LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

 
 
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JAN CORNELISZ. VAN LOENEN (Utrecht [?] 1580/1600 – after February 21, 1634/1663)

Portrait of Willem van der Muelen, Age 3

signed and dated in the lower right center I. Van Loenen Fe. 1634 and inscribed in the upper left AETATIS with the first two letters conjoined SVAE 3. with the last two letters conjoined, and numbered on the reverse 3, 17, and 21

oil on panel

44 ½ x 33 ¾ inches          (113.6 x 85.7 cm.)

 

Sold to the Fritz Behrens Foundation for the Landesmuseum Hanover, Germany


PROVENACE

By descent in the Van der Muelen family from 1634 to

Willemina Hendrika van der Muelen (1863 – 1926) to her husband

Pieter François Louis Verschoor (1861 – 1937) and then to their son

Willem Lodewijk Verschoor (1893 – 1985) and thus by inheritance to his children

Duconia Gerda Louise Verschoor and Renier Frans Andreas Verschoor until 2012

EXHIBITED

Utrecht, De Tentoonstelling Van Oude Schilderkunst Te Utrecht, August 20 – October 1, 1894, no. 128 (mistakenly labeled Portrait of a three-year-old girl, from the collection of P.F.L. Verschoor, ,s Gravenhage)

LITERATURE

Dr. C. Hofstede de Groot, “Hollandsche Kunst in Schotland” in Oud Holland, Gebroeders Binger, Amsterdam, 1893, p. 227 (P.F.L. Verschoor, ,s Gravenhage)

E.W. Moes & C. Hofstede de Groot, Catalogus der Tentoonstelling van Oude Schilderkunst te Utrecht, August 20 – October 1, 1894, pp. 46 – 47, no. 128 (mistakenly identified as  portrait of a young girl, P.F.L. Verschoor, ,s Gravenhage)

Martinus Nijhoff, ed., “De Tentoonstelling Van Oude Schilderkunst Te Utrecht” in De Nederlandsche Spectator, no. 40, October 6, 1894, p. 323 (mistakenly identified as  portrait of a young girl)

A. Bredius, “Die Bilder aus der Blüthezeit der holländischen Malerei” in Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, Verlag von W. Spemann, Berlin & Stuttgart, 1894, p. 410 (Verschoor, Haag)

Prof. Dr. Carl von Lützow, “Die Ausstellung Alter Bilder In Utrecht” in Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, Leipzig, Verlag von E.A. Seeman, 1895, p. 71 (mistakenly identified as portrait of a young girl, P.F.L., Verschoor, Haag)

Dr. C. Hofstede de Groot, “De Wetenschappelijke Resultaten van de Tentoonstelling van Oude Kunst te Utrecht” in Oud Holland, Gebroeders Binger, Amsterdam, 1895, pp. 42 – 44, illustrated (mistakenly identified as a portrait of young girl, P.F.L. Verschoor, ,s Gravenhage)

Henri Hymans, “L’Exposition D’Art Ancien à Utrecht” in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1895, p. 56 (mistakenly identified as portrait of a young girl, M. Verschoor, à la Haye)

Hermann Alexander Müller & Hans Wolfgang Singer, “Johan Cornelisz van Loenen” in Allgemeines Künstler – Lexicon. Leben und Werke der berühmtesten bildenden Künstler, Literarische Anstalt, Rütten & Loening, Frankfurt am Main, volume 3, 1898, p. 27 (Verschoor, Haag)

Dr. Alfred von Wurzbach, “Jan Cornelis van Loenen” in Niederlandisches Künstler – Lexikon, volume II, Verlag von Halm und Goldmann, Wien and Leipzig, 1906, p. 59 (mistakenly identified as portrait of a young girl, P.F.L. Verschuver)

Dr. Ulrich Thieme & Dr. Felix Becker, “Johan Cornelisz. van Loenen” in Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, Veb E.A. Seeman Verlag, Leipzig, volume XXIII, 1907, pp. 321-322 (mistakenly identified as portrait of a young girl)

Henri Hymans & Max Rooses, “L’Exposition d’art ancien à Utrecht” in Oeuvre de Henri Hymans. Un Quart de Siecle de Vie Artistique en Belgique, volume III, M. Hayez, Brussels, 1920 – 1921 (mistakenly identified as portrait of a young girl, lent by M. Verschoor, à la Haye)

Dr. Christopher Brown, “Jan Cornelisz van Loenen” in The Hallwyl Collection of Paintings, Hallwyska Museet, Stockholm, 1997, p. 177 (mistakenly identified as portrait of a young girl, W.L. Verschoor Collection, The Hague)

