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God­fried Schal­ck­en, Dutch, 1643-1706

Self-portrait (Study for the Uffizi Painting), c. 1694-95 

Grand Duke Cosi­mo III de’ Medici had a famous gallery of artists’ self-por­traits, a por­tion of which is still hang­ing today in the Uffizi Gallery in Flo­rence, Italy. In an act of self-pro­mo­tion, Gode­fridus Schal­ck­en sug­gest­ed his own inclu­sion in the gallery with a night­time scene, his par­tic­u­lar spe­cial­ty. This high­ly fin­ished self-por­trait, there­fore, like­ly func­tioned as a vidimus, a draw­ing artists showed to a patron for approval before begin­ning a project. It por­trays the artist illu­mi­nat­ed by can­dle­light and gaz­ing direct­ly at the view­er, his right hand in a self-reflec­tive pose. In his left hand he holds a print made after his now lost paint­ing of Mary Mag­da­lene. Schal­ck­en includ­ed an impres­sion of the print with the fin­ished paint­ing like­ly to please his patron, an avid print collector.

This draw­ing can be dated nar­row­ly to the years 1694 – 95 since it relates direct­ly to Gode­fridus Schal­ck­en’s paint­ed self-por­trait com­mis­sioned by Grand Duke Cosi­mo III de’ Medici (1642 – 1723) for his gallery of artists’ self-por­traits Fig. 67.1.1

Godefridus Schalcken, Self-Portrait
Fig. 67.1

Gode­fridus Schal­ck­en, Self-Por­trait, 1695. Oil on can­vas, 92.3 × 81 cm. Flo­rence, Gal­le­ria degli Uffizi, inv. no. 1878.

This famous col­lec­tion, a por­tion of which is still hang­ing in the Uffizi today, was begun by Car­di­nal Leopol­do de’ Medici (1614 – 1675) around 1664.2

His nephew Cosi­mo con­tributed to the col­lec­tion early in the project, and took charge of it after Leopoldo’s death, devot­ing con­sid­er­able time and expense to expand­ing the gallery to include as many notable painters of the past and present as pos­si­ble. The col­lec­tion also includ­ed a num­ber of Dutch artists. Cosi­mo toured the Nether­lands him­self on two occa­sions, in 1667 – 68 and again in 1669, dur­ing which he vis­it­ed the stu­dios of many painters, most notably Rem­brandt’s (1606 – 1669). By the time of the Schal­ck­en com­mis­sion, Cosi­mo had already obtained self-por­traits by Rem­brandt, Ger­rit Dou (1613 – 1675) (Schal­ck­en’s teacher), and Frans van Mieris (1635 – 1681).3

A num­ber of let­ters relat­ed to the Schal­ck­en com­mis­sion sur­vive, which pin­point the date and reveal that it was the artist who first sug­gest­ed, through his agent, that he might con­tribute a paint­ing to the grand duke’s gallery.4

This took place dur­ing Schal­ck­en’s Lon­don peri­od in 1692 – 96, when his fame reached new heights with a broad­er and wealth­i­er clien­tele than that in the Nether­lands at the time.5

This writ­ten cor­re­spon­dence took place between Schal­ck­en’s agent in Lon­don, Thomas Platt (who had spent time in Italy and was famil­iar with Cosi­mo’s col­lec­tion), and the grand duke’s sec­re­tary, Apol­lo­nio Bas­set­ti. One of the main points of dis­cus­sion was how the artist would present him­self. Schal­ck­en pro­posed a night­time set­ting since this was his fore­most spe­cial­ty, and because the gallery of self-por­traits as yet con­tained no oth­ers set at night. Schal­ck­en was par­tic­u­lar­ly cel­e­brat­ed for his can­dle­light scenes, then as now, and he paint­ed at least two other can­dlelit self-por­traits dur­ing his peri­od in Lon­don.6

In anoth­er of these he wears the same archa­ic slashed dou­blet seen here. Such con­trived cloth­ing seems to relate to Schal­ck­en’s pre­sen­ta­tion of him­self in an ele­gant Van Dyck­ian pose, devel­oped in a pre­vi­ous age, with his head engag­ing the view­er from over his shoul­der and his hand ges­tur­ing grace­ful­ly to him­self.7

The sheet of paper Schal­ck­en holds is a mez­zotint by John Smith (1652/54 – 1742) after a now lost paint­ing by Schal­ck­en depict­ing Mary Mag­da­lene by can­dle­light Fig. 67.2.8

John Smith, after Godefridus Schalcken, Mary Magdalene by Candlelight
Fig. 67.2

John Smith, after Gode­fridus Schal­ck­en, Mary Mag­da­lene by Can­dle­light, 1693. Mez­zotint, 348 × 252 mm. Lon­don, British Muse­um, inv. no. 1855,0512.94.

