PhotoLexicon, Volume 25, nr. 39 (March 2008) (en)

Studio Herz

Tineke de Ruiter

Steven Wachlin


Studio Herz operated for more than twenty-five years in Amsterdam. Sigmund Löw, the photographer behind the name of Herz, took portrait photos, cityscapes, landscapes, interiors, and made reproductions. His name rarely appears in magazines, in part because the studio’s work was never submitted to exhibitions. Studio Herz is especially well known among picture postcard collectors.




Sigmund Löw is born on 11 May in Rastatt (Baden-Württemberg, Germany), as the son of Hirsch Löw and Fanny Ehrmann.


Sophia Herz is born on 4 April in Rastatt (Baden-Württemberg, Germany).


According to advertisements on the reverse side of later photos, the Herz company was founded in 1869. No further information is available concerning the identity of its founders and the location where it was originally established.


According to advertisements on later photos, the company receives an ‘honorary diploma’ in Donaueschingen (Baden-Württemberg, Germany). It is not known whether this concerns photography or some other product.


According to advertisements on later photos, the company is awarded a silver medal in Karlsruhe (Baden-Württemberg, Germany) ‘für Verdienstvolle Arbeit’ (‘for Work of Merit’). It is not known what competition this concerns.


On 29 September, Sophia Herz and Sigmund Löw move to Frans Halsstraat 10 in Amsterdam.


In September, Sophia Herz and Sigmund Löw move to Heerenstraat 4 in Amsterdam.

Löw, initially registered as ‘reiziger’ (‘traveller’), is listed as a photographer starting in this year.


In the Algemeen Adresboek der Stad Amsterdam voor de jaren 1882–1883 (‘General Address Book of the City Amsterdam for the Years 1882–1883’), the following entry is found in the alphabetical listing of names: ‘S. Herz, Heerenstraat, 4. Spiegelfabriek, Magazijn van Schilderijen en Encadrementen’ (‘S. Herz, Heerenstraat, 4. Mirror Factory, Warehouse of Paintings and Frames’). Evidently, the company Herz is not yet involved in the photography business at this time.


In the Algemeen Adresboek der Stad Amsterdam for the years 1883–1884, the years 1884–1885, and the years 1885-1886, the following entry is found in the alphabetical listing of names: ‘S. Herz. Heerenstraat, bij de Heerengracht, No. 4. Spiegelfabriek, Kunsthandel en Magazijn van Encadrementen’ (‘S. Herz. Heerenstraat, near the Heerengracht, No. 4. Mirror Factory, Art Dealership and Warehouse of Frames’). On 13 April 1886, a request is filed to alter the facade of the building at Heerengracht 80, with two window frames to be converted into a storefront window. The drawing that accompanies the request is signed by S. Herz.


In February 1887, Sophia Herz and Sigmund Löw move to Heerengracht 80.

Starting in this year, Sophia Herz is registered as an office clerk.

In the Algemeen Adresboek der Stad Amsterdam for the years 1886–1887, the following entry is found in the alphabetical listing of names: ‘S. Herz, Heerengracht No. 80 en Heerenstraat 4. Spiegelfabriek, Kunsthandel en Magazijn van Encadrementen’ (‘S. Herz, Heerengracht No. 80 and Heerenstraat 4. Mirror Factory, Art Dealership and Warehouse of Frames’).


In the address book, Herz is listed as a Photographische-Kunstverlag (‘Photographic Art Publishing House’).


The company has a small store at Mozes en Aaronstraat 3A, across from the New Church. The text on the sign of the facade reads: ‘Spiegel-fabriek & Kunsthandel S. Herz. Heerenstraat 4’ (‘Mirror Factory & Art Dealership S. Herz. Heerenstraat 4’).


Henry Jan Bordes (1870–1963) enters employment at the company Herz as a framer, photographer, and retoucher.


On 11 December, Afra Uhl (a German woman, born 1873) registers at Heerengracht 80. She has arrived from Karlsruhe, Germany. She is hired as a maidservant with Löw.