Benjamin Roberts, Through the Keyhole: Dutch Child-rearing practices in the 17th and 18th century: Three urban elite families, Uitgeverij Verloren, Hilversum, 1998, p. 73, fig. 4, illustrated

Pieter Groenendijk, “Johan Cornelisz. van Loenen” in Beknopt biografisch lexicon van Zuid- en Noord–Nederlandse schilders, graveurs, glasschilders, tapijtwevers et cetera van ca. 1350 tot ca. 1720, P. Groenendijk, Utrecht & Leiden, 2008, p. 499

On the momentous occasion of his birth Andries van der Muelen (1591 – 1654) wrote “Our first son Willem was born in Utrecht on the 14th/25th of February 1631 – a Monday – at eight-thirty in the evening – the sun being in the 6th degree of Pisces and the moon one and a half days in the last quarter, in the 19th degree of Sagittarius about six days, half hour before the new moon which is in the north.”[1] The Van der Muelen family had fled Antwerp during the siege of 1585 and eventually settled in Utrecht by 1608. They were wealthy merchants and tradesmen, involved in enterprises such as the start of Dutch trade with West Africa which supplied them with gold, ivory and gum. Eventually they gained partial control of Amsterdam’s staple market. Machteld Catharina van Santen, the daughter of a city administrator of Delft, married Andries van der Muelen in 1627. They had two children a daughter Susanna (1629 – 1648) and one son Willem (1631 – 1690). By 1633 the family was living on the Kromme Nieuwegracht in Utrecht, an area lined with palatial homes. Susanna was married at the age of fifteen to the nobleman Albert Schach van Wittenau whose estate was in Balau, Prussia. In close vicinity to his home Willem attended the Hieronymus School in Utrecht, notable for its teaching staff as well as one of the largest Latin schools in the Netherlands.  At fifteen he was sent to the Latin School in Elbing, East Prussia to complete his education, as his father felt discipline would be stricter there than at home. Given that the average day at the Prussian Latin School began at 5 a.m. with Morning Prayer, followed by classes that ended at 10 p.m. with Evening Prayer, he was probably correct. In Elbing Willem lived with a professor and resided with a fellow student. In her letters his mother Machteld continually worried about his spirituality and moral character being corrupted, warning Willem to stay away from excessive drinking, playing cards and “debauche”. No evidence exists that Willem’s behavior was anything but exemplary, so much so that at the age of nineteen when studying at the University of Utrecht, his father complained that he was too much of a bookworm.[2] Willem received the title of heer or Lord of Nieuwkoop, Blijburg, Gieltjesdorp and Portengen,[3] and served on the town council of Utrecht beginning in 1674. Willem was quite forthright in voicing his opinions which ultimately held back his political career. He first married Constantia Deutz (1629 – 1670), from a wealthy Amsterdam family, in 1655 and had three children Jan (1655 – 1702), Willem (1658 – 1739) and Isabella (1660 – 1719). After her death he married Elisabeth Coymans from an Amsterdam family of bankers. This union produced one son Jan Carel born in 1672. Interestingly Willem did not send him to be educated in Prussia, but instead at the nearby Hieronymus School. Jan Carel would become the burgomaster of Utrecht. He also had twelve children. This appears to have set the pattern at least until the nineteenth century for succeeding generations of the Van der Muelen family to remain entrenched in Utrecht politics as well as prominent economic and cultural leaders.[4]

Willem at the age of three stands in a grey walled unadorned room on a grey flagstone tiled floor. The setting has the feel of an anteroom in a palace and is probably intended as an allusion to the wealth of the family.[5] Trompe l’oeil in effect, the signature of the artist, 1634 date and inscription of the sitter’s age appear to have been chiseled into the stone wall and paving. Dressed all in white with silver colored shoes he holds a bunch of cherries in his right hand. His outfit is made from a heavy white fabric ornamented with raised dots. It consists of a doublet and basque with a long leading string attached to his right shoulder and sleeves with vertical slashes revealing the white silk lining loose at the top and tightly bound at the forearm. Over the skirt is a linen apron trimmed with lace as is the cylindrical cuffs and flat shoulder collar. On his head is a tight-fitting white cap decorated with feathers.

