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Een gehistorieerde familiegroep van Ferdinand Bol: twee fragmenten in Dordrecht en Lyon

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

For some time it has been thought that Ferdinand Bol's Portrait of a couple in a landscape in the Dordrecht Museum (fig. i) is part of a larger picture (note 3). The cropping of the composition on all four sides and the somewhat nondescript posture of the figures have given rise to this suspicion, which is confirmed by the absence of cusping, revealed by X-rays, along the edges of the canvas. The description of a painting sold at an Amsterdam auction in 1804 makes it clear that the original composition was somewhat taller and considerably wider than the canvas now in Dordrecht, and that it also showed a shepherd resting on the left with some sheep and a ram (notes 3 and 4). A large part of the missing portion can be recognized in a picture in the museum at Lyon (fig. 2), which during restoration in 1989 / 90 was discovered to be a fragment (note 5). It bears a close stylistic resemblance to the Dordrecht painting and contains the shepherd described in 1804 with a number of sheep, some of them fragmented when the composition was cut up. This must have taken place some time between 1804 and 1841, when the Lyon fragment was bequeathed to the museum there as a work by Bol. This attribution is certainly correct, in spite of a short-lived attribution to Lambert Doomer (note 5). Together, the canvases in Lyon and Dordrecht measure only a little less than the work described in 1804. This leaves little room between the two fragments (fig. 3), and one may assume that most of the sheep whose muzzle is only just visible on the right in the Lyon picture was painted on the canvas at Dordrecht and over-painted there with a boulder when there was no more room for the truncated animal. It is quite likely that the original composition was no longer intact even in 1804, as may be inferred from the aforementioned absence of cusping in the Dordrecht fragment. Blankert has suggested that the Dordrecht picture might be identified with a portrait by Bol, described in 1681, of the woman who was later to become his second wife and her first husband in the roles of Isaac and Rebecca. The introduction of a third figure, however, rules out this idea. The figures may well play a biblical role, but it is not clear what characters they are impersonating, and one might also wonder whether they are perhaps portrayed in a 'pastoral' guise.


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