According to an advertisement in the Amsterdam city address book for 1898–1899, the company is expanded with a collotype (‘lichtdruk’) installation. The company begins publishing picture postcards. The postcards bear the text ‘Kunstanstalt Herz Amsterdam’ (‘Art Establishment Herz’). The mirror factory is located on the Heerenstraat; the art dealership and the ‘photographic art publishing house’ are located on the Heerengracht.

Shots of the Dam Square during the inauguration of Queen Wilhelmina are likely to have been taken by Löw and Bordes together.


On 23 March 1899, Afra Uhl weds Evert Verschuur (187–1909). When the couple move to Potgieterstraat 63 in Amsterdam, Verschuur registers himself as a photographer by profession. He is thought to have been employed with Studio Herz until circa 1903.


On 17 January, Sophia Herz and Sigmund Löw move to Prinsengracht 458hs (ground floor) in Amsterdam, nearby the Leidsestraat. A price list from this year states: ‘As the studio is situated in the garden and one has no steps to climb, it is one of the best located photographic Studios of Amsterdam.’

There is no more mention of the mirror factory.

From 1902 on, the company no longer produces picture postcards.


Studio Herz produces a series of thirty studio portraits featuring Dutch artists. Original prints of this series are preserved in the Welcker Collection of the Leiden University Print Room. On the various prints, the company is presented in one of three ways: as ‘S. Herz, Editeur. Amsterdam. Heerengracht 80’ (‘S. Herz, Editor. Amsterdam. Heerengracht 80’; as ‘Photographisch Atelier “Herz” Prinsengracht 458, b.d. Leidschestraat’ (‘Photographic Studio “Herz” Prinsengracht 458, near the Leidschestraat’); or as ‘Atelier Herz Amsterdam’ (‘Studio Herz Amsterdam’).


Bordes ends his employment with Herz. On 14 May 1906, he begins working for Emrik & Binger in Haarlem. In 1907, Bordes deregisters himself from the Amsterdam civil registry and departs for Schoten (near Haarlem).


S. Löw dies on 15 March at the age of sixty-four. Two days later, he is buried at the Jewish cemetery in Muiderberg.

According to his death certificate, he was married to ‘Mathilde Herz’. No other mention of this name is to be found anywhere.

With Löw’s death, the company appears to be no longer in operation.


Starting on 10 October, Sophia Herz is registered at Nicolaas Berchemstraat 3/3 in Amsterdam.


Sophia Herz dies on 4 October. ‘On account of Sabbath’, her death certificate provides no further information, other than that she was unmarried. The column ‘civil status’ in the newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad of 8 October 1940 likewise provides no additional information.

Herz is buried two days later at the Jewish cemetery in Muiderberg.

Ca. 1946

The negatives of a series of Herz’s studio portraits come into the possession of W.M.A. Deppe in Naarden. New prints of these negatives can be found in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam as well as that of the RKD (Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, ‘Netherlands Institute for Art Historical Documentation’) in The Hague.


Ascertaining the origins of the Amsterdam ‘Atelier [Studio] S. Herz’ based on archival data is a task accomplished only with difficulty. For quite some time, it was thought that the ‘S’ stood for ‘Samuel’, based on the belief that this individual had to be the company’s first owner. ‘Samuel’, however, is not to be found in a single document. Perhaps the confusion arose because the studio’s photographer was a man whose name also begins with an ‘S’: Sigmund Löw.

Sophia Herz and Sigmund Löw moved to Amsterdam in 1879, where Löw registered himself as a photographer in the following year. How and where he practiced his profession at this time is not known. In the Amsterdam address book of 1882–1883, a ‘Spiegelfabriek, Magazijn van Schilderijen en Encadrementen’ (‘Mirror Factory, Warehouse of Paintings and Frames’) is listed at the same address where Herz and Löw resided, specifically Heerenstraat 4. The company is listed under the name ‘S. Herz’. For what reason it was listed solely under the name of Sophia Herz cannot be determined. ‘Atelier [Studio] S. Herz’ might have been the continuation of a company originally set up in Germany: later advertisements state that the business was established in 1869, as well citing awards received in 1874 and 1877.

