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'Een merkwaardige verzameling Teekeningen' door Leonaert Bramer

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

A century ago the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam acquired a 19th-century album containing 56 rapid sketches in black chalk after 17th-century, mostly Dutch paintings (Note 1). The sketches, which are numberd, have the names of the painters wrillen on them in the artist's own hand. They were first published in 1895 (Note 2) by E. W. Moes, who concluded that they were by a Delft artist, and C. Hofstede de Groot, who convincingly attributed them to Leonaert Bramer (1596-1674) and identified two of the paintings in question. Since then various other paintings have been identified (Notes 5, 7, 8, 11 and 12), notably by A. Blankert, who has made his findings available for the present publication, and other drawings belonging to the series have been found, Frits Lugt leading the way here (Notes 9 and 10). The present study, the first to be undertaken in depth since 1895, has brought to light three more sketches after paintings by Bramer himself (cat. nos.9-11) and one probably after Wouwerman (cat. no.65), while seven more paintings have been identified and one of the sketches without a name has proved to be after a painting by Antonio Maria Viani. Two lists of the sketches so far found are given here: that of State I reproduces the original order, that of State II gives the artists in alphabetical order as they appear in the catalogue published here. These sketches are of exceptional documentary value, since they have not only given us the names of some previously unknown painters, such as M. de Berch, J. Garbaal, P. Monincx and A. Pick, but they have also revealed unexpected aspects of some well-known ones, e.g. a still life by P. van Groenewegen, a Dutch landscape by J.B. Weenix and a genre piece of a very Utrecht character by L. de Jongh. Moreover, the sketches afford a fine glimpse of collecting in Holland in the 17th century, a subject otherwise known uirtually only from non-visual documents. On the back of one of the drawings (cat. no.6) appears a list of the owners of the pictures sketched (Fig. I), possibly written by Bramer himself. This is reproduced here in an amplified version of Moes' transcription, with one completely new name yielded by the present study. The styles given in the list suggest that the men concerned appear in it in order of their social standing. The first, Simon Graswinckel (c.1611-71), was a member of a wealthy Delft family of brewers and regents. He owned a great deal of property in and around Delft, but is reported by his brothers-in-law to have spent his time in gaming-houses and taverns (Note 30). His will of 1663 is known, but no paintings are mentioned in it. The second man on the list was probably a Van Beresteijn, another family from the wealthy upper echelons of Delft society. His precise identity came to light in a roundabout way via the inventory of 28 February 1652 of Adriaen van Vredenburg, in which are listed a number of paintings that were very probably sketched by Bramer (Note 32), notably one of Jezebel, this mention and Bramer's sketch being virtually unique indications of this subject in Dutch 17th-century painting. Vredenburg does not appear in the list of owners of the paintings, but on his death his property went to his stepdaughter, whose guardian he had been and who married Theodorus van Beresteijn in November 1652. Antonie van Bronchorst is known only from the commission he gave Bramer in 1653 to painl frescoes in his house (Note 34), while Capitein van der Bon..., Nicolaas van der Werch and Johan Persijn have not yet been traced in the Delft archives. Willem de Langue (1599-1666), on the other hand, was a lawyer and a connoisseur of paintings unparalleled in Delft in the mid 17th century (Note 36). He himself made the inventories of the paintings in important estates and he numbered many artists among his clientele (Note 37). Portraits of him and his wife by Van Vliet are known (Note 38), while he also appears as an officer in a militia piece of 1648 by Jacob Willemsz Delff (Fig. 2). Abraham de Cooge (before 1600-after 1680) was the most versatile person in the list, being an engraver, painter, dealer in tulip bulbs, organs and paintings and pottery manufacturer (Note 39). He was registered in the Guild of St. Luke in Delft in 1632 and two paintings by him are known (Note 40). In 1646 Leonaerl Bramer made illustrations to the picaresque novel Lazarilo de Tormes for him (Note 17). In the 1650's De Cooge was increasingly involved in art-dealing and that on no small scale. He also had representatives in Antwerp, so was probably among the biggest art-dealers in the Northern Netherlands. Adam Pick (c. 1622-before 1666) enrolled in the Guild of St. Luke in Delft in 1642 (Note 43) and was active in the town up to the early 1650's as a painter of landscapes, genre pieces and still lifes (Fig.3) and also as the keeper of the Toelast ( Wine Cask) inn. He probably moved to Leiden, where he is mentioned in 1654 as a vintner, in 1653, perhaps as a consequence of the death of his first wife in 1652, f or he certainly sold the inn that year. The inventory of their joint property drawn up in 1653 