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Jan van de Velde II, Dutch, c. 1593-1641: Man Wearing a Fur Hat, 1639 

A lead­ing print­mak­er of land­scape etch­ings in Haar­lem, Jan van de Velde II also pro­duced draw­ings for the mar­ket. This por­tray­al of a man wear­ing a fur hat and the cloth­ing of a farmer or fish­er­man is not a por­trait, but rather a tron­ie, a type of char­ac­ter study pop­u­lar among Dutch artists and col­lec­tors in the early sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry. It is one of eleven tron­ie stud­ies known by the artist. 

Although exe­cut­ed in pen and ink, the draw­ing looks like a print due to the artist’s use of stip­pling and a dense net­work of cross-hatched lines. Scrape marks on the sur­face of the vel­lum (calf­skin) at the right of the fig­ure dis­close a cor­rec­tion the artist made to elim­i­nate the left shoul­der in favor of a pro­file view, an alter­ation that would have been more con­spic­u­ous on paper.

With his wrin­kled face and gri­mace, this elder­ly man emits a remark­able degree of char­ac­ter with­in the con­fines of the draw­ing’s small for­mat. His pelsmuts (fur hat) and cloth­ing are typ­i­cal of a farmer or fish­er­man, or some­one from the work­ing class­es. Despite the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the por­tray­al, this draw­ing is like­ly not a por­trait, but rather a tron­ie, a type of anony­mous char­ac­ter head study that was pop­u­lar among Dutch artists and col­lec­tors in the early sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry.1

This one appeals for its enig­mat­ic and pierc­ing por­tray­al of the sort of for­ti­tude that comes with age. This is an unex­pect­ed type of work from Jan van de Velde II, who was one of the lead­ing pro­fes­sion­al print­mak­ers in Haar­lem in his day and best known for his pro­lif­ic out­put of land­scape etch­ings. His prints from early in his career, circa 1615 – 16, helped rede­fine the land­scape genre through a focus on local Dutch ter­rain and its sur­round­ing struc­tures.2

While most of his sur­viv­ing draw­ings like­wise depict land­scape sub­jects, these small-for­mat tron­ies, a total of eleven of which are known today, stand out in his oeu­vre for their empha­sis on human char­ac­ter and per­son­al­i­ty.3

They all bear his dis­tinc­tive mono­gram (the let­ters of his name entwined in lig­a­ture) with dates between 1630 and 1640, and were usu­al­ly exe­cut­ed on vel­lum.4

These draw­ings sim­u­late the appear­ance of engrav­ings through a vocab­u­lary of line that one typ­i­cal­ly finds in prints, observ­able here in the reg­u­lar­ized hatch­ing of the man’s tunic and fur hat, and the stip­ple tech­nique used to define facial fea­tures and the stub­ble on his chin. The Haar­lem artist Hen­drick Goltz­ius (1558 – 1617) famous­ly pio­neered this style of draw­ing, often referred to by art his­to­ri­ans by the Dutch term pen­werk, or the Ger­man term Fed­erkun­st­stück. 5

It comes as no sur­prise that Van de Velde trained with Goltz­iuss step­son, Jacob Math­am (1571 – 1631), and that all three were notable print­mak­ers who made pen­werk draw­ings, many of which are tron­ies. Despite the fact that Van de Veldes tron­ies appear ready for trans­fer to a cop­per­plate, most clear­ly func­tioned as inde­pen­dent draw­ings. Among this group of eleven sur­viv­ing works, only a draw­ing in Dres­den of a bag­pipe play­er relates to any known print Fig. 16.1.6

Jan van de Velde II, Bagpipe Player
Fig. 16.1

Jan van de Velde II, Bag­pipe Play­er, 1630. Pen and brown ink on paper, 139 × 115 mm. Dres­den, Kupfer­stich-Kabi­nett, inv. no. c 1976-466.

This draw­ing, too, may have orig­i­nal­ly func­tioned as an inde­pen­dent study, since the print itself did not appear until three years later Fig. 16.2.7

Jan van de Velde II, Bagpipe Player
Fig. 16.2

Jan van de Velde II, Bag­pipe Play­er, for the series Spigel, ofte Toneel der ydel­heyd ende onge­bon­den­heyd onser eeuwe, 1633. Engrav­ing on paper, 170 × 117 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. rp-p-ob-102-996.

It was pub­lished in 1633 as part of a series of sev­en­teen comic images (all by Jan van de Velde) accom­pa­ny­ing mor­al­iz­ing vers­es by the Haar­lem preach­er Samuel Ampz­ing (1590 – 1632), and bound in book form with the title Spigel, ofte Toneel der ydel­heyd ende onge­bon­den­heyd onser eeuwe (Mir­ror, or The­ater of the van­i­ty and unre­strained­ness of our age).8

While the mor­al­iz­ing poten­tial of this bag­piper might not be imme­di­ate­ly obvi­ous, Ampz­ing’s qua­train writ­ten for the print reveals that he rep­re­sents sloth, begin­ning: I belong to the slug­gards’ guild, to the band of beg­gars who would rather play than work.”9

Van de Velde’s other tron­ies, how­ev­er, were not nec­es­sar­i­ly cre­at­ed with a mor­al­iz­ing poten­tial in mind. 

