Esaias Boursse (March 3, 1631 – November 16, 1672), was a Dutch
painter. His paintings were mainly genre works.
He was born in Amsterdam, the
youngest son of immigrants from Wallonia. His parents, Jacques
Boursse and Anna des Forest, married in 1618 in Amsterdam. We know
nothing more about the education of Esaias Boursse, other than the
fact that he travelled to Italy in about 1650 to study the great
Renaissance examples. No reminders of those examples is to be found
in his work. In the past art historians have tried to place him
among Rembrandt's pupils. There is no objective evidence at all to
prove this though. Maybe this opinion has been inspired by the fact
that the painters were neighbours in the Sint Antoniebreestraat in
Amsterdam (nowadays called Jodenbreestraat, still housing the
Rembrandt House Museum).
Boursse's financial position will
not have been good, since in 1661 he sailed with the Verenigde
Oostindische Compagnie, on the ship Amersfoort. It travelled to
Ceylon (nowadays called Sri Lanka). Boursse drew the inhabitants,
landscapes and city views, which have been preserved in an album
which can be found in the print room of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
In 1663, the painter was back in Amsterdam.
In 1672, Boursse sailed with
Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie again. On November 16 he died at
sea, on board the ship Rhenen
The life of Esaias Boursse is the
story of a painter who could not earn a living by painting alone and
therefore had to look for an alternative source of income. The fact
that he was no exception is proven by the life stories of for
example Jan Steen (who was also an innkeeper) and Johannes Vermeer
(who was also an art dealer). A major difference though, is the fact
that Steen and Vermeer had to feed and house a (large) family.
Boursse seems to have remained unmarried and childless. Financially,
Boursse's career was a success. He remains one of the highest paid
artists in living memory.