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FAA Newsletter III

Below we publish our latest acquisition, a painting by Ferdinand Bol as well as a new entry on a painting by Jan Baptist Weenix, the picture of which we published on our website last year. Both entries were written by Quentin Buvelot.

The Bol painting, , represents an unusual subject which was rarely painted in the Northern Netherlands in the 17 th century. The painting is dated 1659 at a time when very little remained of Rembrandt’s influence on Bol’s oeuvre. It is interesting to compare this painting – which is in an excellent state of preservation – with a Flemish interpretation of an almost similar subject by an Antwerp master, Abraham Janssens, also in our collection (see below).

The Weenix has been in our collection since 2003 and was thus acquired after publication of our catalogue, Dutch and Flemish Old Masters from the Kremer Collection, in 2002.

The numbers 3a. (Bol) and 38a. (Weenix) refer to the catalogue.

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Ferdinand Bol
Dordrecht 1616-1680 Amsterdam

The Virgin and Child with the infant Saint John the Baptist, and Gabriel
Canvas, 120 x 90.5 cm
Signed and dated at right of Saint John’s face: fBol. 1659. (fB in ligature)

Possibly Daniel Mansveld, Amsterdam (sale Amsterdam, Van der Schleij et al., 13 August 1806, no. 6, for 20 guilders and 10 cents to Verhoesen; see below); private collection, United States; Otto Naumann, Ltd., New York, 1999; Noortman Master Paintings, Maastricht, 2003

M.E. Wieseman in P.C. Sutton, Old Master Paintings, New York (Otto Naumann, Ltd.) 1999, pp. 14-15, no. 4; B.B. Fredericksen, with R. Priem, J.I. Armstrong, Corpus of Paintings Sold in the Netherlands during the 19th Century: Volume 1, 1801-1810, Los Angeles 1998, p. 118, no. 6 (?); E. Schavemaker in Noortman: One Hundred Master Paintings, Maastricht 2003, pp. 18-19, no. 5
New York 1999, no. 4; Maastricht 2003, no. 5

The Virgin and Child with the infant Saint John the Baptist, and Gabriel was painted by Ferdinand Bol, one of Rembrandt’s most prominent pupils. (1) Born in Dordrecht, Bol probably worked in Rembrandt’s studio from about 1635 to 1641, a period that had a decisive impact on his career. In his early work, Bol borrowed numerous elements from the great master, who was ten years his senior. Like Rembrandt, he produced almost exclusively history paintings and portraits. His reputation is based primarily on the former, which earned him considerable success: in 1656, for instance, he secured a prestigious commission to make large paintings for the Burgomasters’ Council Chamber in Amsterdam’s new town hall (now the Royal Palace). In addition, many local townspeople ordered portraits from Bol. From 1667 onwards he was commissioned by several admiralties to produce portraits of Vice-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, who defeated the British fleet in 1666. These paintings have determined the public’s image of this great Dutch naval hero down to the present day. After 1669, the year of Rembrandt’s death, Bol remarried and appears to have given up painting. His second wife, Anna van Arckel had a considerable private fortune, so that he no longer needed to work to earn a living. Bol died in 1680, and was buried in the Zuiderkerk, Amsterdam.

This large painting was only rediscovered a few years ago; there had previously been no mention of it in the literature on Bol. We see the Virgin Mary holding her son on her lap; her fingers lovingly caress the sole of his foot. The Christ Child is seizing the white lily offered to him by an angel, who can be identified as the archangel Gabriel. On the lower left is a fourth figure, John the Baptist as a child, identifiable by his standard attribute of a lamb. This young creature was a traditional sacrificial animal in oriental religions, and alludes to Christ’s sacrifice for humanity, which is why John the Baptist later called him the ‘Lamb of God’ (John 1: 29 and 1: 36). The child restrains the creature with one hand, stretching out his other hand to Christ. The grapes in the horn in Christ’s hands refer, like the lamb, to the suffering he will endure as a man. The fruit also alludes to the Catholic celebration of communion, in which wine symbolises the blood of Christ. The lily, Gabriel’s customary attribute, represents purity. The figures are in a park-like setting; behind Mary are roses, which are traditionally associated with her.

