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FAA Newsletter V

Coorte exhibition in The Mauritshuis, The Hague.

From February 23 – June 8, 2008 an exhibition of the works of Adriaen Coorte (active in Amsterdam and Middelburg, c. 1683-1707) will be held in the Mauritshuis, The Hague. During the exhibition approximately 35 of the most important works will be shown, out of a total of approximately 80 known works, signed and dated between 1683 and 1707. A richly illustrated catalogue will be published, separately in Dutch and English. Essays will address the development of Coorte’s oeuvre, the iconography and the renewed appreciation for his work. All exhibited works will be published in colour and a catalogue raisonne of the oeuvre will be included in the catalogue. We will participate with a recent acquisition, Mountainous landscape with ducks.
See below.

Two recent acquisitions
We are pleased to announce and publish here for the first time 2 recent acquisitions for the Collection: Adriaen Coorte’s Mountainous landscape with ducks and Lieve Verschuier’s Ships in a gathering storm. The former work is important in that it provides information as to where and from whom Coorte received his training; the latter is a wonderful example of a storm at sea (fairly rare in the painter’s oeuvre) by this Rotterdam painter. No doubt its excellent condition is a major reason for the monumentality of this little panel.

Once again, our gratitude goes to Quentin Buvelot who wrote the entries below.

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Adriaen Coorte
Middelburg and Amsterdam, active c.1683-1707

Mountainous landscape with ducks
Canvas, 84 x 70 cm
Signed and dated lower left: Adriaen Coorte 1683

Private collection, 1984; Charles Roelofsz Gallery, Amsterdam, 1986; sale Amsterdam, Christie’s, 20 May 1987, lot 207; Bob P. Haboldt & Co., Paris; Emmanuel Moatti Gallery, Paris, 2002-2004; private collection, France; Noortman Master Paintings, Maastricht

N. Bakker et al., Masters of Middelburg, Amsterdam (K. & V. Waterman Gallery) 1984, pp. 88, 204-205, no. 44 (as dated 1685); Tableaux anciens, Paris (Emmanuel Moatti Gallery) 2002, no. 9, repr. (as dated 1683); A. Wheelock, Small Wonders: Dutch Still Lifes by Adriaen Coorte, Washington (National Gallery of Art) 2003, pp. 5, 11, no. 1 and fig. 6: T. Dibbits, ‘Aardbeien, abrikozen, kruisbessen en perziken: Vier stillevens van Adriaen Coorte’, Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 52 (2004), pp. 157, 164, notes 7, 19; T. Dibbits, ‘Stillevens van Adriaen Coorte’, Mauritshuis in focus 17 (2004), p. 21; ‘Noortman Master Paintings’, Vitrine (2005), no. 7, repr.; E. Schavemaker, Noortman: One Hundred Master Paintings, Maastricht 2005, pp. 26-29, no. 6
Exhibitions: Amsterdam 1984, no. 44; Paris 2002, no. 9; Washington 2003, no. 1; Maastricht 2005, no. 6

Mountainous landscape with ducks, fully signed and dated 1683, is the earliest known work by Adriaen Coorte, a painter who is primarily known for his small and simple still life paintings. (1) The view behind the ducks opens up to a lake with figures near a boat and a mountainous landscape of a kind Coorte would never paint again. That he started his career painting waterfowl in landscapes is evident from another, more elaborate composition in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, made in the same year. (2) The present painting, however, is painted on a much bigger canvas and is one of the largest paintings Coorte ever made. (3) The two highly decorative works, atypical as they may be, are of crucial importance since as the earliest dated works they provide clues as to where Coorte received his training, and with whom. The style and composition of the two paintings are so closely related to the work of the bird painter Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695) that Coorte can be assumed to have worked in Hondecoeter’s studio in Amsterdam in the early 1680s. (4) Indeed, the birds in the two Coorte paintings are actually based on works by Hondecoeter. In the Oxford painting, the pelican and the Egyptian goose standing at the water’s edge and the recumbent smew are similar to birds in Hondecoeter’s ‘Floating feather’ in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, which dates from about 1680. (5) In the present painting, the black duck diving under water at lower left, only visible from its tail feathers and one red foot, was copied by Coorte from another painting by Hondecoeter. (6) In both of his earliest works Coorte repeated the clever compositional device employed by Hondecoeter in ‘The floating feather’: a domestic duck and two ducklings swimming into the scene from the right. Coorte drew his inspiration for the bird, which may be identified as a Muscovy duck originating in Brazil, from yet another picture by Hondecoeter, which also features the same black diving duck. (7) After 1683 Coorte stopped painting birds and concentrated exclusively on still lifes. (8) The plants behind the ducks – a variegated-leaved milk thistle at the base of a tree on a riverbank – are reminiscent of the work of yet another Amsterdam painter, Otto Marseus van Schrieck. The rendering of the moss in the present painting clearly links Coorte to this artist. (9)