The history of the Herz company can be reconstructed with the help of the Amsterdam address books, but also based on information found in on the reverse sides of cabinet card photos, carte-de-visite photos, as well as twenty-four surviving stereo photos. The earliest examples are carte-de-visite photos from the series Costumes des Pays-Bas (‘Traditional Attire of the Low Countries’), published by A. Jager, which bear a stamp on the reverse with the text ‘Spiegelfabriek en Kunsthandel S. Herz Amsterdam Heerenstraat 4’ (‘Mirror Factory and Art Dealership S. Herz Heerenstraat 4’). In 1887, the art dealership moved to Heerengracht 80 and the mirror factory to Heerenstraat 4. It was at this time, with the move to Heerengracht 80, that the photography studio is likely to have been opened. To announce the wide range of services provided by the firm in its early years, a text on the reverse of one photo states: ‘Photographien Gravures Encadrementen Lijsten Vergulding Spiegels. SH Photographie Amsterdam’ (‘Photographs Engravings Encadrements Frames Gilding Mirrors. SH Photography Amsterdam’). Other cards carried the text ‘Photographie Artistique & Kunsthandel’ (‘Artistic Photography and Art Dealership’). The city address book of 1892 makes first mention of a ‘Photographische-Kunstverlag’ (‘Photographic Art Publishing House’) at the same address under the name of S. Herz. This should likely be interpreted as referring to the sale of reproductions of paintings. There are also several cards that bear the name ‘Herz’scher Photographie-Verlag’. At a certain point, the art dealership (and the mirror factory) are no longer mentioned in the company’s name. Instead, the business is simply referred to as ‘Herz. Photographisch Atelier’ (‘Herz. Photographic Studio’). Nevertheless, it is certain that the company was still producing frames until 1895: in a notebook found in the legacy of Henry Jan Bordes, various dimensions are listed for frames as yet to be made.

In a photo taken by George Breitner (Amsterdam City Archive, No. 11550), a storefront window at the address Mozes en Aaronstraat 3A—a structure built at the foot of the New Church in Amsterdam—can be seen bearing the text ‘Photographisch Atelier S. Herz. Heerengracht 80. Heerenstraat 4’. The address of the Mozes en Aaronstraat is not to be found on a single photo of Studio Herz. This location was therefore probably used only as a window display and point of sale. It should be added that in this photo of 1897 the name ‘Spiegel-Fabriek & Kunsthandel S.Herz. Heerenstraat 4’ is still found on the sign of the facade. Only later was the name ‘Atelier Herz’ introduced.

In January 1902, Herz and Löw moved to ‘Prinsengracht 458hs’ (i.e. the ground floor). In an advertisement, elaborate mention is made of the fact that the studio was situated in the garden and that for this reason it was said to be one of the best-located photographic studios in Amsterdam. This suggests that, at the previous studio on the Heerengracht, one was required to walk up stairs. The mirror factory is no longer mentioned.

The photographer at Studio Herz apparently worked in relative isolation. He was never a member of any photography association; his work was hardly ever shown at exhibitions. On photos—with one exception—his identity is never mentioned.

While Sigmund Löw’s name was perhaps officially absent from Studio Herz’s public notices, he still managed to find a remarkable way to communicate his unquestionable involvement in the firm. A majority of the cardboard mounts onto which the carte-de-visite, cabinet card, and stereo photos were pasted bears a rebus on the front and/or the reverse side: a standing lion holding up an escutcheon bearing a calligraphed capital letter ‘S’, to be interpreted as ‘S. Löw’ (the German ‘Löwe’ for ‘lion’). With some of the cards, the text ‘Herz’ follows the ‘S’, together forming, as it were, an alliance coat of arms. On the studio’s picture postcards, this wordplay is carried one step further: frequently one encounters the depiction of a heart (in German ‘Herz’), which contains a standing silhouetted lion holding the escutcheon with an ‘S’. On occasion, Löw even went so far as to include the reference to his name in his photos, incorporating a studio prop in the form of a cardboard gate, with its keystone as well bearing the lion with the ‘S’.