The meeting between Christ and the slightly older John the Baptist is not described in the Bible, but derives from the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James, which relates that Elisabeth and Zacharias visited the Holy Family with their little son John. From the Italian Renaissance onward, artists elaborated this story into images of Mary and the two children (as in the painting by Abraham Janssens, also in the collection of Fondation Aetas Aurea). (2) The iconography of the present scene, incorporating Gabriel as a fourth figure – as if in a picture of the Annunciation – is rather uncommon. (3) Gabriel is subtly differentiated from the other figures here by being placed in the shadows. He is also behind a stone parapet, on which Bol prominently inscribed his signature and the year 1659 – in his portraits, the painter also included parapets of this kind. (4)

This atmospheric history painting dates from a period in which Bol had developed a more baroque style of painting. (5) The smooth brushwork and play of lines in the composition display the influence of Flemish painting, especially the work of Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641). That Bol had embarked on a new phase in his work is also clear from the rendering of the clothing. Instead of the historicising garments in his more Rembrandtesque paintings, all of which were produced in roughly the same period – including the monumental history paintings for the town hall – we see here more timeless, classical clothing. These costumes are well suited to the elegance of the figures, whose bodies are characterised by soft contours. There is a salient use of bright colours, certainly in comparison to Bol’s early work. The yellow drapes contrast marvellously with Mary’s red dress, which is striking amid the range of warm brown and cool grey hues in the clothes of Gabriel and John. Her headscarf, which falls playfully over her shoulders, is painted in broad strokes, in golden yellow tones that harmonise well with the other garments. The stalks of the bunch of grapes, clearly visible against the red of the dress, demonstrate Bol’s attention to detail.

Bol’s history paintings rarely feature the Virgin Mary as a protagonist, as here. Mary’s gaze, focusing emphatically on the lamb, seems to be intended as an exhortation to the faithful to contemplate the future sacrifice of her son, the Redeemer. The subject and large size of this painting, the early provenance of which is unknown, suggests that it was originally intended as an altarpiece. This is noteworthy, given that Calvinism was the dominant religion in the United Provinces and that Calvinists did not order paintings of this kind. Given the wealth of Catholic imagery in this work, we may assume that Bol painted it for a Catholic client – probably someone from Amsterdam, although the person’s identity is a mystery. There is some evidence, however, of the painting’s presence in Amsterdam. Albert Blankert, who published a monograph on Bol in 1982, linked it to a ‘Visitation with Saint John the Baptist’ that was auctioned in Amsterdam in 1806 along with items belonging to the local art collector Daniel Mansveld (1726-1806). (6)

Quentin Buvelot
The Hague, August 2006

(1) See A. Blankert, Ferdinand Bol 1616-1680: Rembrandt’s Pupil, Doornspijk 1982; see also the addenda to Bol’s oeuvre in W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, 6 vols., Landau/Pfalz 1983[-1995].
( 2) See Q. Buvelot in P. van der Ploeg et al., Dutch and Flemish Old Masters from the Kremer Collection , n.p. 2002, pp. 88-93, no. 18, repr.
(3) See M.E. Wieseman in New York 1999, p. 14.
(4) As the parapet in the painting dated 1652 (The Hague, Mauritshuis), enabling the sitter to lean on one arm; see Blankert 1982, no. 113 and B. Broos et al., Portraits in the Mauritshuis, 1430-1790, pp. 38-41, no. 4, repr.
( 5) Cf. Blankert 1982, pp. 38-40.
(6) As communicated to O. Naumann, 5 April 1996; not in Blankert 1982. Daniel Mansveld sale, Amsterdam, Van der Schleij et al., 13 August 1806, no. 6; Fredericksen et al. 1998, p. 118, no. 6: ‘Maria met het kind Jesus, waarby Johannes; zynde een treffelyke Ordinantie, uitmuntend van drapperie, teekening, coloriet en meesterlyke penceelsbehandeling’ (on canvas, 50 x 48 duim [circa 130.5 x 125 cm]). The painting may have been submitted by C.S. Roos, one of the dealers involved with the organisation of the sale (Lugt no. 7143; see Getty Provenance Index).