The hypothesis that Coorte served a period of apprenticeship in Amsterdam around 1680 is supported by the fact that his later works continue a predominantly Haarlem and Amsterdam-based tradition of sober, small-format still lifes. (10) The impact of two pioneering Haarlem artists, Pieter Claesz (c.1597-1660) and Willem Heda (c.1596-1680), is clearly visible a generation later in the work of Amsterdam still-life painters. In the second quarter of the seventeenth century the two Haarlem still-life painters, best known for their ‘breakfast pieces’ and richly decked tables, had produced a number of small still lifes, consisting of a few objects on a stone ledge.
The predominantly sober still lifes by the Amsterdam artist Jan van de Velde III (1619/20-c.1661) were imitated by Coorte and his contemporaries. Having painted several still lifes of assorted fruit and vegetables on a stone ledge and two vanitas pieces, Coorte apparently suspended his activities after 1690; the next dated paintings that can be assigned to him appear in 1696.
From this time onwards the artist would confine himself almost exclusively to his now familiar genre, depicting one or two kinds of fruit or vegetables, or a couple of shells, on a stone ledge against a dark background. No real stylistic development can be discerned in this second period in Coorte’s career, which lasted 11 years. Some 80 paintings by Coorte are known from 1683 to 1707. (11)

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Coorte’s work was relatively unknown and his still lifes fetched only modest sums at auction. That he is appreciated far more today must largely be credited to the former director of the Dordrechts Museum, Laurens J. Bol (1898-1994), who published a catalogue raisonné of Coorte’s works in 1977, when this painting was still unknown. Bol’s monograph followed his exploratory study of the artist in the Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek (1952-1953) and a monographic exhibition held in the Dordrechts Museum in 1958. Although Bol was unable to find any biographical information on Coorte in the archives, his study of old auction catalogues revealed the presence of a large concentration of Coorte’s paintings in and around Middelburg between 1700 and 1900. (12) Given that Zeeland collectors were mainly interested in works by local painters, it is reasonable to assume that Coorte worked in or near Middelburg. This hypothesis is supported by an entry in the 1695-1696 annals of the Guild of St Luke in Middelburg, indicating that a ‘Coorde fijnschilder’ had been ordered to pay a fine of one Flemish pound for the unauthorised sale of ‘some paintings’. (13)
Quentin Buvelot
The Hague, August 2006

(1) Bol 1977.
(2) Canvas, 39 x 47.5 cm; Bol 1977, p. 44, no. 1 and fig. 1; C. White, Ashmolean Museum Oxford: Catalogue of the collection of paintings: Dutch, Flemish and German paintings before 1900 (excluding the Daisy Linda Ward collection), Oxford 1999, p. 29, no. A 813.
(3) The largest is another early painting featuring a landscape, dated to about 1685 (canvas, 100 x 112 cm; Bol 1977, p. 59, no. 73 and fig. 4).
(4) Dibbits 2004, pp. 157-159.
(5) Inv. no. SK-A-175; J.P. Filedt Kok et al., Nederlandse kunst in het Rijksmuseum 1600-1700, Amsterdam-Zwolle 2001, no. 100, repr.; Bol 1977, p. 13 and fig. 1; Dibbits 2004, p. 158, figs. 6-7.
(6) Sale New York, Sotheby’s, 25 January 2001, no. 123; Dibbits 2004, p. 159.
(7) Sale London, Christie’s, 17 December 1999, no. 16; Dibbits 2004, p. 159.
(8) Coorte did not paint another bird – again taking his inspiration from Hondecoeter – until 1699 (Bol 1977, pp. 52-53, no. 40; Dibbits 2004, p. 159).
(9) E. Schavemaker in Maastricht 2005, pp. 27, 29.
(10) Dibbits 2004, pp. 159-160.
(11) A painting in a private collection, not known to Bol, is signed and dated 1687, and not 1681 as has been assumed (canvas, 38 x 30.5 cm; see The Cabinet Picture: Dutch and Flemish Masters of the Seventeenth Century, London (Richard Green Gallery) 1999, pp. 160-161, repr.
(12) Bol 1977, pp. 3-6.
(13) Ibid., p. 4.

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Lieve Verschuier
Rotterdam 1627-1686

Ships in a gathering storm
Panel, 32.5 x 48.2 cm
Signed at lower centre, on a piece of driftwood: L. Verschuier

Johnny van Haeften Gallery, London, 2000; private collection, Germany; sale London, Sotheby’s, 14 December 2000, no. 135; Noortman Master Paintings, Maastricht

Sale catalogue, London, Sotheby’s, 14 December 2000, pp. 36-37, no. 135; J. Giltaij, ‘Lieve Verschuier (1627-1686): Een Rotterdamse scheepsbeeldhouwer en schilder’, in S. de Meer et al. (ed.), Schatkamer: Veertien opstellen over maritiem-historische onderwerpen aangeboden aan Leo M. Akveld bij zijn afscheid van het Maritiem Museum Rotterdam, Franeker 2002, p. 76, no. 38; E. Schavemaker, Noortman: One Hundred Master Paintings, Maastricht 2005, pp. 238-239, no. 71