The cards used after the move to the Prinsengracht depict Löw yet in another way. Here there are two different drawings on the cards: one of the building (just as the buildings at the addresses on the Heerenstraat and the Heerengracht were previously depicted on some of the earlier cards), and one of the studio, featuring a bearded male photographer standing behind the camera. On other cards—and as well on a price list of 1902—there is a drawing of a bearded man wearing a hat, depicted in profile within a square frame. In both drawings the man is to be recognised as the photographer S. Löw, whose portrait photo was taken by Henry Jan Bordes, who began working for the studio as a framer, photographer, and retoucher in 1895.

Studio Herz was a photography business offering a wide range of services and products. As with so many photographers, however, most of the company’s revenue is likely to have been derived from making portraits. At a certain point, the company even advertised ‘life-size’ portraits as one of its specialties. The studio photographed everyone in a manner that was fairly stereotypical: families, relatives, servant girls, schoolgirls, craftsmen, and people in the theatre.

Photos today found in the legacy of Henry Jan Bordes reveal he sometimes tried to break away from this stereotype, for instance, by having Sigmund Löw pose on a bike in the studio or by portraying two girls in a rural setting, both from the front and the back. Bordes is also known to have made a heart-warming series consisting of a stereo photo and four separate portraits of Löw sitting in a chair, looking ill and seriously weakened. In one photo, his pulse is being taken by a woman standing to the right of the image. This may perhaps be the only photo we have of Sophia Herz.

According to a price list from 1902, fees charged for portraits at Studio Herz were virtually no different from that of other studios. An order of ‘6 pieces with 1 proof’ in the cabinet card format, for instance, cost Dfl. 5.50. One year later, the price according to an advertising flyer had gone down to a mere Dfl. 3.50, most likely due to the stiff competition in Amsterdam.

Bordes’ legacy also includes a photographic order book that begins in May 1906 and continues through August 1907. In this book, precise information was recorded for each week, including the dimensions of the photos produced and descriptions of the image in terms of three-quarter length, a bust, a figure piece (‘figuurstuk’), a ‘large face’ (‘groote kop’), or a group. The order number and the price were also recorded. Occasionally, the name of the client was also noted. Within approximately one year’s time, 400 order numbers were listed. With several people having to make a living from this enterprise, such operating results are certain to have been disappointing. This is probably one of the reasons why Bordes left the studio in 1906 to go work for Emrik and Binger in Haarlem. Also found at the back of the order book are handwritten formulas for developers and various baths, e.g. for alum and colour fixative, for intensifying and attenuating, for matte celloidin, and collotype. This perhaps explains why the book came into Bordes’ possession after Löw’s death.

Studio Herz’s clientele included numerous stage actors and singers. To have their portraits taken, these theatrical entertainers are certain to have made their way to the studio, where they would don their makeup and put on the costume they had brought with them, worn for the particular play in which they were appearing. They would then be photographed by Löw, accompanied by props also used in other portraits, e.g. a cardboard wall, a birchwood bench or gate, a chair with spiral columns in the chair back, or one of three different background canvases featuring: a beach and a sea; wainscoting, an arch and a view onto a garden; or one with a column, a trellis and plants. Sometimes an additional curtain was draped in front of the canvas in order to heighten the illusion. One finds virtually no theatrical poses and never any hint of a specific scene from one specific play. These ‘divas’ wished only to have their portraits taken in their costumes for an important role, as opposed to an image that might convey that role.