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Jan Baptist Weenix
Amsterdam 1621-1659/60 Huis ter Mey (near Vleuten)

Figures and livestock among ruins
Canvas, 112 x 146 cm
Signed and dated on the pedestal behind the parasol: Gio: Batt Weenix f / 16[5]6

Josef Cremer, Dortmund (sale Berlin, Wertheim, 29 May 1929, no. 104); private collection, France, 1929; sale London, Christie’s, 8 July 1988, no. 6 (bought in); sale London, Christie’s, 7 July 1989, no. 33; Jean-François Heim Gallery Ltd., London

Collection Geh. Kommerzienrat Cremer Dortmund , s.l. 1914, vol. 1, p. 72, vol. 2, repr.; D. Hannema, Beschrijvende catalogus van de schilderijen, beeldhouwwerken, aquarellen en tekeningen, behorende tot de verzameling van de Stichting Hannema-De Stuers Fundatie, Rotterdam 1967, p. 78; R.J. Ginnings, The Art of Jan Baptist Weenix and Jan Weenix (diss.), Delaware 1970, pp. 37-38, 132, no. 21 and fig. 39; F.J. Duparc, ‘Een teruggevonden schilderij van N. Berchem en J.B. Weenix’, Oud Holland 94 (1980), pp. 37, 42, fig. 8; C. Schloss, ‘The Early Italianate Genre Paintings by Jan Weenix’, Oud Holland 97 (1983), pp. 81, 83, fig. 30; B. Broos, Meesterwerken in het Mauritshuis, The Hague 1987, pp. 47, 49 and fig. 2; F.J. Duparc, L.L. Graif, Italian Recollections: Dutch Painters of the Golden Age, Montreal (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) 1990, pp. 196-197, no. 64; B. Broos, Intimacies & Intrigues: History Painting in the Mauritshuis, The Hague-Ghent 1993, pp. 51, 53 and fig. 3; P. van den Brink et al., Het gedroomde land: Pastorale schilderkunst in de Gouden Eeuw, Utrecht (Centraal Museum), Frankfurt am Main (Schirn Kunsthalle) 1993, pp. 267, 268, fig. 54.1; L.B. Harwood, with contributions by C. Brown and A.C. Steland, Inspired by Italy: Dutch landscape painting 1600-1700, London (Dulwich Picture Gallery) 2002, p. 160

Montreal 1990, no. 64

Figures and livestock among ruins is a representative example of the work of Jan Baptist Weenix. Along with Nicolaes Berchem (1620-1683) and Jan Both (c.1615-1652), he is among the best-known Italianate painters of the mid-seventeenth century in the Northern Netherlands. In addition to landscapes, he painted portraits and still lifes. Weenix arrived in Rome in late 1642 and remained there for a period of four years. During that time he became a member of the Schildersbent (literally ‘band of painters’), a society largely composed of Dutch and Flemish painters, whose members referred to each other as Bentveughels, or ‘birds of a feather’. Weenix’s speech impediment earned him the nickname of Ratel (‘Rattle’). One of his patrons was Cardinal Pamphilj, who became Pope Innocent X in 1644. After returning to the Netherlands around 1647, Weenix primarily painted Italianate landscapes in which architecture plays a major role. From that time on, Weenix always signed his work Gio[vanni] Batt[ist]a Weenix, writing his forenames in the Italian manner. That standard signature can be found on this painting, which was on public display for the first time in many years at the exhibition Italian recollections (Montreal 1990). The recent restoration of the work also revealed a date: ‘16[5]6’. (1) The painter lived in Utrecht at that time, but this harbour scene is in no way influenced by that city’s rural surroundings. Instead, it harks back to memories of Italy.