Her image is obscured in the paint­ing in the Uffizi, but the gen­er­al form of her fig­ure can just be made out in the draw­ing. The pre­cise iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the print is made clear in the let­ters relat­ed to the com­mis­sion.9

Schal­ck­en includ­ed an impres­sion of the mez­zotint with the fin­ished paint­ing that he sent to the grand duke. Cosi­mo then gave that impres­sion to his sec­re­tary Bas­set­ti, but request­ed that anoth­er be sent, this time (in order for it not to become creased, appar­ent­ly a prob­lem with the first one) rolled around a piece of wood and sent in a tube.10

Smith’s mez­zotint today ranks as one of the best he made. Schal­ck­en com­mis­sioned it from him short­ly after he arrived in Lon­don, a fact we know from Smith’s own notes (in an album pre­served in the New York Pub­lic Library) that he car­ried out the work in 1693.11

Why Schal­ck­en chose to depict him­self hold­ing a print rather than one of his orig­i­nal paint­ings remains some­thing of a mys­tery, but it may be that he planned from the out­set to send Cosi­mo an impres­sion of it, know­ing that he was an avid print col­lec­tor. The sub­ject of Mary Mag­da­lene, in any case, would have cer­tain­ly appealed to his patron’s devout Catholic sen­si­bil­i­ty.12

This draw­ing has long been assumed to be a prepara­to­ry study for the paint­ing, which might indeed be the case, but its high­ly fin­ished nature also sug­gests other pos­si­bil­i­ties in terms of func­tion. Schal­ck­en’s drawn oeu­vre is quite small, num­ber­ing fewer than forty sheets today, many of these rep­re­sent­ing sim­i­lar­ly high­ly fin­ished por­trait draw­ings that relate close­ly to paint­ings.13

A num­ber of schol­ars, begin­ning with Guido Jansen, have sug­gest­ed that some of these might actu­al­ly be ricor­di, or draw­ings made after the paint­ing was com­plet­ed in order for the artist to keep a record of the work once it left the stu­dio.14

Sup­port­ing this notion are a few other draw­ings by Schal­ck­en that are sketch­i­er in nature and appear to have been true prepara­to­ry stud­ies. A third, and more like­ly pos­si­bil­i­ty, how­ev­er, is that rather than being a prepara­to­ry study or ricor­do, this draw­ing served as a vidimus, a draw­ing shown to the patron for his or her approval before the paint­ing was exe­cut­ed. The let­ters between Platt and Bas­set­ti do not specif­i­cal­ly men­tion a vidimus, but enough of their dis­cus­sion per­tains to the nature of the agreed com­po­si­tion that send­ing such a draw­ing dur­ing nego­ti­a­tions would not be a sur­prise, nor would one expect it to be specif­i­cal­ly ref­er­enced in the let­ters. The strong cen­ter­fold seen in this draw­ing appears to be quite old and might be the result of hav­ing been sent with the letters.

A fas­ci­nat­ing recent dis­cov­ery about the early prove­nance of the draw­ing rein­forces the the­o­ry that it was sent direct­ly to Cosi­mo or his agent as part of the com­mis­sion. In 2015, Jane Shoaf Turn­er pub­lished the ear­li­est spe­cif­ic men­tion of this draw­ing in the pre-1741 inven­to­ry of Francesco Maria Nic­colò Gab­bur­ri (1676 – 1742), a Flo­ren­tine col­lec­tor and diplo­mat in the ser­vice of the grand duke.15

Gab­bur­ri col­lect­ed por­trait draw­ings of artists, per­haps to have engraved as part of his unpub­lished four-vol­ume Lives of the Painters” (Vite de’ pit­tori). Cosi­mo may have gift­ed or sold this draw­ing to Gab­bur­ri, much as he gave Smith’s mez­zotint to his sec­re­tary Bas­set­ti. Also pos­si­ble is that Schal­ck­en sim­ply includ­ed the draw­ing with the fin­ished paint­ing to pro­vide an exam­ple of his drafts­man­ship as an extra gift. What­ev­er the case, the early prove­nance in an Ital­ian col­lec­tion belong­ing to a close asso­ciate of Cosi­mo strong­ly implies that it once belonged to the grand duke himself.