An album with approximately 120 mounted albumen prints of portraits such as these taken by Herz is found in the collection of the Amsterdam University Library. Beneath a number of these photos there is a text written is pencil. There are also photos with a printed sub-caption (mounted separately), on which the name of the person portrayed and a sequential number have been recorded. These numbers correspond to stamped numbers on the album’s pages, most likely the order numbers of the photos that belong to a particular series. A number of the portraits are accompanied by the text: ‘Herz’scher Photographie-Verlag. Amsterdam, Heerengracht 80’. Not all of the photos have this annotation. Notwithstanding, one can still attribute these photos to Herz based on the recurrence of the same props. Sometimes the role played by the person portrayed is also mentioned: ‘Miss: Louise Heijmann. Rosina, in the Barber of Seville’, ‘Miss: E. Kamphuijzen, Tanella [sic!], in the The Mute Girl of Portici’, ‘J.M. Thijssen [sic!] as Gérald in Lakmé’, or ‘Mrs. C. Engelen-Sewing as Marguerite in Faust’. As the last-mentioned actress Cato Engelen is known to have sung (in Dutch, as was then the custom) the role of Marguerite with the ‘Hollandsch Opera-Gezelschap’ (‘Hollandic Opera Company’) in the season of 1891/’92, this album can probably be dated to the 1890s. With stiff competition among the various theatrical photographers—including Albert Greiner, A.H. van Dijk, M.H. Laddé and C.J.L. Vermeulen—Studio Herz is likely to have tried to set up permanent deals with certain theatrical and opera companies. Many of the singers portrayed were members of the ‘Hollandsch Opera-Gezelschap’—or after 1894, the ‘Nederlandsche Opera’ (‘Netherlands Opera’), under the direction of Cornelis van der Linden—as was the famous baritone Jos Orelio and his wife, Amelie van Zandt, as well as Jos Tijssen and his wife, the soprano Anna Bremerkamp. Also portrayed by Studio Herz were the baritone A. Alexanders, Jac. Urlus, Joh. Schmier, and the aforementioned Cato Engelen-Sewing, as well as Betsy Kamphuijzen. A number of the actors photographed were with the Koninklijke Vereeniging Het Nederlandsch Toneel (‘Royal Association the Netherlands Theatre’).

Studio Herz was still producing portraits of stage actors at least until 1907. In the ‘photographic order book’, for instance, one reads of a cabinet card photo being taken of a theatrical group called ‘Miquette et sa meré [sic!]’ in the week of 18–24 March 1907; and one week later, a three-quarter portrait (a ‘knee piece’) and a ‘figure’ of one Miss Morel and Jet Holtrop.

According to the photography historian Hans Rooseboom, Queen Wilhelmina’s inauguration on 6 September 1898 in Amsterdam is probably the first event in the Netherlands that was documented by numerous photographers on a wide scale. Studio Herz also did its best to share in the anticipated commercial success. Like a number of other photographers, Löw had also filed a request to take photographs during the official ceremony in the New Church. While his request was turned down, he nevertheless received permission to photograph the church’s decorated interior prior to the event, replete with palm trees, flowers, flags and banners. Löw was allowed to take these photos, in Rooseboom’s view, probably because photos of this nature were useful for illustrators’ representations of the ceremony in newspapers and magazines. A photo of the interior of the New Church also exists, likely taken after the ceremony when considering the papers carelessly left behind on the church benches. Other shots, which Löw probably shot in collaboration with Henry Jan Bordes, present a view of the palace with Princess Wilhelmina standing alone on the balcony, and another photo of her standing with her mother on the balcony, while the military and the citizenry cheer for her. There is also a shot of Wilhelmina waiting in front of the palace in the gala caleche that she had received as a gift from her mother in honour of her inauguration at the start of her parade tour through Amsterdam. These photos were all taken one day prior to the inauguration. The next day, Löw and Bordes photographed the young queen on the balcony, with two pages standing to her left and right at the far ends. All of the shots from these two days were taken from the same high vantage point— approximately four floors up—with a view onto the palace and the New Church. There is also a shot of the statue ‘Naatje’ on the Dam Square, decorated for the occasion, and a shot of an empty Dam Square, with masses of spectators hanging out the windows and blanketing the roofs of the buildings around it. Viewing platforms were even constructed on top of the ambulatory of the New Church. Finally, there are several shots featuring the Dam Square—with the decorated stock exchange building in the background—this time filled with horse-drawn trams, carriages, and people. The photos were sold in cabinet card and other formats. Studio Herz had no problem with selling copies of shots taken by an—unknown—photographer that had managed to photograph the queen from a more favourable vantage point.

