Born in Terheyden, North Brabant on 21 April 1806, Petrus Van Schendel studied at the Antwerp Academy under Van Bree. He went on to work for 2 years before returning to Rotterdam where he was to live between 1832 and 1838. He is known for his illustrations of nocturnal scenes he loved to explore the effect of soft light on busy scenes, and he captured many paintings of nocturnal Dutch markets. He was nicknamed Monsieur Chandelle in France, possibly a corruption of his original name.
Before Petrus van Schendel became a scene painter, he did portraits of the rich in Rotterdam, The Hague and Brussels. While he was in Brussels in 1845, he painted and exhibited market scenes with light effects. He was an instant hit, winning 3 awards from different art institutions. This was quite a feat in a Europe that was already crawling with good artists. He worked on many paintings, depicting scenes from the New Testament and even illustrating cards.
He worked on market scenes by candlelight, sitting long hours by lamp light or candle light so that he could capture a scene as he wanted it. This was not lost on those who appreciated his art it was a unique way of painting that no one else was known for at the time.
Petrus van Schendel was more than just an artist he was also interested in mechanics and is one of the significant contributors to the history of the locomotive. Today, his works can be seen at Amsterdams Historisch Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Groninger Museum, Groningen and the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam.