeljee’s earliest shots were as yet produced with the wet collodion process on glass plates in the format 20×26 cm. The arrival of the ‘dry plate’ gave him greater mobility, and from that moment on, allowed him to journey farther from home. From the 1860s to the 1890s, Goedeljee’s firm printed its photos almost always on collodion or albumen paper. By the end of the century, celloidin paper had taken their place. Goedeljee’s studio also produced portrait photos of well-known people in the form of transparencies. The studio also offered options such as the colourising of masquerade portraits and group photos of students. In this respect, however, the Goedeljees were much less skilful than A. van der Stok, a fellow photographer in Leiden.

Towards the end of the century, the company’s studio was much more richly furnished, with an ever-increasing variety of painted backdrops. Just how far Goedeljee was willing to go in creating artificial entourages is to be seen in a number of group portraits depicting an African family. These photos also reveal the stereotypical way in which people viewed non-Caucasian races. Based on their professed ethnographic significance, these images were held in the collection of the Rijks-Etnografisch Museum (‘National Ethnographical Museum’) in Leiden.

Especially as a photographer of the ‘urban landscape’, Jan Goedeljee was able to demonstrate that he had an eye for composition, the way light falls, and topics that are photogenic. High vantage points on the first floor of a house or building are quite frequently encountered in his shots of Leiden’s city centre, allowing him to provide an overview, while at the same time eliminating any overly distracting perspective distortion.

In a 1906 text written ‘in memoriam’, Jan Goedeljee was described and praised above all as the meritorious director of the Leidse Begrafenisvereniging (‘Leiden Association of Funeral Homes’), and as an active participant in the world of trade associations. In this appreciation, which was primarily based on his social activities, Goedeljee’s significance as a photographer is entirely omitted. For posterity, however, his photography was in fact his most important achievement. Goedeljee photographed the region in which he lived both skilfully and with a loving interest. In doing so, he was able to make an important contribution to the historical documentation of this part of the Netherlands.

With the death of his father, Johannes initially continued with the running of the business. In 1912, he worked as a photographer at the Leiden University Library, making facsimiles of historical manuscripts. The precision found in these photographs attests to both the progress that had been made in the medium’s potential and the level of Johannes’ skill. Due to its impersonal nature, however, this work provides no further insight regarding Johannes Goedeljee as a person or his photographic approach.


Primary bibliography

J. Goedeljee, Catalogus van Land-, Staden Zeegezigten, Leiden (eigen uitgave) ca. 1884.

Secondary bibliography

Auteur onbekend, In Memoriam, in Leids Jaarboekje 1906.

Annie Versprille, Leidse fotografen in de 19de eeuw, in Leids Jaarboekje 1964, p. 93- 96.

Jan Coppens, Jan Goedeljee, begrafenisondernemer en fotograaf in de 19e eeuw, in Foto 27 (1972) 12, p. 49-53.

Rudi Ekkart, Ingrid Moerman, Fotografen uit Leiden en hun oude platen, in Leidsch Dagblad 6 augustus 1977, p. 19.

Cat.tent. Het Groepsportret 1845-1922, Eindhoven (Van Abbemuseum) 1977 (foto’s).

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, p. 38, 59, 95, afb. 62, 95, 153.


1876 (g) Utrecht, Internationale tentoonstelling.

1877 (g) Leiden, Ned. Maatschappij ter Bevordering van Nijverheid, afd. Leiden.


Leiden, Gemeentearchief.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.


Leiden, Academisch Historisch Museum (foto’s en albums).

Leiden, Gemeentearchief (glasnegatieven en foto’s).

Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit (foto’s).