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Aantekeningen over Venus en Adonis-taferelen van Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert en zijn invloed op de Hollandse schilderkunst

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image of Oud Holland - Journal for Art of the Low Countries

Attention is drawn to an unpublished oil sketch belonging to Mr. Guy Folkner of Brussels (Fig. 11), which is a modello for the signed painting by Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert (1613/14-54) of Venus Lamenting Over Adonis in Jagdschloss Grunewald near Berlin (Fig. 2, Note 1). Another version, not signed and formerly attributed to Anthony van Dyck, is in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Fig. 3, Note 2). The pose of Adonis is derived from the figure of Christ in the central panel of Rubens' Descent from the Gross (1611-12) in Antwerp Cathedral (Fig. 4, Note 3) it should be noticed that the left arm of Adonis is a reverse rendering of the right arm of Christ (Fig. 5). However, the figures are treated by Willeboirts in the more elegant style of Van Dyck, the predominant influence on Flemish history painting shorty after 1640 or thereabouts. Two paintings by Willeboirts, ectch representing a different episode in the story of Venus and Adonis, are known to have belonged to the collections of the House of Orange: the Venus Lamenting Over Adonis now at Jagdschloss Crunewald and an Adonis Leaving Venus, formerly in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, which was destroyed by fire in 1940 in Middelburg, where it was on loan (Fig. 6). It is not easy to determine which of the two corresponds with the picture that Willeboirts painted for the Stadholder Frederick Henry in 1642 and which thus belonged to the first, commission received from him (Note 7), since in the documents concerned this is referred to only as Venus and Adonis. However, some characteristics of the painting formerly in the Mauritshuis are to be found in other works by Willeboits dating from 1646 and 1647 (Notes 20- 22) , so that it must have been done at about the same time as these. The painting at Grunewald may represent a somewhat early tage in his artistic evolution and might thus correspond with the one made for Frederick Henry in 1642. The discovery of this modello brings the number of known oil sketches by Willeboirts up to four, of which it is the earliest. The others are: a bozzetto in the Louvre for the large painting of The Princes Maurice and Frederick Henry on Horseback, commissioned by Amalia van Solms in 1649-50 for the Oranjezaal in the Huis ten Bosch (Note 24), a sketch for the large altarpiece of The Immaculata painted for the high altar of the church at Fuensaldana in 1652-4 and now in the Museo Nacional at Valladolid (Note 25), and an oil sketch in the Musée de Picardie at Amiens for The Assumption of the Virgin in the Church of Our Lady at Duffel (Note 26). A fifth sketch, a Venus and Adonis on paper belonging to the Earl of Wemyss (Note 27), proves to be the model for another Adonis Leaving Venus (Fig. 9), attributed to Willeboirts by Ludwig Burchard, which was on the art market in Berlin in 1930 (present whereabouts unknown). Here we see the same type of Venus as in, for example, The Toilet of Venus signed and dated 1644, which probably belonged to the House of Orange (Fig. 10, Note 29) and which came up at an auction in Stockholm in 1981. It seems likely that the paintings which Willeboirts and other Flemish painters made for the court in The Hague exerted some influence on Dutch painters active at the same period. Mythological pieces by Ferdinand Bol (Fig. 12, Note 45), Jacob Backer (Note 50), Caesar van Everdingen (Note 51) and others, in which a 'elassistic' tendency appears after about, 1650, do indeed show a rather similar elegant style and are characterized by the same idyllic mood. However, this is a matter which still requires further study.


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