LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

 
 
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ANTHONY CRUSSENS (Brussels, active 1652-1665)

Portrait of a Gentleman

signed with monogram in the lower left AC. F

on an old handwritten label on the former backing of the frame: ‘Pen and ink drawing on parchment.  Cromwell.  Attributed to Dobson.  Lord Roslyn Sale, Christies, May 1896.  Given to H.C.L. Xmas 189?  by T.R. and E.K.R.[1]

pen in brown ink on parchment

149 x 132 mm.


PROVENANCE

Private Collection, United States

LITERATURE

Charles Dumas, “Anthonie Crussens: aanvullingen op de catalogus gepubliceerd in 2000” in Delineavit et Sculpsit, Druk, Leiden, August 2014, pp. 26-29, no. 8 (full page color illustration), p. 31, no. 97

According to the inscription on a label formerly attached to the backing of the frame, this drawing was once attributed to the British artist William Dobson (1611-1646) and thought to represent Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). Although Dobson was well known for his paintings of half-length portraits, it is clear that this one was not drawn by him, nor can the portrayed gentleman be identified as the famous statesman. Although the man on the drawing is anonymous, the draughtsman can be no one else than the Flemish artist Anthony Crussens, whose initials are to be found in the lower left corner.

Very little is known about the life of Crussens.[2] His birth and death dates are unknown. From dated and annotated drawings by him we can conclude that he worked in Brussels between 1652 and 1665. Since he is not recorded in the archives of the guilds of St. Luke of Brussels and Antwerp, we assume he was an amateur artist. Only one painting and one print by him are known. He seems to have had a strong preference for drawings, because some 40 of them have survived (this number can be augmented with another 50, that are listed in old auction catalogues and other sources, but are not known today). These drawings are now scattered around the world and can be found in private collections, and museums and printrooms in Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Leyden, Berlin, Würzburg, London, Vienna, Florence, St. Petersburg, Moscow and New York. Of these drawings about seventy-five percent are landscapes, often in wintertime, mainly depicting hilly areas at the edge of a wood. In these landscapes there are always a few figures: soldiers, hunters, horsemen, farmers or beggars. Sometimes there is a castle or monastery that takes a prominent position. The remaining twenty-five percent of his drawings are for the most part genre scenes: soldiers in action, or peasants of a rather satirical type, which often represent one of the five senses. Good examples of the last are three drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which symbolize Hearing, Smell and Touch.[3]

All of Crussens's drawings are on parchment. Nearly all of them have modest dimensions and are drawn in pen in brown ink, sometimes over traces of a sketch in black chalk. His drawing style, with sharp contours and many cross-hatchings, is very characteristic and easily recognizable. This style, imitating engravings, is reminiscent of late 16th-century drawings and seems a bit old fashioned for the middle of the 17th century, but stayed popular with a few artists, even until the end of the 18th century.

This Portrait of a Gentleman is unique within the oeuvre of Crussens. Not one other portrait by him is known which brings us to the question if we can actually speak of a portrait. Perhaps this male is better interpreted as a genre figure. In contrast to the satirical low life figures mentioned above, this gentleman in his rich costume could represent high life. The gloves in his left hand and the figures in the background (hunters in the left corner and a horseman to the right) seem to accentuate this impression. Another reason why this might not be a portrait, is the right arm of the man, which appears broken and rests in a sling created by the sleeve of his coat. If his arm were really broken, it would have been extremely unusual that the sitter allowed such a depiction of himself. Possibly this broken arm had a special (satirical?) meaning in 17th-century Flanders, of which we are no longer familiar with today.

Charles Dumas

 

 

[1] The information on the Lord Roslyn sale cannot be substantiated.  According to the previous owner of the drawing the initials on the old label stand for Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts (H.C.L.), President Theodore Roosevelt (T.R.) and E.K.R. (his wife Edith Kermit Roosevelt).

[2] For Crussens see: Ch. Dumas, 'Anthonie Crussens, een vergeten amateur', Delineavit et Sculpsit, No. 22 (November 2000), pp. 1-46.

[3] Ibid., pp. 12-13, ill. 13-15.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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