Eglon Hendrick van der Neer: Judith, 1678.

This painting came into the possession of the National Gallery through the Salting bequest 1910. They write about it:

The prominence of the figure of Judith, the portrait character of her face, her dress, and the subsidiary position of the maid and the head of Holofernes make it likely that this is a portrait of a young woman in the guise of the Jewish heroine.

Portraits as Judith were popular with female patrons, since this Biblical heroine was considered the epitome of virtue.

One of the peculiarities of the Dutch Golden Age (and beyond) is the schuttersstuk. It is the group portrait of a city militia as they existed all over the Dutch Republic. The most famous schutterstuk, of course, is Rembrandt’s so-called Night Watch. This piece from the Haags Historisch Museum is not particularly significant, except that it is the only traceable (on the Web, anyway) painting by Martinus Lengele, whose sister Anna married the far more remarkable Jacob van Loo in 1643.

The full Dutch name of this piece is Het uittrekken van officieren en vaandrig van het Haagse Oranjevendel, which might be translated as “The officers and ensign of the Orange Company of the Hague setting out,” where setting out may refer to a social custom rather than to a military maneuver. It was painted around 1660, the year Jacob van Loo fled to Paris after killing a notorious ruffian in a brawl.

Update: There’s also this drawing.

The Dutch Golden Age

YESTERDAY I added a couple of new tags relating to years and periods: decades and “Dutch Golden Age.” The decades simply have the function that you can look at pictures and read poems from about the same time.

Dutch Golden Age refers roughly to the period between the fall of Antwerp 1585 and the Rampjaar 1672, a time when even tailors’ workshops had paintings on their walls. The Dutch painters of the time usually didn’t go to Italy to study, just as their Flemish forefathers before Jan Gossaert hadn’t. Landscapes and genre pieces were more popular than histories and mythological pieces.

I have a Dutch Golden Age tag on Tumblr as well. As usually you’ll find just the pictures, with little comment, there.

Caesar van Everdingen was one of the few artists to paint the rape of Europa from the point of view of the shore, of her companions, who are thus much more prominent than Europa herself. He never sold the painting in his lifetime. You can find more details about it here and here.

Vertumnus was a Roman garden god, probably of Etruscan origin, with no Greek equivalent. He could change his form at will. Pomona was a wood nymph, a goddess of fruitful abundance, she too without a Greek counterpart. Together they had a festival on August 13th, the Vertumnalia.

In book XIV of his Metamorphoses, Ovid tells the story how Vertumnus gained entry to Pomona’s orchard by disguising himself as an old woman. Then he seduced her by telling her the story of Anaxarete, who refused the advances of a shepherd named Iphis, remained unmoved even when he hanged himself on her doorpost and was turned into a stone statue for her cruelty.

The story of Vertumnus and Pomona thus gave an artist the opportunity to paint an old and a young woman together, if he wanted. Not all did. Those that did were remarkably often from the Netherlands, as in this case Caesar van Everdingen, who made another painting on the same subject later.

Caesar van Everdingen: Still-Life with a Bust of Venus, 1665, at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. It is a pendant to Trompe-l’oeil with a Bust of Adonis, which is in a different place (The Old Town House, Cape Town, Michaelis Collection), and of which unfortunately no high-resolution reproduction exists.

Jacob Adriaensz Backer was a leading artist in Amsterdam, famous for his extreme quickness in painting portraits. According to Joachim von Sandrart’s Teutsche Academie, he completely finished, in one day, the half length portrait of a lady in full dress, so that she was able to return the same day back to Haarlem with the painting. This portrait of an unknown lady as the muse Euterpe was done not long before his premature death, only forty-two, in 1651.

A bit of anti-Catholic satire by Cornelis Corneliszoon van Haarlem, 1591. The expression of the nun is a bit similar to the second Penitent Magdalene by Titian. It is ironic that pictures of saints with such an expression would become more common a few decades later, Teresa of Ávila especially, who was canonized 1622. It is as if reality were imitating satire here. The monk however looks strangely indifferent, more like a doctor conducting a breast exam than a libertine.

Lovesickness

Lovesickness in art and medicine is an interesting article I came across it when researching the various artistic renderings of the Antiochus and Stratonice story.

So far the oldest standalone artistic rendering of the Antiochus and Stratonice story that I have found is this unsigned and undated painting (220×164 cm) supposed to be by Theodoor van Thulden from around the year 1640. (I emphasize the standalone because one of the lunettes in the sala dell’Venere in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence has the same topic.)

An interesting aspect of this painting is the prominence of the doctor in the composition. There is an intense highlight on his forhead, and the feeling of the pulse gets the center of attention (Erasistratus is known as the “father of the pulse” in classic history of medicine). In contrast, Seleucus is hidden in the shadows. It might be that the painting was commissioned by a doctor. Twenty, thirty years later Jan Steen would paint a number of doctor’s visits, but this picture here is far more capable to serve as a sort of advertising. The inscription Prudentia relevant amorem emphasizes the doctor’s role as well.

But this is of course mere speculation. Nothing is known about the first 150 years of this painting. In 1781, Sir Joshua Reynolds visited Antwerp on a tour through Flanders, and wrote:

At Mr. Dasch’s there is a great picture of Rubens; the story of Seleukos and Stratonice. The miserable attitude of the lying son on the bed is of unseen beauty; the composition of the ensemble is good.

It may be that this passage refers to our painting here, which was then attributed to Rubens. In 1792, it was catalogued in the collection of Freiherr von Brabeck, Schloß Söder, Hildesheim. In 1859 it was sold in Hannover and later turned up in the collection of Prince Stolberg, Schloß Wernigerode. On November 11, 2008, it was auctioned at Sotheby’s Amsterdam. Estimate was €100,000–150,000.