Some fol­low-up let­ters from 1700 men­tion a sketch (schiz­zo) of the paint­ing, made at the request of Schal­ck­en, who had sud­den fears that some nefar­i­ous soul had sub­sti­tut­ed a paint­ed copy of a dif­fer­ent self-por­trait dur­ing the tran­sit to Italy a few years ear­li­er.16

He request­ed that a sketch be made and sent to con­firm the present pose, which was indeed sent and great­ly relieved him. In his cat­a­logue of Schal­ck­en’s oeu­vre, Thier­ry Beherman right­ly accept­ed the Peck draw­ing as an auto­graph self-por­trait, but expressed some hes­i­ta­tion due to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that it might be the sketch referred to in the later let­ters.17

His doubts, how­ev­er, are unfound­ed. The style of the draw­ing reveals Schal­ck­en’s dis­tinc­tive vir­tu­osic han­dling in cer­tain pas­sages, such as the face and reflect­ed light on his shoul­der and sleeve, as well as his char­ac­ter­is­tic use of diag­o­nal hatch­ing through­out the com­po­si­tion. This is obvi­ous­ly a fin­ished draw­ing (dis­eg­no), rather than sketch (schiz­zo) made mere­ly for the pur­pose of con­firm­ing the com­po­si­tion for the pan­icked artist back in the Nether­lands. Inter­est­ing­ly, the phys­iog­no­my of the face in the Peck draw­ing does not close­ly match Schal­ck­en’s, who also would have been in his fifties at the time, rather older than the coun­te­nance seems here. This might be due to his use of a stu­dio assis­tant for the pose, just as he did for the only other known self-por­trait draw­ing by the artist, as Wayne Fran­its point­ed out.18

In 1821, the Peck draw­ing had the dis­tinc­tion of being includ­ed in the Col­lec­tion d’im­i­ta­tion de dessins by Chris­ti­aan Josi (1768 – 1828), one of the first pub­li­ca­tions to repro­duce a selec­tion of Euro­pean draw­ings in print 67.3.19

Christiaan Josi, after Godefridus Schalcken, Self-Portrait of Godefridus Schalcken
Fig. 67.3

Chris­ti­aan Josi, after Gode­fridus Schal­ck­en, Self-Por­trait of Gode­fridus Schal­ck­en, before 1821. Mixed intaglio tech­niques (“print-draw­ing”), 229 × 182 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. RP-P-ON-47.810.

The plate’s extreme­ly high degree of fideli­ty to the form and tex­ture of the draw­ing is the result of a notable process devel­oped by the print­mak­er Cor­nelis Ploos van Ams­tel (1726 – 1798) to make print draw­ings” (prent­tekenin­gen).20

The major­i­ty of the plates in Josi’s pub­li­ca­tion were made by Ploos van Ams­tel (Josi’s teacher), and it has long been assumed in pre­vi­ous lit­er­a­ture that this Schal­ck­en self-por­trait prent­teken­ing was the work of Ploos van Ams­tel as well. As Josi makes clear in the text vol­ume, how­ev­er, this was one of a hand­ful of plates he made him­self using the tech­nique he learned from his men­tor.21

Josi also proud­ly dis­closed that he owned the orig­i­nal draw­ing, stat­ing the price he paid (10 louis), and noted that the artist’s draw­ings were already rare and high­ly sought-after.22

Thus, with­in about the first cen­tu­ry of its exis­tence, the Peck draw­ing had trav­eled from Lon­don where it was made, to Italy, back to Lon­don (where Gab­bur­ri’s col­lec­tion was large­ly sold), and then to Schal­ck­en’s home coun­try of the Nether­lands, where it was repro­duced in a book cel­e­brat­ing great draw­ings. Despite its early fame and long pub­li­ca­tion his­to­ry, how­ev­er, this exhi­bi­tion actu­al­ly marks the first known occa­sion that this draw­ing has been pub­licly shown

End Notes

  1. Beherman 1988, 153 – 54, no. 56; and Langedijk 1992, 165 – 71, no. 31. For the most infor­ma­tive dis­cus­sions of this paint­ing and the com­mis­sion, see Cook 2016, 185 – 91; Fran­its 2016, 21 – 28; and Fran­its 2018, 77 – 87.