includes a list of paintings, which tally with nos.8(?) -98 in the State I list. Only one painting by Pick is known (Fig.3), plus the sketch by Bramer after another (cat. no.44). Reinier Jansz Vermeer (1591-1652, Note 46), the father of Johannes, started out as a silk weaver, but appears in 1629 as an innkeeper and in 1631 was registered in the Guild of St. Luke in Delft as an art-dealer. From then on he came into frequent contact with local painters, Bramer included, but his dealing was probably only a sideline of his innkeeping. He died in October 1652. The last owner on the list is Bramer himself, who returned to Delft in 1628 after a lengthy period in France and Italy (1614-27, Note 49). He played a leading part in the Guild of St. Luke and was among the most successful painters in Delft around the middle of the 17th century. Later in life, however, he was often in financial difficulties (Note 50). He was one of the very few Dutch fresco painters (Note 51), as well as a painter of history and genre pieces and a prolific draughtsman and illustrator (Note 52), while just one document provides evidence of his dealing in paintirtgs (Note 54). The presence of works by Bramer himself among the sketches seems to rule out the theory that he made them as an aide mémoire for his own use (Note 15), while their very rapid character makes it unlikely that they were produced for one of the owners as an art-object. It also seems highly improbable that the collectors/owners would have wanted their collections of paintings sketched together in one book. The most acceptable suggestion appears to be that they were made in connection with a forthcoming sale of pictures, particularly as three of the owners listed were involved in art-dealing, while in the cases of Vermeer, Pick and Van Beresteijn there was every reason for paintings from their collections being sold around the end of 1652 or beginning of 1653: Vermeer's death left his family in dire financial straits, Pick will probably have sold his pictures (as he did his inn) before moving to Leiden and Van Beresteijn will probably have wanted to realize some money on his wife's inheritance. Thus the dates of Vermeer's burial in October 1652 and Pick's inventory of March 1653 would seem to provide crucial clues to the dating of the sketches, which were probably made in rapid succession, to judge from the unity of style, despite the great diversity of the models, and the straightforward consecutive numbering. Presumably the intention was to bring these pictures from Delft collections together for a sale (Note 18) and Bramer was commissioned to make sketches in advance (or even to make a certain selection, Note 19) possibly to give an idea of what was on offer to collectors or dealers elsewhere (which might explain the 'inking in' of the painters' names originally written in chalk on five of the drawings, cat. nos. 17, 35, 36, 47 and 64). Bramer made such chalk inscriptions on ten of the drawings (Note 20), probably while sketching them. Afterwards he inscribed and numbered all of them in ink (Note 5). Notes in another 17th-century hand appear on cat. nos.22 and 24. The sheets may all have been of the same size originally, but have since been cut down, often wholly or partly along the framing lines around the sketch. This may well have been done by Bramer himsef or the dealer he made them for. Just over half of them remained together and were stuck into the present album in the 19th century. There are no portraits among the sketches and only two stll lifes and two marine paintings, but eleven Italianate landscapes and 22 history paintings. Thus the subjects differ somewhat from the categories arrived at by Montiasfor mid 17th-century Delft from his study of inventories (Note 56). The preference for history pieces is probably to be explained by the high social standing of the owners. The majority of the pictures were very modern for that time and of the 41 artists, 28 were still alive in 1652-3 and eight of them were only 35 or younger. Bramer's material contradicts Montlas' conclusion that Delft collectors showed a preference for local painters (Note 58), whose work amounted to 40-50% of that listed in the inventories. Of Bramer's 41 painters, only thirteen were from Delft (Note 59) and only five are found in Montias' list of the most common painters in Delft inventories. Thus the pictures sketched by Bramer fall outside the 'normal Delft pattern' and evince a less provincial taste. However, the collectors were still not among the leading figures of their day in this field by comparison with, for example, Boudewijn de Man of Delft (Note 62), whose collection included works by Goltzius, Bloemaert, Rubens, Rembrandt and Ter Brugghen in 1644. The pictures sketched by Bramer were presumably to be brought together for public auction and the sketches may very probably have been made with an eye to the sale catalogue. While sale catalogues are known in the second half of the 17th century, they only relate to very important collections, which makes these sketches very unusual as a documentation of a sale of pictures from average well-to-do collectors and dealers. The collection of sketches as such certainly has no parallel at this period (Note 64).


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