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Lam­bert Doomer, Dutch, 1624-1700

Village Scene with Houses and a Bridge, 1645 

Intense sun­light strikes the build­ings that line the road of this small vil­lage. At the cen­ter, a woman cloaked in the shad­ow of the trees appears to stop just over the bridge, dis­tract­ed by some­thing of inter­est to the right. Long con­sid­ered to be set in France near the city of Nantes, Lam­bert Doomer’s draw­ing may have been made clos­er to home in the Nether­lands based on the archi­tec­tur­al fea­tures depict­ed. The artist’s use of pen com­bined with sim­ple appli­ca­tions of wash sug­gests an early work, per­haps one of his only Dutch vil­lage scenes to sur­vive from the begin­ning stages of his career.

It is unclear if Lam­bert Doomer spent time in Rembrandt’s stu­dio, but in 1640 Rem­brandt paint­ed por­traits of his father, Her­man Doomer (c. 1595 – 1650), an ebony frame-maker who sup­plied the artist with frames, and his moth­er, Baert­je Martens (c. 1596 – 1678).1

Lam­bert is best known today for his draw­ings, about 300 of which sur­vive, many result­ing from his trav­els in France and the Rhineland.2

They remain valu­able as records of his­tor­i­cal build­ings and topog­ra­phy and as exam­ples of his appeal­ing and dis­tinc­tive style of drafts­man­ship. He exe­cut­ed a large num­ber of high­ly fin­ished color repli­cas of many of his draw­ings in sub­se­quent years, such as the group on ledger paper from the early 1670s that repro­duced his trav­els in France in 1645 – 46.3

Lam­bert under­took this first major voy­age as a young man, meet­ing his mer­chant broth­ers Maerten (1621 – before 1678) and Hen­drick (d. 1670) in Nantes, where they had busi­ness con­cerns. The artist Willem Schellinks (1623 – 1678) joined him there on May 17, 1646, accord­ing to his jour­nal. Doomer and Schellinks then trav­eled up the Loire River, record­ing many views along the way.4

The present draw­ing, which Doomer signed and dated 1645 on the verso, dates to the same peri­od as these early trav­els. It was once a mat­ter of debate whether Doomer was already in Nantes by 1645, since Wolf­gang Schulz believed that he only arrived in early 1646, short­ly before Schellinks joined him.5

Peter Schat­born, how­ev­er, con­vinc­ing­ly argued that a num­ber of Doomer’s views in and around Nantes bear the cor­rect date of 1645, even though these views are much later repli­cas on which Doomer wrote the date of the orig­i­nal rather than the date of repro­duc­tion, and despite the fact that Schulz believed Doomer’s mem­o­ry had slight­ly failed him when he did so.6

The Peck draw­ing poses two ques­tions relat­ed to these issues. One is whether this mod­est and charm­ing vil­lage scene can indeed be con­nect­ed to Doomer’s time in France. The sec­ond is whether this draw­ing bears its actu­al date of cre­ation, or is one of Doomer’s many later repli­cas in which he record­ed the orig­i­nal date rather than the date of exe­cu­tion. Schulz con­sid­ered both the locale and date of exe­cu­tion of this draw­ing dif­fi­cult to deter­mine.7

Wern­er Sumows­ki assumed the vil­lage was set in France, and this sheet must be a repli­ca of a lost draw­ing first made in 1645.8

If the present view is set in France, it seems more like­ly to have been in a near­by vil­lage rather than a city like Nantes, which was fair­ly large and urban in Doomer’s day, espe­cial­ly since he also trav­eled to sur­round­ing vil­lages dur­ing his stay there in 1645 and early 1646.9

One can­not help won­der­ing, how­ev­er, if this scene depicts a Dutch vil­lage rather than a French one. Fea­tures such as the stepped-gable house in the cen­ter back­ground, the soft­ly ris­ing bridge over a canal or stream, and the woman peer­ing out from a half door on the right all seem to point to a loca­tion clos­er to home. None of these char­ac­ter­is­tics would specif­i­cal­ly rule out a set­ting in France, but Doomer’s known vil­lage views in France often fea­ture the half-tim­ber domes­tic archi­tec­ture more com­mon­ly found there, rather than the brick or slat-board struc­tures seen in this work. Doomer was also in the habit of label­ing the loca­tion of his draw­ings in France.10