This large painting is linked to other scenes of everyday Italian life that Weenix produced. Next to the ruin in the left foreground we see a small group of figures: a woman and child under a parasol. A young boy with a dog points emphatically at an approaching horseman; he may be asking for directions. Behind the horseman we see a woman with a baby in her arms and a shepherd tending his flock. The many other figures by the harbour in the right background – some of which are very small indeed – lend additional vivacity to the scene. The motif of the sitting woman appears in many paintings by Weenix; the woman under the parasol here has been found in more than ten of his works. (2) It seems that Weenix used drawings as a basis for his paintings. For instance, the artist’s depiction of the well-known antique sculpture on the pedestal behind the woman – Equus cum Leone, a lion attacking a horse – is probably derived from his own studies of that sculpture. (3) The same is certainly true of two immediately recognisable buildings, which he portrayed in meticulous detail. The first, in the middle of the picture, is the renowned Pyramid of Caius Cestius, dating from 12 BC, one of the best-preserved monuments of antiquity. Behind it we find the Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel), the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian erected on the bank of the Tiber in 136 AD. The two buildings, which Weenix placed in arbitrary locations in this landscape, also appear in other works by the artist in a more or less recognisable form. (4) In reality, the Castel Sant’Angelo is not next to a harbour with boats, and the pyramid is by Rome’s city walls, near the Porta San Paolo.

This painting powerfully demonstrates that Weenix was not only gifted in the depiction of the human form, but also an outstanding painter of livestock. The group of goats and sheep in the right foreground and the large flock further back, in the same plane as the horseman, have been convincingly portrayed. Here again, Weenix must have worked from drawings when painting these animals, since exactly the same sheep, lamb and two goats forming a cluster in the right foreground appear in a monumental painting, The calling of St. Matthew, on which he collaborated with Nicolaes Berchem. (5) That painting is traditionally dated around 1657, a year later than this piece.

In this landscape, Weenix idealises the warmth and light of a summer afternoon on the Italian coast. The successive bands of light and shade are a characteristic technique of his for enlivening a scene; not only is the tableau bathed in golden, quintessentially Italian light, but the contrasts also create a compelling illusion of depth. Weenix’s expertise as a painter is manifest in such details as the small figures in the far background of the picture, under the bridge by the pyramid and next to the moored boats. In truth, each one consists of just a few strokes of paint, which only coalesce into a figure when seen from some distance. One of the most striking figures is quite possibly the little boy in the foreground with the feather in his hat. His pose has been deftly captured and his finely decorated jacket is a real eye-catcher. The realistic rendering of materials in Figures and livestock among ruins and its beautiful colouring – with pastel hues that are sometimes remarkably light – contribute to the attractiveness of the scene.

Quentin Buvelot
The Hague, August 2006

(1) This restoration was carried out by Martin Bijl, Alkmaar, 2003.
(2) Montreal 1990, p. 196. A variation on the woman and child under a parasol can be found on a painting by Weenix in Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum; see E. Haverkamp-Begemann et al., Wadsworth Atheneum Paintings Catalogue I: The Netherlands and German-Speaking Countries: Fifteenth-Nineteenth Centuries , Hartford 1978, pp. 201-202, no. 169 and pl. 69.
(3) This sculpture appears in other paintings by Weenix, viewed from a different perspective; see, e.g., ibid., pp. 197, 208, fig. 73; London 2002, no. 39, and Hannema 1967, p. 78, no. 364. Weenix may have borrowed the image from Hendrick Goltzius’s drawing of the subject (Haarlem, Teylers Museum; see ibid., p. 160).
(4) Ibid., p. 197.
(5) Duparc 1980, p. 37; Broos 1993, p. 51.