LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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JACOB VAN SPREEUWEN (Leiden 1609/1610 – after 1650)

An Artist in his Studio

oil on panel

12 x 14 1/2 inches          (30.5 x 36.8 cm.)


PROVENANCE

Thomas Jefferson Bryan (1802-1870), New York, by 1853

Bryan Gallery of Christian Art, New York

By whom given to the New York Historical Society in 1867 (inv. 1867.114)

New York Historical Society sale, Sotheby’s, New York, January 12, 1995, lot 44

Robert Noortman, Maastricht, until 2002

 

EXHIBITED

Jamestown Settlement, Williamsburg, Virginia, The World of 1607, Special Exhibition, Artifacts of the Jamestown Era From Around the World, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation of the Commonwealth of Virginia, from July 11, 2007 – October 10, 2007

 

LITERATURE

Catalogue of the Bryan Gallery of Christian Art from the Earliest Masters to the Present Time, New York, 1853, no. 91, p. 8 (as Gerard Douw)

R. Grant White, Companion to the Bryan Gallery of Christian Art: containing critical descriptions of the pictures and biographical sketches of the painters; with an introductory essay and an index, New York, 1853, no. 91, p. 57 (as Gerard Douw, The Artist in his Atelier)

Catalogue of the Museum and Gallery of Art of the New York Historical Society, Printed for the Society, New York, 1862, p. 33, no. 289, (as Gerard Douw, The Artist in his Atelier)

Catalogue of the Museum and Gallery of Art of the New York Historical Society, Printed for the Society, New York, 1866, p. 33, no. 289 (as Gerard Douw, The Artist in his Atelier)

Henry Abbott, Catalogue of the Museum and Gallery of Art, New York Historical Society, Printed for the Society, New York, 1871, p. 33, no. 289 (as Gerard Douw, The Artist in his Atelier)

Catalogue of the Museum and Gallery of Art of the New York Historical Society, Printed for the Society, New York, 1881, p. 33, no. 289 (as Gerard Douw, The Artist in his Atelier)

Catalogue of the Gallery of Art of The New York Historical Society, Printed for the Society, New York, 1915, p. 71, no. B-114 (as Gerard Douw, The Artist in his Atelier)

Freemont Rider, Rider’s New York City and Vicinity including Newark, Yonkers and Jersey City, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1916, p. 250 (as Gerard Douw, The Artist in his Atelier)

Freemont Rider, Rider’s New York City, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1924, p. 340 (as Gerard Douw, The Artist in his Atelier)

Seymour Slive, “Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait in a Studio” in The Burlington Magazine, CVI, 1964, pp. 485, 486, illustrated fig. 5 (as Gerrit Dou, An Artist (Rembrandt?) in a Studio)

Peter C. Sutton, A Guide to Dutch Art in America, 1986, p. 177 (as from Dou’s circle, The Artist’s Studio)

Marina Suiderskeys, “The Century of Genius”, in The World of 1607 Special Exhibition, Artifacts of the Jamestown Era From Around the World, Jamestown – Yorktown Foundation, 2007, p. 98 (Jacob van Spreeuwen, An Artist in his Studio)

 

The light shines brightly on a young artist in his studio.  His dog stares attentively at the easel waiting for the next stroke.  A plaster cast after Michelangelo stands on a table to the artist’s left, a source of inspiration and guidance. Based on the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo in the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwerkerk) in Bruges, such replicas were often featured in atelier scenes in seventeenth century Holland.[1]

It is hardly surprising that this painting was long regarded as an autograph work by Gerrit Dou.  It is Jacob Van Spreeuwen’s dramatic use of light and shadow that most strongly reflect Dou’s early work, which in itself is reminiscent of Rembrandt, and in Slive’s 1964 article the suggestion that the sitter might be Rembrandt is put forth.[2]

It has been thought that Van Spreeuwen was a pupil of Dou’s, but there is no supporting documentation.  There has been further speculation that he worked in Rembrandt’s studio but this too cannot be substantiated.  Not a great deal is known about the Leiden genre painter except for the obvious influence of these two great masters, the body of his work being concealed under wrong attributions.

The Scholar in his Study at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, is among the definitive works by Van Spreeuwen, and shares the most common elements with our painting.[3]  Also long thought of as by Dou, they have almost identical interiors with the same objects such as the overturned large leather book and ebony and gold gorget displayed in lower right foregrounds.  Raleigh’s scholar and our painter are seated in large chairs, slightly to the left of the center, next to tables flanked by columns hung with pouches.  In Raleigh’s painting a mandolin is on display, in ours a violin, both meant to underline the interlocking nature of scholarly pursuits among the arts.  Both are depictions of quiet contemplation by lone figures pursuing their chosen paths.

 

 

[1] Seymour Slive, op. cit., p. 485.

[2] Ibid, p. 485.

[3]  See: W. Sumowski, Gemalde der Rembrandt-Schüler, Landau/ Pfalz 1983, vo. IV, p. 2564, no. 1712, illustrated.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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