  2. For the gallery of self-por­traits in the Uffizi, see Giusti & Sframeli 2007.

  3. See Fran­its 2016, 21 and 37 (note 5) with fur­ther ref­er­ences regard­ing Cosi­mo’s trav­els in the Nether­lands. The Dutch self-por­traits in the col­lec­tion are cat­a­logued in Langedijk 1992.

  4. Langedijk 1992, 168 – 71, under no. 31. The let­ters are pre­served in the Archiv­io di Stato, Florence.

  5. For Schal­ck­en’s Lon­don peri­od, see espe­cial­ly Fran­its 2018. For Dutch artists in Lon­don at the time, and their moti­va­tions and clien­tele, see Karst 2013 – 14.

  6. For these other Lon­don self-por­traits, see Fran­its 2016; and Fran­its 2018, 77 – 105.

  7. See Raupp 1984, 217 – 18; Cook 2016, 190; and Fran­its 2018, 84 – 86.

  8. For Smith’s mez­zotint, see Beherman 1988, 105 – 06, no. 22; Grif­fiths 1998, 243, no. 168; and W. Fran­its in Cologne & Dor­drecht 2014 – 15, 289 – 91, no. 78.

  9. Langedijk 1992, 170, let­ters XI – XII.

  10. Beherman 1988, 416.

  11. Grif­fiths 1989, 256.

  12. Cologne & Dor­drecht 2015 – 16, 291.

  13. For Schal­ck­en’s drawn oeu­vre, see Beherman 1988, cat­a­logu­ing thir­ty-four works as by Schal­ck­en. Jansen 1992 adds four draw­ings to this group, while ques­tion­ing two of the works Beherman accepted.

  14. Jansen 1992, 80. See also Ste­fes 2011, vol. 1, 503 – 04, no. 939; and Anja Sev­cik in Cologne & Dor­drecht 2015 – 16, 58 – 59.

  15. Turn­er 2015, 493, no. 34. See in the prove­nance above for a tran­scrip­tion of the entry in Gab­bur­ri’s inven­to­ry of draw­ings, now in the Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia, Paris. The like­ly pres­ence of this work in Gab­bur­ri’s col­lec­tion was point­ed out ear­li­er by Nico­las Turn­er, who noted that many of Gab­bur­ri’s draw­ings ended up with Charles Rogers in Lon­don, as here; Turn­er 1993, 210, Appen­dix III, no. 52. For Gab­bur­ri’s por­trait draw­ings gen­er­al­ly, see Donati 2014, which neglects to men­tion the present work by Schal­ck­en (as point­ed out in Turn­er 2015, 495, note 13).

  16. See the tran­scrip­tions in Langedijk 1992, 170 – 71, let­ters XIII – XV.

  17. Beherman 1988, 34.

  18. Fran­its 2018, 97 – 100. Fran­its fur­ther spec­u­lat­ed that the model might be the artist’s nephew, Jacobus Schal­ck­en (born c. 1681 – 82), who was said to have stud­ied with him.

  19. Josi 1821, vol. 2, pl. 41. For a study of Josi’s pub­li­ca­tion, see De Luise 1995. For this par­tic­u­lar plate, see Lau­ren­tius, Niemei­jer & Ploos van Ams­tel 1980, 289, no. 82. The only major dif­fer­ence with the orig­i­nal draw­ing is the addi­tion of the artist’s sig­na­ture promi­nent­ly across the top of the print.

  20. Lau­ren­tius, Niemei­jer & Ploos van Ams­tel 1980, 112 – 31, 322 – 25.

  21. Josi 1821, vol. 1, 53 (“Celui dont l’im­i­ta­tion, faite par moi-même…”). For the dif­fi­cul­ty in dis­tin­guish­ing some of the other addi­tions by Josi from those of Ploos, see De Luise 1995, 224.

  22. Josi 1821, vol. 1, 53. Beherman won­dered if Josi’s plate repro­duced a sec­ond ver­sion of the draw­ing (see Beherman 1988, 374, no. D1) since the two col­lec­tors’ marks repro­duced on the recto of the print, found also on the draw­ing, are slight­ly dif­fer­ent; how­ev­er this has only to do with the fact that Josi read (mis­tak­en­ly) the marks as those of the famous British col­lec­tors Thomas Hud­son and Jonathan Richard­son, as he states in his text vol­ume (Josi 1821, vol. 1, 53), and slight­ly trans­formed the marks of John Thane and Charles Rogers to read more as a TH and R rather than JTh and CR to reflect his supposition.