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De voortekeningen voor de vaasreliëfs van Willem van Mieris

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The article picks up the thread of C.W. Pock's publication in this journal in 1973 on garden vases decorated with reliefs of the four seasons by Willem van Micris, dating from the carly eighteenth century. The eleven preliminary drawings for the vases, in Windsor Castle since 1825, were dispersed in 1767. Fock succeeded in tracing five of them, and subsequently published a sixth elsewhere. Three of the five still missing have since been tracked down by the author of this article, in which the entire group of drawings is described in relation to the reliefs based on them. Whereas Fock concentrated on the history and iconography of the vases, this article proceeds from the actual drawings, dwelling in particular on their correspondences with and differences from the executed reliefs. The technical data and provenances of the eleven drawings are listed in the appendix. The drawings, all done in black chalk on vellum, show Van Mieris the draughtsman at his best. They are rendered in minute detail, and some of the formats are exceptionally large. Such compositions were collector's objects in their own right; in this case they were probably meant for the man who issued the commission, Pieter de la Court van der Voort. The compositions reflect the academic-eclectic style of an artist who frequently employed pictorial elements from earlier work by himself and others, resorting to drawings from his studio thesaurus and prints. Notably sculptures by Van Bossuit, of which Van Mieris had made a series of drawings in the years prior to the vases, are incorporated in some of the vase drawings, not literally, but with variations. Although for the form of the vases Van Mieris harked back to classical and seventeenth-century French models, which were known from prints, the theme of the consecutive relief representation was a rare departure for garden vases. Each vase bears traditional personifications of the seasons, some of them probably taken from Ripa's Iconologia but depicted in unusual combinations, with the addition of bacchanalian scenes to complete the encircling reliefs further evidence of the artist's eclectic approach. That these are preliminary and not subsequent drawings is borne out by the relief indications and the absence of pupils in most of the figures' eyes, and also by numerous differences from the relief compositions. In the final modelling of the reliefs the artist often deviated from the designs by shifting or omitting figures or smaller details. Of the two drawings which have not yet come to light (cat. nos. 6 and 7) but are known from De la Court's inventory of 1749, one (cat. 7) may not have been actually executed in relief but served perhaps as a thesaurus of secondary figures. Maybe this drawing was totally unconnected with the vase reliefs, but was kept by De la Court together with the group of preliminary drawings because of the thematic and stylistic correspondences.


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