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François Venant. Enige aanvullingen

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Since J. G. van Gelder was able to identify a number of works by François Venant (1591/92-1636) in 1938 (note 2) and Kurt Bauch and Astrid Tümpel added to these one painting and a drawing (notes 14 and 3), the artist has been known as one of the so-called Pre-Rembrandtists. Together with his contemporaries Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert (c. 1590/91-1655) and Jacob Pynas (1592/93-after 1650) he was one of the younger artists of this group. Its style was dominated by Pictcr Lastman (1583-1633) and Jan Pynas (1581/82-1633), both of whom underwent the influence of Adam Elsheimer during their stay in Rome. Venant married a younger sister of Lastman in 1625. The latter's influence on his work had however set in well before that year. Jacob's Dream, signed and dated 161(7?) (note 10, fig. 2) testifies to this, as well as showing traces of Elsheimer's influence, possibly transmitted by Jan Pynas (notes 12 and 13, fig. 3). A somewhat later signed work, David's parting from Jonathan (note 5, fig.1), closely follows Lastman's version of the subject of 1620 (note 6) though the grouping of the two figures may be taken as typical of Venant's personal style. In an unsigned picture of Gideon's Scacrifice, which may also be dated to the early 1620s (note 14, fig. 4), the artist once more makes use of motifs from various works by Lastman. Two undated drawings would seem to represent a slightly later stage in the artists's development. The Baptism of the Eunuch (notes 16 and 18, fig. 5) betrays the attempt to emulate Lastman's pictures on the subject, especially one of 1623 (note 17), by enhancing the dramatic actions in the scene, and so does Gideon's Sacrifice (note 20, figs. 6 and 8), which seems to be based on Lastman's Sacrifice of Monoah of 1627 (note 21, fig.7). To these works, spanning a period from 1617 (?) to the late '20s, may be added two more, another drawing and a painting. The drawing of Daniel at Belshazzar's Feast was formerly attributed to Lastman (notes 25-33, figs. and 10). While the technique, notably the use of wash, differs from that in the drawings mentioned above, the similarities to these in linear rhythm and conception are such that they may all be attributed to the same hand. The technical differences may be accounted for by assuming a slightly later date and, more particularly, a different purpose; whereas the other drawings were in all likelihood self-contained products, Belshazzar's Feast appears to be a sketch for a painting. The last phase of Venant's career seems to be represented by the largest painting known to us and the only one on canvas, Elisha Refusing Naäman's Gifts (note 34, fig. 11). It shows the artist disengaging himself from Lastman at last, possibly after the latter's death in 1633. While the composition is still reminiscent of his carlier work, here Venant seems to have made a fresh start by allowing study from life to play a more important role than before. The landscape differs radically from earlier backgrounds and may well have been influenced by Barholomeus Breenbergh, who returned from Italy around 1630 and whose influence may also be detected in the heavy wash that marks the Belshazzar drawing. The artist's further development was cut short by his untimely death, probably of the plague, in 1636.


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