Maastricht (The European Fine Art Fair) 2000; Maastricht 2005, no. 71
The work of the Rotterdam artist Lieve Verschuier, who is little known today, has a quite distinctive quality. Verschuier’s oeuvre reflects the way in which marine painting developed after about 1650. Instead of rather tonal paintings with a restrained use of colour, he generally produced scenes featuring strong light effects. His work is thus distinguished from that of his contemporaries by a different use of colour and stronger contrasts. Verschuier was trained in Rotterdam and probably also in Amsterdam; it seems likely that he spent some time working in the nearby village of Weesp in the studio of the well-known marine painter Simon de Vlieger (1600/1-1653), who taught the great Dutch marine painter Willem van de Velde. (1) After a few years in Italy, where he drew inspiration for specific light effects from none other than Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), the celebrated French painter of harbour scenes, he returned to his home town of Rotterdam. Besides working as a painter there, he was also active – like his father, Pieter Verschuier – as a sculptor, making ships’ parts for the Rotterdam admiralty. None of his work in the latter category has been preserved. The painted oeuvre of Lieve Verschuier, which was only reconstructed a few years ago, (2) consists of about 75 images. Besides marine paintings and river scenes, Verschuier also appears to have depicted some church interiors.

(3)The painting described here turned up in 2000, when it was shown to the public for the first time at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. (4) In spite of its modest size – it is one of Verschuier’s smaller works – there is a certain monumentality to this scene. We see a stormy sea in which a number of sailing-ships are afloat, two in the foreground and two more towards the horizon (the one at far right seems almost to merge with the waves). Only meticulous inspection reveals the presence of figures in the foremost vessel. The red cap worn by the helmsman of the boat in the right foreground and the bright green of algal growth near the boat constitute tiny colour accents in the otherwise highly monochrome scene, which is dominated by almost complete overcast skies. At first sight there is little action to be discerned in this scene, but Verschuier appears to have depicted the moment just before one of the ships sinks, judging by the savage churning sea and the narrow gap between the ships and the rock formation at left; the three-master on the left is almost taking in water. The low vantage point, whereby the sea is depicted as from a boat in the water, enhances the drama of the scene. Verschuier seems to have set out to involve the viewer in what is about to happen. He has added none of the spectators included by other marine painters of his day to enliven the image. (5) Verschuier placed his signature prominently in the foreground, on a piece of driftwood floating in the middle of the scene, (6) a detail not uncommon in seventeenth-century Dutch marine paintings.

Viewed in the wider context of Verschuier’s oeuvre, Ships in a gathering storm clearly adds a new element. (7) The Rotterdam artist generally painted harbour views or scenes set near the mouth of a river – boat-filled images with calm water in which life goes by peacefully. Here, the sea presents a menacing appearance, and the boats occupy a relatively minor part of the image, which consists largely of clouds and sea. A similar compositional form can be found much earlier, for instance in the work of the marine painter Jan Porcellis, who died in 1632. (8) Verschuier has painted the sea partly wet-in-wet, allowing the brown ground to shimmer through in some of the shaded sections of the waves. (9) In such details, this painting exemplifies the technical mastery of this gifted artist. The rendering of the waves is convincing, and is characterised by a painterly approach. Verschuier attracted posthumous criticism for his sometimes exaggeratedly schematic and meticulous rendering of the sea. (10) There is no sign here of an Italian or southern-looking light as in some of his more representative scenes. Perhaps this means that we are dealing here with an early work by Verschuier, possibly stemming from before the journey to Italy that he evidently made in 1653. (11) Since we have almost no dated works to go by, however, establishing a chronology for Verschuier’s oeuvre remains a very difficult task. (12)

Quentin Buvelot
The Hague, August 2006

(1) Giltaij 2002, p. 68.
(2) Cf. ibid., nos. 1-76.
(3) Ibid., nos. 70-72.
(4) Ibid., p. 76, no. 38.
(5) See the painting by Porcellis dated 1631 (The Hague, Mauritshuis); cf. J. Kelch, J. Giltaij, Lof der Zeevaart, Berlin (Staatliche Museen, Gemäldegalerie), Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 1996-1997, no. 24, repr.
(6) Verschuier did this more than once; cf. Giltaij 2000, p. 76, no. 40.
(7) Only one other painting by the artist depicts ships in a storm (Giltaij 2002, p. 76, no. 35).
(8) Cf. the painting dated to 1629 in Leiden, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal (C. Vogelaar et al., Rembrandts Landschaften, Kassel (Staatliche Museen, Gemäldegalerie), Leiden (Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal) 2006-2007, p. 19, fig. 5); and the painting in the collection of Mrs E.W. Carter, Los Angeles (J. Walsh, C.P. Schneider, A Mirror of Nature: Dutch Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Edward William Carter, Los Angeles-Boston-New York 1982, pp. 73-75, no. 18).
(9) E. Schavemaker in Maastricht 2005, p. 239.
(10) E.J. Goossens in N. Schadee, L. van der Zeeuw et al., Rotterdamse Meesters uit de Gouden Eeuw, Rotterdam (Historisch Museum) 1994-1995, p. 91.
(11) For Verschuier’s Italian trip, see Giltaij 2000, p. 69.
(12) Cf. ibid., pp. 70-71.