Both boys and girls at this age wore skirts and aprons and there does not seem to be a set rule as to when it was deemed appropriate to transfer young boys into breeches, although the average age appears to have been about seven.[6] Leading strings were routinely attached to the upper garments of young children so an adult could support the child when learning to walk.[7] His lace trimmed collar, cuffs and apron are a further mark of prosperity as lace at this point was often more costly than woven fabrics or jewelry.[8] The visible folds in the skirt and apron mark them as freshly laundered and as having been just removed from a cupboard, signifying a well-run household. The high polish on the shoe follows the same idea. By adding feathers to Willem’s cap he has been transformed into a huntsman denoting not only his sex but station, as hunting was a privilege reserved for the nobility. The displaying of cherries, called the Fruit of Paradise, was an attribute often found in Dutch children’s portraits of the seventeenth century. It is believed to symbolize the sitter’s youth and the wish for fruitfulness in the child’s future.[9] Willem would normally not have dressed in such elegant fashion. Sharply focused by the brilliant contrasting of the white costume against the stark background this portrait is a statement for posterity. The painting testifies to the family’s position as well as embodies the timeless and universal feelings of pride, love and aspiration parents have for their children.

When this painting was exhibited in 1894 at The Exhibition of Ancient Art in Utrecht it ignited a firestorm of critical acclaim. Heralded in numerous publications for its elegance, charm and technical virtuosity it became the yardstick against which all other known works by Jan Cornelisz. van Loenen were measured. It further formed the basis for two museum attributions to Van Loenen. One is a Portrait of a Young Girl in the Stirling Maxwell Collection, Pollok House, Glasgow and the other Portrait of a Two-Year-Old Girl in the Hallwylska Museum, Stockholm. Such close affinities to female portraits would be somewhat surprising if it were not for the fact that when C. Hofstede de Groot wrote the Utrecht 1894 exhibition catalog he did not use Willem’s name but instead labeled the painting Portret van een driejarig meisje (Portrait of a three-year-old girl). Naturally all successive literature followed suit. We definitively know the painting to represent Willem as its identity was recorded by successive generations of the Van der Muelen family, with confirming documentation in the Iconographical Office in The Hague. Also there was only one painting by Van Loenen in the Utrecht show and it is certainly Willem as Hofstede de Groot published a photograph of it in his 1895 review, (see “De Wetenschappelijke Resultaten van de Tentoonstelling van Oude Kunst te Utrecht”, op. cit., p. 43). Besides the painting’s importance being obscured in the literature by such mislabeling, its public showing led to another important issue being raised among leading art historians of the period. Repeatedly its quality was compared to children’s portraits by Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, Paulus Moreelse, Dirck Santvoort and Cornelis de Vos (see C. Hofstede de Groot, op. cit., 1893, p. 227, A. Bredius, op. cit., 1894, p. 410, Alfred von Wurzbach, op. cit., 1906, p. 59 and Dr. Ulrich Thieme & Dr. Felix Becker, op. cit., 1907, p. 321.). Best expressed by Abraham Bredius in an article titled “Pictures from the heyday of Dutch Painting” he wondered “Where have all the other works by this master gone? From this brilliantly painted likeness one can only conclude that he must have been quite an experienced artist.” (see A. Bredius, op. cit., 1894, p. 410). Where indeed is part of the mystery that surrounds Van Loenen. His works are exceedingly rare[10] particularly his children’s portraits although he is known to have painted a number of them[11] with virtually nothing appearing on the art market for decades. Other than the portraits given to him in Glasgow and Stockholm, there is a portrait of a boy from 1637 in the Musée de Soissons, Abbaye Saint Léger, Soissons, France as well as a portrait of a young child with several portraits of other family members all from 1639 in Zuylen Castle, Oud-Zuilen just outside Utrecht.

Much of the particulars of Van Loenen’s life and career are unknown.[12] He is usually described as a native of Utrecht who worked in France and Italy by 1613 along with another Dutch painter Jan Rutgersz. Van Nieuwael (or Jean de Rutgeri de Nitbal). By 1619 they were working in Lyon and later Grenoble where Van Loenen stayed until 1628. A painter and draftsman he executed historical and religious works including an altarpiece for the Church of Sainte-Claire, Grenoble, portraits and armorial subjects. In 1626 along with Van Nieuwael and fellow artists Antoine Schanart and Antoine van Halder the interior decoration of Chateau de Vizille the home of François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières which consisted of 125 rooms commenced.[13] Based on the date of our painting Van Loenen must have returned to Utrecht by 1634. The only documentation that places him there is a will he made on February 21, 1643 with Petronella van Quirijnen (Jan Rutgersz. van Nieuwael’s wife) in which he named Van Nieuwael as his beneficiary due to his lack of offspring.[14]

