GERRIT LUNDENS (1622-1686)
Wedding Dance in a Tavern
signed, lower left: ‘g Lúndens f.’
oil on canvas
19 x 24 inches (49.5 x 61 cm)
Gerrit Lundens was born in Amsterdam, in which city he was baptised in September of 1622, and where he spent his entire life. In 1643, he married Angeniet Mathijsen who, like the artist himself, was of Flemish descent. It has been suggested that Lundens may have been trained by his sister’s husband, Abraham van den Hecken, who was his elder by some ten years. In any case it is worth noting that the genre paintings of both artists from the 1640s show considerable similarities in style and handling. The majority of Lundens’s works are indeed genre paintings, but he also painted portraits and produced the odd still life. His small but accurate copy of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch, painted before that canvas was reduced, is perhaps his most widely mentioned work. Next to his painting activities, Lundens was also an innkeeper and wine merchant, in which quality he went bankrupt in 1671. He was buried in Amsterdam in July of 1686, but the last known date on any of his paintings is 1675. Perhaps his bankrupcy and the failing economy after the French invasion of the Dutch republic in 1672 forced him to reduce his production.
The subject of this painting can easily be recognized as a wedding party, with the bride and groom dancing in the centre. The girl’s little crown clearly identifies her as the bride, while the drapery on the back wall, which is decorated with three crowns, indicates a wedding: the newly married couple is seated before it at dinner. Such draperies are already to be found in Pieter Brueghel’s images of wedding parties.
Weddings were major events in seventeenth-century Holland. The couples and their families spent all they could afford on food, drink, and entertainment for the wedding guests. Less well-to-do families would combine weddings and shared the expenses of the party.
This kind of partying, however, was condemned by the church, and dancing was even strictly forbidden by the Calvinist ministers. They considered it ‘vain, rash and unchaste’ and on top of that, some doctors advised that it was an unhealthy activity, especially after dinner, to ‘shake the body violently’. Nevertheless, dancing was widely popular among the seventeenth-century Dutch, and so were paintings of dancing parties. They may well have reminded their owners and others who viewed them of the merry time they had at their own wedding party and other couple’s parties they had attended. As an innkeeper, Lundens probably hosted many such parties himself.
Gerrit Lundens produced an entire series – well over a dozen - of compositions similar to this one in the course of his painting career. The earliest known dated example is from 1646, the last was painted some thirty years later, in 1675.
The composition of the present painting is the most common and perhaps the most attractive among them, but occasionally the artist ‘zoomed in’ more closely on the protagonists. In some of these scenes, he situated himself among the wedding guests. One may wonder whether occasionally Lundens portrayed an actual bridal couple in these pictures, but in most of them the features of both the guests and the bride and groom do not appear to have particularly individual characteristics. Of the present painting, a second, unsigned version is known. In the composition itself there are a few minor differences, but the faces of the couple and their guests appear to be virtually the same in both versions.
Since Lundens did not vary his handling of this type substantially over time, it is not easy to date these works accurately. The signature, however, is of a later type and in fact almost identical to the one on the painting that is dated 1675. Therefore it is most likely that this Wedding dance was painted later in Gerrit Lundens’s career, perhaps around 1670.
Fred G. Meijer