Most of those set in and around Nantes bear quite spe­cif­ic inscrip­tions record­ing their loca­tion, where­as he inscribed this sheet sim­ply with his name and the year. If, in fact, set in the Nether­lands, the Peck draw­ing would be one of his only Dutch vil­lage views that can be placed secure­ly at the begin­ning of his career. He drew many such views later, espe­cial­ly after he moved to Alk­maar around 1669. 

Whether or not this sheet actu­al­ly dates to 1645 is dif­fi­cult to say, espe­cial­ly with­out the pres­ence of a water­mark, but the slight­ly wider chain lines are more com­mon­ly (though not exclu­sive­ly) found on papers from a few decades later. It has long been assumed that most of Doomer’s draw­ings bear­ing dates of 1645 and 1646 num­ber among his later repli­ca draw­ings. In this case, how­ev­er, the evi­dence of style seems to sug­gest an early work. Its sim­pler use of media, which con­sists only of pen lines and a sim­ple appli­ca­tion of wash­es, con­trasts with the fuller array of col­ors he often used in his later repli­cas. The loose and live­ly style of foliage also argues for a draw­ing in his early man­ner, in which he used a brush alone to gen­er­ate cer­tain branch­es and foliage inde­pen­dent of the pas­sages defined by pen. Doomer was inclined to use a tighter and more focused style of pen work in his later draw­ings.11

End Notes

  1. Por­trait of Her­man Doomer, 1640, oil on panel, 75 × 55.3 cm, New York, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art; Por­trait of Baert­je Martens, c. 1640, oil on panel, 75.1 × 55. 9 cm, St. Peters­burg, Her­mitage. See Rem­brandt, Cor­pus, vol. 6, 274 – 75, 571, nos. 177a & 177b.

  2. For Doomer’s draw­ings, see Schulz 1972 (his dis­ser­ta­tion, cat­a­logu­ing 386 draw­ings); Schulz 1974 (reduc­ing the num­ber to 272 draw­ings); and Sumows­ki, Draw­ings, vol. 2, 783 – 1125.

  3. For Doomer’s repli­ca draw­ings, see Van den Berg 1942, 7; Schulz 1974, 26 – 29; and Alsteens & Buijs 2008, 34 – 35.

  4. For this voy­age and result­ing draw­ings, see espe­cial­ly Alsteens & Buijs 2008; as well as Van den Berg 1942; and Paris & Ams­ter­dam 2006 – 07.

  5. Schulz 1974, 16.

  6. Schat­born 1977, 50.

  7. Schulz 1974, 43, no. 24: Lokalisierung und (trotz Jahre­sangabe) Datierung schwierig.

  8. Sumows­ki, Draw­ings, vol. 2, 918, no. 427.

  9. See, for exam­ple, Wind­mill on the Road to Vieille­vi­gne (Lon­don, British Muse­um, inv. no. Gg,2.264), labeled by the artist as being taken out­side Nantes on the road to Vieille­vi­gne, signed and dated 1645; Roy­al­ton-Kisch 2010, Lam­bert Doomer, no. 1; Alsteens & Buijs 2008, 111, 115, no. 23; Sumows­ki, Draw­ings, vol. 2, 814 – 15, no. 383; and Schulz 1974, 58, no. 85. A hand­ful of other draw­ings also appear to be set just out­side of Nantes.

  10. Many of these ended up in the sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of draw­ings owned by Jeron­imus Ton­ne­man (1687 – 1750) in Ams­ter­dam, with the inscrip­tions record­ed in the 1754 auc­tion cat­a­logue of his col­lec­tion; see Alsteens & Buijs 2008, 34 – 35.

  11. See, for exam­ple, Vriese Poort in Alk­maar (Paris, Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia, inv. no. 4780), signed and dated 1686; Schulz 1974, 74, no. 148; and Sumows­ki, Draw­ings, vol. 2, 914 – 15, no. 425.