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Pen and brown ink on vellum
4 1⁄8 × 3 1⁄16 in. (10.4 × 7.8 cm)
Recto, upper right, in brown ink, monogrammed and dated, IAVDE [in ligature] 1639; verso, upper left, in pencil, N31, at center, 2, and lower right, A5644.
- Chain Lines:
Heinrich Lempertz, 1816 – 1898, Cologne (Lugt 1337, stamp on verso); his sale, Cologne, J. M. Haberle, 26 May 1929; Curt Otto, c. 1880 – 1929, Leipzig (Lugt 611c, stamp on verso); his sale, Leipzig, C. G. Boerner, 7 November 1929, lot 145; Charles Duits, London (Lugt 533a, stamp on verso); sale, Amsterdam, Sotheby Mak van Waay, 26 November 1984, lot 94; Sheldon and Leena Peck, Boston (Lugt 3847); gift to the Ackland Art Museum, inv. no. 2017.1.88.
Van Gelder 1933, 91, no. 81.
- Ackland Catalogue:
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 Goltzius’s 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 Velde’s 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
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.
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).
Only one work is on paper instead of vellum: Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, inv. no. pd.778 – 1963 (unknown to Van Gelder).
Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett, inv. no. 1976 – 466 (Van Gelder 1933, no. 83).
Hollstein, vols. 33 – 34, no. 123.
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.
“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.
Van Gelder 1933, no. 81.
Van Gelder 1933, 64-65.
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.