LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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WERNER VAN DER VALCKERT (The Hague c. 1580/85–Amsterdam c. 1627)

An Allegory of Music

Indistinctly signed and dated 1625 along the right edge of the music sheet in the boy’s hand

oil on panel

19 ¼ x 25 ¾ inches          (50.2 x 66.7 cm.)


PROVENANCE

Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, London, April 3, 1985, lot 250 (as attributed to Otto van Veen)

Anonymous sale, Christie’s, London, April 24, 2009, lot 5 (as Jan Lievens)

 

LITERATURE

Bernhard Schnackenburg, Jan Lievens, Friend and Rival of the Young Rembrandt, Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersburg, Germany, 2016, no. R4 (as not by Jan Lievens, whereabouts unknown, and illustrated with an image prior to cleaning)

 

 

In 2017 Dr. Bernhard Schnackenburg published his book on Jan Lievens along with a catalogue raisonné of his early work from 1623 – 1632. When this work was sold by Christie’s London in 2009, it was catalogued as having been painted by Jan Lievens. Dr. Schnackenburg published this painting in his rejected attribution section, along with an illustration of this painting before its cleaning. After its recent cleaning a partially effaced signature appeared as well as the date of 1625. Dr. Schnackenburg in his catalogue raisonné had regarded the work as “presumably by Werner van den Valckert”, after its cleaning there was no doubt. In a written communication dated April 24, 2019, he wrote “The painting looks splendid after restoration. It is a typical work by Werner van den Valckert showing the influence both by Rubens and Goltzius.” He has further noted that the figures of the old man and young boy in An Allegory of Music appear in the 1620 signed work by Valckert, Christ Blessing the Little Children, in the Utrecht Museum Catharijneconvent.

Alois Riegl in his landmark book on group portraiture wrote, “Werner van den Valckert of Amsterdam has the distinction of being the first artist to solve the problem of fully unifying the external coherence of a group portrait in place and time. Art history has little to tell of him. And yet he is surely one of the greatest artists of his day, not only because of the quality of the individual portrait heads, but also because of the splendid impression his group portraits make as a whole.” [1]

What is known about Valckert’s career is that he worked as a painter, etcher, woodcutter, draughtsman and writer. It is believed that he started his career in The Hague in 1605. He began his artistic training with the stained-glass painter Cornelis Sybertsz. Monicx van Montvoort and married his daughter Jannetje Cornelis. Between 1600 – 1605 he entered the Guild of St. Luke in The Hague. At first, he worked as a printmaker executing both woodcuts and engravings. [2] According to Arnold Houbraken he was at one point also the student of Hendrick Goltzius. [3] About 1613 Valckert moved to Amsterdam and established himself as a painter where he specialized in subject and portrait painting. He is recorded as the teacher of Andries Jeremias. [4]

Works by Valckert formed part of the permanent collections of the museums of Amsterdam, Berlin, Boston, Chateauroux, Copenhagen, Emden, Leiden, Louisville, New York, San Francisco, and Utrecht.

As a late Mannerist painter, Valckert’s allegories in particular display a unique and compelling imagery, with An Allegory of Music, being an excellent example. This was a popular subject for paintings in the seventeenth century. In our panel four figures are depicted singing from songbooks and a sheet of music. The Moor’s gaze directly engages the viewer. His presence is intended to infuse an element of exoticism into the scene. From the sixteenth century on black Africans lived in The Netherlands working as soldiers, musicians, dancers and servants. Slavery was outlawed within the Dutch Republic. As their numbers increased so too did their representations in art. The majority of these images were of Moors who came from North Africa. [5] One path of advancement lay in the military, where “the earliest blacks to appear in uniform were apparently musicians. Evidence of this can be seen in numerous works of art from the seventeenth century forward.” [6] Due to this association, the presence of a Moor in this panel further augmented the parable on display for the contemporary viewer.

Next to the Moor is Euterpe, the Muse of music, wreathed in her traditional attribute, a stunningly rendered garland of flowers. Her presence defines the work as an allegory. Works depicting this theme alluded to the importance of living a balanced and harmonious life[7] from start to finish, as personified by the boy and bearded old man in the left and right corners of the foreground.

 

We would like to thank Dr. Bernhard Schnackenburg for confirming An Allegory of Music to be by Werner van der Valckert and his assistance in the writing of this entry.


[1] Alois Reigl, The Group Portraiture of Holland, The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, Los Angeles, California, 1902, reprinted 1999, p. 229.

[2] Biographical information taken from C. Schuckman, “Werner van den Valckert” in The Grove Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 2007; “Omnia Vincit Amor, Werner van den Valckert” on gallery@matthiesengallery.com; and “Werner van den Valckert” on rkd.nl (RKD Explore).

[3] Arnold Houbraken compiled from 1718 – 1721 the first comprehensive survey of Dutch painting from the Golden Age in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en schilderessen.

[4] C. Schuckman; Matthiesen Gallery, and RKD, op.cit.

[5] Alison Blakely, Blacks in the Dutch World, Indiana University Press; Bloomington Indiana, 1993, p. 119; Meagan Ingerson, Africa as Accessory, Portrayals of Africans in Dutch Art 1600 – 1750, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, 2013, pp. 1,3; and Dienke Hondius, Black Africans in Seventeenth Century Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, jps.library.utoronto.ca

[6] Alison Blakely, op.cit., p. 236.

[7] Alexandra Libby, Ilona van Tunien & Arthur K. Wheelock Jr, “Allegory of Hearing, Allegory of Smell, Allegory of Touch, from the Series of the Five Senses” in the Leiden Collection Catalogue, www.theleidencollection.com/arcihve.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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