Johanna Koerten

Joanna Koerten

Joanna Koerten, (married name Joanna Block) (born 17 November 1650, Amsterdam - died 28 December 1715, Amsterdam) was as a Dutch artist who excelled in painting, drawing, embroidery, glass etching, and wax modeling. She achieved fame as a silhouette cutter, the art of creating outline images from pieces of cut paper mounted on a contrasting background. She produced landscapes, seascapes, flowers, portraits, and religious scenes in this medium . Her clients included Peter the Great of Russia , Frederick Elector of Brandenburg, Johan de Witt and William III of England.


She was the daughter of Jan Koerten (1622–1651), a Baptist cloth merchant, and his wife Ytje Cardinaels (d. before October 25, 1691). Her father died when she was one year old. Her mother remarried Rosijn Zacharias in 1659, also a cloth merchant. Joanna only married in 1691 after her mother and stepfather had died, when she was 41 years old. Her husband was Adrian Block, who, just like her father and stepfather, was a cloth merchant. He was of Mennonite background. They had no children.

From a young age she sat apart from other children and showed an interest in depicting what she saw around her, things both animate and inanimate.

She gained fame as an artist working out of her husband's shop at No. 137 Nieuwendijk Amsterdam, which served as a gallery of her work. Peter the Great honored her with a visit in 1697 in the company of Mayor Witsen. According to Houbraken, she could carve scenes on glass with a diamond, embroider and weave silk creations, pouring wax creations, lace-making and watercolor painting.

According to the RKD, she was known as a knipkunstenaar or papercut artist and draughts(wo)man. Joanna Koerten died on 28 December 1715 aged 65, and is buried in the Oudezijds Chapel, Amsterdam .

After her death her gallery continued as a place of interest to artists and a visitors book kept by her surviving husband shows the names of many notable artist and poet visitors, both during her lifetime and beyond. Among them are artists Gerard de Lairesse, Melchior Hondecoeter and Nicholas Verkolje; calligraphers , and ; and poets , , and Katharina Lescailje.


Only fifteen of her works survive. The existence of others can be inferred from descriptions in old auction lists.

For a description of her oeuvre see: Catalogus van een overheerlijk konstkabinet papiere snykonst, door wylen Mejuffrouw Koerten, huisvrouw van wylen Adriaan Blok, met de schaar in papier gesneden (Amsterdam ca.1750).

Examples of her work can be seen in the Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal (Leiden), in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (The Hague), in (Loosdrecht) and in Westfries Museum (Hoorn).


Biographies about Joanna Koerten:

    • Joanna Koerten Universal biography by by John Lemprière, Publisher E. Sargeant, 1810
    • AJ van der Aa, Biographical Dictionary of the Netherlands. Volume 10 (1862)
    • PJ Block and PC Molhuysen, New Netherland biographical dictionary. Volume 10 (1937)
    • K. ter Laan, Literary Dictionary for North and South (1952)

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