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Roodkrijttekeningen naar schilderijen van Adriaen van de Venne en hun mogelijke functie

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

This article presents for the first time fifteen red chalk drawings by Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne (I589-I662) as a cohesive group (catalogue in appendix i). Not only do they share the same drawing material, but they are also characterized by a careful execution and a high degree of finish. A distinct connection with Adriaen van de Venne's painted œuvre can be established: in no fewer than nine cases (cat. nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, II, I2 and I4) do the representation and measurements of the red chalk drawing correspond with a painting by Van de Venne. Although no paintings could yet be found which correspond with the remaining red chalk drawings it is highly likely that they did exist because the measurements of four of them (cat. nos. I, 2, 3 and I0) are consistent with panel formats frequently used by Van de Venne. Are these red chalk drawings detailed preliminary studies for the paintings, or faithful copies made afterwards? To answer this question four of the paintings which correspond with red chalk drawings were examined with infrared reflectography (IRR) or infrared photography so as to reveal the underdrawing. Three of the examined paintings (cat. no. 4, fig. a; cat. no. 7, fig. a; cat. I2, fig. a) show roughly executed underdrawings with numerous differences from the finished paintings. On the other hand, the corresponding red chalk drawings are highly detailed and identical with the finished paintings, without any visible alterations. Therefore we may conclude that they were not meant as preliminary studies but made subsequently. In the case of the fourth examined painting (cat. 9, fig. a) the situation is more complicated because the underdrawing has a more accurate and definitive character. However, this is exceptional in Van de Venne's œuvre : IRR research into a large number of his paintings has shown that he customarily made a sketchy underdrawing which was elaborated during the painting stage. This makes it all the more likely that in general the detailed red chalk drawings had no part in the genesis of the paintings, but were made subsequently. For reproducing the finished paintings the artist may have used mechanical transfer methods such as pouncing or tracing. Only one of the red chalk drawings (cat. no. I5) can be identified as a design made especially for a print. This small drawing which shows the portrait of Van de Venne himself also occupies a special position within the group because of its subject matter and size. An inscription on the reverse led Martin Royalton-Kisch to suggest that this and all other red chalk drawings were not executed by Adriaen van de Venne but by the engraver Daniel van den Bremden (I586/I587 -in or after I650?), as designs for prints. However, the reliability of the inscription on the reverse of cat. no. I5 is doubtful and because of the representative character of the portrait it seems most likely that Van de Venne himself was the author. While the style of the red chalk drawings differs from most of the drawings which Van de Venne executed in other materials (chiefly pen and ink), as was already noticed by Royalton-Kisch, there is a connection with a large drawing on parchment dated I638 and entitled 'Elk sijn gading' (Something for everyone; fig. I4) which is also carefully executed and displays a high degree of finish. An additional argument to exclude the engraver Van den Bremden as the author of the red chalk drawings is the fact that with the exception of the aforementioned portrait (cat. no. I5) none of them ever appeared in print. If the red chalk drawings after paintings by van de Venne were not meant for prints, what function can they have had? An obvious possibility is that the artist wanted to document his works visually before they left the studio. Other seventeenth-century painters, such as members of the De Braij family, are known to have created similar studio archives. Because Van de Venne's artistic production was characterized by countless repetitions and variants of the same compositions, not only in his paintings but also in his designs for book illustrations, he will certainly have wanted to register successful inventions for the purpose of making repeated use of them. Furthermore, the red chalk drawings may have served other purposes, for example to enable prospective clients to select variants or copies of existing works. Proceeding from a function as a studio archive, there is sufficient reason for localizing the red chalk drawings in Van de Venne's studio. In view of the high quality of their craftsmanship, by far the majority appears to be authentic; in a few cases a pupil may have been recruited for copying one of his master's paintings. That more red chalk drawings must have existed than the fifteen currently known can be deduced from the survey of drawings in this material for which only written sources survive (appendix II). It is to be hoped that the discovery of as yet unknown examples will provide a deeper insight into this aspect of Van de Venne's artistic output.


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