Studio Herz advertised ‘shots of cityscapes, landscapes and paintings in all formats, including for stereoscope’. In the beginning, they worked with the photos taken by other photographers, such as P. Oosterhuis. Later it appears they took their own shots, choosing locations in the city that were picturesque or characteristic for Amsterdam, e.g. the Damrak, the Prins Hendrikkade, or the Oudezijds Achterburgwal. These views were photographed in the tradition of the topographic cityscape: with the horizon placed either high or low in the image, according to the golden ratio, and often with a line that draws one in from the lower-left corner.

There are extant cityscapes, such as the shot of the Gravenstraat near the New Church with construction going on in the foreground, which have more the character of documenting a specific situation. The cityscapes were sold in cabinet card format or larger. In a photo of Heerengracht 80 taken by A.T. Rooswinkel, one can see a number of these enlargements hanging in the storefront window. By the end of the nineteenth century, one could print much faster and in larger editions through the use of the rotary press. As a result, picture postcards became an inexpensive alternative to cabinet card photos. Studio Herz is likely to have begun with producing postcards in 1898. According to an advertisement in the Amsterdam address book of 1898–1899, the company was expanded to include a collotype installation, enabling printing in large quantities. Printed on these postcards is the text ‘Kunstanstalt Herz Amsterdam’ (‘Art Establishment Herz Amsterdam’). There were 140 postcards brought out featuring Amsterdam, including a series on ‘Artis’, the Amsterdam zoo. Studio Herz also published postcards for other cities in the Netherlands—from Groningen to Breda. These photos were purchased from local photographers, but Löw probably also sent the younger photographers Henry Jan Bordes and Evert Verschuur on trips to these places. At the back of a notebook found in Bordes’ legacy there is a list with numbers counting from one to seven, each bearing descriptions such as ‘Beach in front of the Kurhaus’, ‘Beach in front of Orange’, ‘Beach in front of the Groote Badhuisstraat’, ‘Zeestraat’, ‘Villa Frederik’, but also ‘Aarlanderveen near Alfen’.

The topographic shots were printed with a white frame and a caption. A number of photos were also printed with a richly decorated frame, accompanied by texts such as ‘Souvenir de Scheveningue’ (‘Souvenir of Scheveningen’) or ‘De groeten uit Goes’ (‘Greetings from Goes’). Such images were intended for sale at hotels and bookstores in the cities and villages for which they were designated. The ‘Kunstanstalt Herz’ is therefore certain to have set up a distribution network. Perhaps the company was unable to make the kind of money it had expected from this enterprise: after 1902, it appears that they were no longer producing picture postcards.

Studio Herz is also known to have taken several interior shots. There exists a series of seven stereo cards depicting an exhibition of the ‘vereeniging met de lange naam’ (‘association of the long name’) at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, a second series featuring the winter garden of the Hotel Krasnapolsky, and a beautiful photo of an indoor swimming pool on the Heiligeweg in Amsterdam. All three interiors were photographed well, relying on available daylight coming through the skylights above without much need for additional lighting.

Also mentioned in Bordes’ notebook are photographs made of various spaces in the Hotel des Indes in The Hague on 22 and 29 September, as well as 13 October 1903, including the rotunda, billiard room, reading room, bar, dining room, bedrooms and a bathroom. Several portraits were also taken of Mr. Haller, the director of the hotel, together with his wife. This major commission in The Hague would seem to indicate that Studio Herz enjoyed certain notoriety as an interior photographer. The ten colourised postcards at the Hague City Archive are probably also a product of the same commission, although Studio Herz is nowhere mentioned. Interior shots of the ‘Wisselbank’ (‘Amsterdam Exchange Bank’) on the Damrak are also certain to have been taken in the same period.

As well listed in the same notebook are the names of three private homes, in which, for instance, the dining room and the sitting room were photographed. This reflects the trend that, by the end of the nineteenth century, an increasing number of private citizens were having photos taken of the most impressive spaces in their homes. The Rijksmuseum has two similar shots of a ‘garden room’ at Keizersgracht 58 in its possession, which were taken by Studio Herz.