Considering the grandeur of the Van der Muelen family, only an artist highly regarded in Utrecht would have been engaged to paint a portrait of their son, so by 1634 Van Loenen’s talent must have been well known. Additionally given the technical proficiency exemplified by the portrait of Willem, we are brought back to the question posed by Bredius, who found the lack of other examples of children’s portraits by Van Loenen inexplicable. It is a question Hofstede de Groot answered but did not solve; “The works of this talented master are for the most part attributed to Jac. Girretsz Cuyp, to Dirk Santvoort and also sometimes to Cornelis del Vos”, (see Hofstede de Groot, op. cit., 1893, p. 227). By raising the specter of numerous misattributions it is intriguing to think that after more than 100 years of not being shown in public the painting’s reintroduction could lead to the reevaluation of Van Loenen’s art and legacy. It also presents an almost unique situation and opportunity. To again quote Hofstede de Groot it is an “extraordinarily attractive work” (see Hofstede de Groot, op. cit., 1895, p. 42) on many levels. Due to the fact that the work remained within the same family for close to four centuries it is in superb condition. A portrait of an individual whose history is recorded from the day of birth until death, with the exception of royal sitters, is extremely rare. During its only exhibition it was repeatedly noted in the press as one of the highlights of an important show and contemporary art historians viewed it as a revelation. Its mislabeling as a Portrait of a three-year-old girl severed the connection after the dismantling of the exhibition. Jan Cornelisz. Van Loenen’s Portrait of Willem is remarkable in its beauty, condition, rarity and resurrected history, defining the meaning of a masterpiece.

 

 

[1] Benjamin Roberts, op. cit., p. 72. The two different dates given for the birth of Willem are common for the period and reference both the Julian and Gregorian calendar which were approximately ten days apart. Such precise detailing of Willem’s astrological chart was necessitated by the practice of doctors routinely checking natal horoscopes for healing purposes and maintaining the health of their patients. See Laurinda S. Dixon, Perilous Chastity, Women and Illness in Pre-Enlightened Art and Medicine, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1995, pp. 12-13.

[2] Benjamin Roberts, op. cit., pp. 11-12, 49, 60-61, 107-110, 175-180.

[3] Utrecht Archives, “Family Van der Muelen”, 2.1.5. In Holland nobles who had received knighthood were called heer. Along with the title came particular constitutional and social rights such as the privilege to hunt, the right to bear coats-of-arms and titles, the right to be tried by a special court and the right to be represented by a separate group at meetings of the States. Before the law nobles and non-nobles were not regarded as equals. Titles were hereditary through the male line. These afforded privileges remained intact until 1795. See H.F.K. Nierop, The Nobility of Holland, from knights to regents 1500 – 1650, University Press, Cambridge, 1993, p. 23.

[4] G. Coumans, “Geld en geluk: de familie Van der Muelen in gezinshistorisch perspectief 1600 – 1800” in Jaarboek Oud – Utrecht, 1984, De Vereniging Oud-Utrecht p. 101; and Benjamin Roberts, op. cit., pp. 61 – 63.

[5] Rudi Ekkart, “Jan van Noordt”, in Pride and Joy, Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands 1500 – 1700, exhibition catalogue Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, October 7 – December 31, 2000, p. 266.

[6] Saskia Kuus, “Skirts for Girls and Boys” in Pride and Joy, op. cit., pp. 79 – 82.

[7] Saskia Kuus, “Leading Strings and Protective Caps, Children’s Costume in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” in Pride and Joy, op cit., p. 77.

[8] Santina M. Levey and Patricia Wardle, The Finishing Touch, Frederiksborg Museum, Denmark, 1994, p. 4.

[9] James Hall, “Cherry” in Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1979, p. 330; and Rudi Ekkart, “Girl with a Basket of Cherries” in Pride and Joy, op. cit., p. 100.

[10] Christopher Brown, op. cit., 1997.

[11] “Johan Cornelisz van Loenen” in The Stirling Maxwell Collection, Pollok House, Glasgow Corporation, Museum and Art Galleries Dept., 1967 (?), p. 41, no. 75.

[12] Variations on his name in the literature include Jan van Loenen, Johan Cornelisz. van Loenen, Johan van Loenen, Jean de Loenen, Jean-Corneille van Loenen, Jean de Losne, Jean de Loanen, Jean de Laune, and Jean de Lone.

[13] Biographical information taken from Edmond Maignien, “Jean de Loenen” in Les Artistes grenoblois; architectes, armuriers, brodeurs, graveurs, musiciens, orfèvres, peintres, sculpteurs, tapisiers, tourneurs, etc., Drevet, Grenoble, 1887, pp. 222-224; Natalis Rondot, “Jean de Loenen” in Les graveurs d’estampes sur vivre à Lyon au XVIIe siècle, Imprimerie Mougin-Rusand, 1896, p. 34; Francis Miltoun, Castles and Chateaux of Old Burgundy and the Border Provinces, L.C. Page & Co., Boston, 1909, pp. 226-227; and Thieme-Becker, op. cit., p. 21.

[14] C. Hofstede de Groot, “Nieuwael”, op. cit., 1895, p. 44.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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