Constantijn Huygens

His Life

Constantijn Huygens was born in 1596, the second son of Christiaan Huygens the Elder and Susanna Hoefnagel. His father was a secretary of the States General of the Netherlands and his mother came from a family of artists in Antwerp. From an early age Constantijn dedicated himself to poetry and music. His phenomenal talent for languages led to him being regularly asked to take part in international diplomatic missions.

House of Orange

In 1625 Constantijn was appointed secretary to Frederik Hendrik, stadtholder and Prince of Orange, a position he held until 1687. After Frederik Hendrik's death, Constantijn worked in turn for William II, Amalia van Solms and William III. The extensive and varied package of tasks he was asked to perform was perfectly suited to Constantijn the organiser, diplomat and networker.



In the winter of 1628-29, Constantijn visited the studio of the young artist Rembrandt van Rijn in Leiden. Constantijn was deeply impressed by Rembrandt's work and wrote about it in his autobiography. Because he was the first person to leave a written record praising Rembrandt's talent, he is often seen as the 'discoverer' of Rembrandt.  


Constantijn's poetry covered many genres: love poems, elegies, occasional verse and short epigrams as well as long works such as Hofwijck and Zeestraet. His most important poetry publications are Batave Tempe, a poem in praise of the street Voorhout in The Hague; ’t Costelick Mal, a mildly satirical poem on fashion; and the collections Otia in 1625 and Korenbloemen in 1658.



Constantijn was a gifted musician who was able to play the lute, spinet, harpsichord, organ, viola da gamba and guitar. He also composed almost 900 musical works, most of which have sadly been lost. His beautiful and restrained Pathodia sacra et profana occupati ('Sensitive sacred and worldly songs written by an occupied man') are still performed regularly.


Hofwijck is possibly Constantijn's most personal creation. He created the country estate in 1641.

Hofwijck was intended as a quiet oasis on the banks of the canal the Vliet, a place where Constantijn could retreat from his busy Court life in The Hague. The name Hofwijck is a deliberate play on words, as in Dutch it can be interpreted to mean ‘avoiding the court’.