In the period February 1903 to June 1904, Studio Herz short portraits of thirty Dutch artists in their studios. Löw—and most likely also Bordes—visited artists in both Amsterdam and The Hague and photographed them surrounded by their canvases and sculptures. In Bordes’ notebook, the names—and often as well the addresses—of all thirty artists were documented. This is followed by a description of which lens was used for each shot, the aperture, and the shutter speed. Also frequently noted are the weather conditions: ‘beautiful weather (sun)’, ‘rainy weather’, ‘poor weather drizzle’, or ‘clear weather’. In some cases, artists were photographed on several different days, most likely due to the weather and the resultant lighting conditions, thus requiring more than one photo session.

In the Welcker Collection at the Leiden University Print Room, there are thirty-nine original prints of twenty-seven (of the thirty) artists. Not a single artist is portrayed at work, though the illusion is sometimes suggested by posing in front of an easel holding a pallet in the hand, as is the case with the painters Albert Neuhuys and Nicolaas Bastert. In two of the shots, Simon Maris appears to be making sketches of his model. Of the three portraits showing the painter Hobbe Smith, we see him sketching a model twice; in the third, he himself is posing bare-chested in front of a painting—one seemingly already completed—that rests on the easel. In most of these studio photos, an attempt has been made to capture as much of the artist’s work as possible, such as in the photo of John Hulk Jr., in which the paintings are rather clumsily propped up, one behind the other. In a number of cases, the photographer has chosen a somewhat higher vantage point, affording a greater view of the floor surface and more space between the displayed furniture, paintings and sculpture. Considering the limited space in these interiors and a desire to depict a maximum of space, a majority of the shots were taken with an angle of view of 90º or more and as well from a corner of the room. As a result, many of the studios appear more spacious than they were in reality. The beautiful studio of the husband and wife team Jansen–Grothe on the Jacob van Lennepkade in Amsterdam, which they shared together, is nevertheless certain to have been quite large. On the street side, there was space for what people then referred to as an ‘Ersatz’ (‘Imitation’) studio, i.e. a classic Dutch interior. The artist was therefore able to paint her genre scenes, one of which can be seen in the photo, from the comfort of her own home. In a number of cases, the photo taken is not of the studio where an artist works, but rather the so-called ‘pronkatelier’ (‘showroom studio’), i.e. the space where clients were received. This applies to the portraits of the sculptor Van Hove, but also to the portrait of Neuhuys and that of the Mesdag family. Löw’s series provides us with a treasure trove of information regarding the manner in which the Dutch artist furnished his studio at the end of the nineteenth century. Many artists had old-fashioned Dutch cabinets or provincial furniture standing in their studios, as well as earthenware and porcelain, conveying their interest in the past.

Various artists commissioned Löw to make reproductions of their paintings following their portrait session. The notebook provides account of these, unfortunately without providing titles or descriptions of images. In the production of his portraits, Löw perhaps examined studio representations from abroad as his models. One of the earliest examples is an album called Artists at Home, which appeared in 1884. It featured twenty-five ‘reproductions in Facsimile by Photo-Engraving on copper plates’, with photos by Joe Parkin Mayall and a foreword by Frederic George Stephens, a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Mayall photographed artists in their large showroom studios, with an eye for the unique interior. The shots are taken with a wide angle of view, in such a way that the artist sometimes disappears into the background, both literally and figuratively.

In France, E. Bernard—’éditeur de photographies artistiques’ (‘editor of artistic photographs’)—photographed approximately seventy artist’s studios in Paris around 1887. He too set up his camera in a corner of the room in order to maximise his view of the studio. That the genre was popular is evident from the fact that, in London, it was possible to publish a second edition featuring British studio portraits: Ralph Winwood Robinson (Henry Peach Robinson’s son) produced Members and Associates of the Royal Academy of Arts, 1891, photographed in their Studios.

One gets the impression that Löw’s aim had been to publish his portraits of Dutch artists. For one of these portraits, specifically that of Albert Neuhuys, both an albumen print and a heliogravure have been preserved in the Welcker Collection on which the following text can be read: ‘S. Löw (Firma Herz) Amsterdam phot. 1904. Roeloffzen, Hübner, Van Santen. Serie 1 no. 4.’ Other examples of heliogravures from ‘Series 1’, however, have not been ascertained.