Van de Velde’s tron­ie draw­ings appear to clus­ter into two dis­tinct groups. A batch of four draw­ings all dated 1630 depict fig­ures with hand­held attrib­ut­es (a bag­piper, a smok­er, a man read­ing a book, and a man hold­ing a scepter), while a later group of seven from 1638 to 1640 depict char­ac­ters with­out any attrib­ut­es. This dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion has been over­looked until now, in part because the present sheet, which has only appeared once in the pre­vi­ous lit­er­a­ture, was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished with a date of 1629 instead of 1639 (the third digit hav­ing been mis­read).10

A date of 1639 indeed makes more sense, given that this fig­ure has no iden­ti­fi­able attrib­ut­es. The first group of draw­ings from 1630, there­fore, may have pos­si­bly been intend­ed as a series of uni­fied designs. The sec­ond group from 1638 to 1640, which includes the present sheet, was made more spo­rad­i­cal­ly (or at least not just in the same year) and con­tains less pro­gram­mat­ic poten­tial. They were prob­a­bly designed for col­lec­tors as stand­alone works, though it is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble that they were offered for sale in small groups rather than indi­vid­u­al­ly. An alter­na­tive sug­ges­tion that Van de Velde made these draw­ings as instruc­tion­al sheets for his stu­dents to copy is less con­vinc­ing.11

Some scrape marks vis­i­ble to the right of the but­tons of his tunic dis­close a pen­ti­men­to. Under trans­mit­ted light, they reveal that Van de Velde orig­i­nal­ly drew the man’s left shoul­der but ulti­mate­ly decid­ed to present the fig­ure’s torso in pro­file, as he did in a few other tron­ies from this peri­od.12

Vel­lum, which can be scraped, nat­u­ral­ly affords this type of cor­rec­tion more eas­i­ly than paper.

End Notes

  1. For stud­ies of the tron­ie in Dutch art gen­er­al­ly, see Hirschfelder 2008; and Gottwald 2011.

  2. Fucci 2018a; Fucci 2021.

  3. Van de Velde’s draw­ings were orig­i­nal­ly cat­a­logued in Van Gelder 1933, with adden­da in Van Gelder 1955; and Van Gelder 1967. Van Gelder cat­a­logued seven of the eleven present­ly known small-scale tron­ies (Van Gelder 1933, nos. 81 – 86; and Van Gelder 1955, 33, fi g. 16), while the remain­der will be pub­lished in a forth­com­ing new cat­a­logue of his draw­ings by the present author. Not includ­ed in this group of eleven works, due their dif­fer­ence in medi­um, scale, and attri­bu­tion sta­tus, are Van de Velde’s red chalk tron­ie that he drew in the album ami­co­rum of Petrus Scriverius in 1628 (Van Gelder 1933, no. 80; see also Thomassen & Bosters 1990, 70, no. 36); a large, undat­ed sheet in the École des Beaux-Arts (not in Van Gelder’s cat­a­logues; but see Lugt 1950, 82, no. 672); and a larg­er chalk draw­ing, present where­abouts unknown, whose attri­bu­tion to Jan van de Velde seems high­ly unlike­ly (Van Gelder 1933, no. 88).

  4. Only one work is on paper instead of vel­lum: Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Muse­um, inv. no. pd.778 – 1963 (unknown to Van Gelder).

  5. For this style of draw­ing, see espe­cial­ly Pack­er 2012; as well as Nichols 1992; Seifert 2010; and var­i­ous entries in Ams­ter­dam, New York & Tole­do 2003, 235 – 63.

  6. Dres­den, Kupfer­stich-Kabi­nett, inv. no. 1976 – 466 (Van Gelder 1933, no. 83).

  7. Holl­stein, vols. 33 – 34, no. 123.

  8. Holl­stein, vols. 33 – 34, nos. 108 – 25, com­posed of a title-plate and sev­en­teen engrav­ings with vers­es inscribed below. Jan van de Velde is cred­it­ed as both the inven­tor of the images and maker of the prints (inven. et fecit). For a study of the series, see Van Thiel 1996.

  9. Ik ben van’t leuyaerds gild, en van de bedelk­lerken / Die liev­er spe­len gaen, dan dat sy souden werken. Trans­la­tion (slight­ly mod­i­fied) taken from Van Thiel 1996, 185.

  10. Van Gelder 1933, no. 81.

  11. Van Gelder 1933, 64-65.

  12. See, for exam­ple, the tron­ies in Lei­den, Uni­ver­siteits­bib­lio­theek, inv. no. pt-kaw-1128 (Van Gelder 1955, 33, fi g. 16); and Berlin, Kupfer­stichk­abi­nett, inv. no. 30316.