According to a letter dated 4 February 1946 written to H.E. van Gelder, in 1946 a certain ‘W. Deppe’ presented negatives to the RKD (Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, ‘Netherlands Institute for Art Historical Documentation’) on loan in order to make prints. At this time, thirty-five gelatin silver prints were made of the portraits, which belong to the same series (but a different selection) as those of the Leiden University Print Room. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam as well has thirty-six new prints of the artist’s portraits in its possession, again in part with a different selection. According to the box in which these prints were found, the ‘world copyright’ belonged to W.M.A. Deppe of Naarden. It remains unclear how Studio Herz’s negative plates ended up in the Gooi region of the Netherlands.

Over a period of more than twenty-five years, Sigmund Löw is certain to have built a substantial reputation as a portrait photographer, when considering his circle of clientele comprising stage actors and opera singers. Studio Herz’s portrait photography, however, was indistinguishable from that produced by other competitors at the time. Löw appears to have viewed his profession as an artisanal craft—an activity from which money was to be made, just as with frame building and mirror making. There was indeed a period in which the company had so many commissions that two assistants were hired to do the additional work. Löw seems never to have possessed any aspirations of becoming an art photographer, as was the case with a number of his contemporaries. Very little work was shown at exhibitions and was he ever a member of a trade association. He is mentioned only rarely in trade magazines. In the world of photography, Löw’s role was in fact minor. The most interesting aspect of his oeuvre are the approximately one-hundred portraits of thirty different Dutch artists, all dispersed across three collections in the Netherlands.


Primary bibliography

(foto’s in boeken, tijdschriften en ander drukwerk)

Wereldkroniek 12(17 maart 1906) 51, p. 811.

De Prins der Geïllustreerde Bladen 5 (12 mei 1906) 46, p. 231.

Secondary bibliography

(publicaties over de fotograaf en/of zijn werk)

I.Th. Leijerzapf, Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, p. 11,97.

Simon van Blokland, Kunstanstalt Herz Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1982 (idem, april 1988, 2de herz. uitgebr. druk).

Leonard de Vries, Nederland 1857/1920 gezien door de stereoscoop, Den Haag (SDU) 1989, p. 22.

Simon van Blokland, Kunstanstalt Herz Amsterdam, in VDP Bulletin 7 (juli 1990) 3/25, p. 3-4.

J. Groeneboer, In het licht van de fotograaf. Een overzicht van de Nederlandse theaterfotografie tot 1940, Amsterdam (Nederlands Theater Instituut/International Theatre & Film Books) 1991, p. 42, 49-50, 59 (serie: TheaterCahiers 2).

Tineke de Ruiter, Agatha Christie likt de vingers af. Close-reading met een 30x loupe, in Nieuwsbrief Nederlands Fotogenootschap (december 1997/januari 1998) 20, p. 17-18.

Huib Haverkate, Nieuw licht op Kunstanstalt Herz, in VDP Bulletin 15 (oktober 1998) 4/58, p. 13-16.

Mayken Jonkman, De inrichting van het atelier van de beeldhouwer Bart van Hove, in Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 54 (2006) 1, p. 50-52.

Hans Rooseboom, Tumult in de hoofdstad. De Dam, 6 september 1898, in Joke Pronk en Tineke de Ruiter (red.), Fotovoorkeuren. 50 auteurs kiezen een foto uit de collectie van het Leids Prentenkabinet, Amsterdam (Voetnoot) 2007, p. 141-144.

Hans Rooseboom, Verleden tijd Fotografie en beeldhouwkunst, 1839-1925, in Sculptuur 2007, p. 32-33, 42-43.


Amsterdam, Stadsarchief Amsterdam.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.


Amsterdam, IISG (Collectie NEHA).

Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Rijksprentenkabinet.

Amsterdam, Bibliotheek van de Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Stadsarchief Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Theater Instituut Nederland.

Den Haag, Nationaal Archief, archief Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland.

Den Haag, Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie.

Haarlem, Noord-Hollands Archief.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden.