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Dutch and Flemish Old Master Drawings at Sotheby´s
AMSTERDAM.- Sotheby’s Amsterdam annual sale of Dutch and Flemish Old Master Drawings is a regular major event in the drawings world. The tradition will be continued this year with the sale on Tuesday 2 November. A fine range of landscape and figure drawings from private collections and dating from the early 16th to the mid-19th century is fresh to the market. 

Of special interest in this sale is a previously unpublished landscape drawing by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam), with an Inn on a Dyke. The drawing in pen and brown ink and wash, measuring 104 by 201mm, is estimated to fetch € 80,000-120,00. Rembrandt’s drawings of the farms, roads and dykes that he saw on his various walks around the outskirts of Amsterdam have long been the subject of both fascination and research. This previously unpublished drawing shows a rural building that combines the function of an inn with the form of a typical farm of the period. The roofline of the main building appears to rise behind the chimney, suggesting a traditional ’langhuisstolp’ construction. From the lie of the land it becomes clear that the Inn must have been located on one of the main sea dykes on the outskirts of Amsterdam, possibly the Spaarndammerdijk, which ran along the IJ to the west of Amsterdam, protecting the polders on that side of the city from flooding. Though relatively modest in scale, this drawing nonetheless captures with great delicacy the presence and atmosphere of this wayside inn, nestling on the side of a dyke. Its emergence is therefore a significant addition to the very important group of drawings by Rembrandt, depicting the buildings to be found along the routes of the various walks that he seems so often to have made during the 1650s, from Amsterdam to the surrounding villages and towns.

Beautiful and rare is a delicate river landscape by Cornelis Vroom, executed in pen and brown ink and wash (estimate € 80,000-100,000). Vroom’s landscape drawings are among the most original works of their type to have been produced in 17th century Holland. They are also extremely scarce: only four major drawings by Vroom are still in private hands, and hardly more than twenty others in museums. 

An intriguing watercolour and gouache by Herman Henstenburgh depicts a Monkey with a basket of flowers on a stone ledge. Henstenburgh (Hoorn 1667-1726) is best known for his purely decorative still-life and natural history compositions. He also made a small number of works with overt symbolic content. The present work is one of the artist’s finest and liveliest compositions of this type, along with the Vanitas in the Unicorno Collection (sold, Amsterdam, Sotheby’s, 19 May 2004, lot 199). The significant non-floral element of the composition is the monkey, an animal with a variety of symbolic associations. The early Middle Ages saw the monkey as representative of the devil, and therefore heresy and paganism. Later in the period it developed other connotations which are clearly more pertinent to this composition. As an artist’s skill was seen as essentially imitative, the monkey, an animal known for its imitativeness, became symbolic of the art of painting and sculpture. The saying ’Ars simia Naturae’ (’Art is the ape of nature’) was a popular source of inspiration for 17th Century Flemish painters, who would depict the artist as a monkey either painting or sculpting a portrait, usually of a human, female subject. Apes would also be depicted in other roles, such as drinking and dancing, or playing musical instruments. Despite the monkey in this drawing being portrayed in a less active role, it seems that Henstenburgh still intended it to be expressive of the vanity, folly and pretentiousness of man. Henstenburgh’s watercolour and gouache on vellum is estimated € 60,000-80,000

The Crucifixion, a drawing by Hans Bol (Mechelen 1534 - c.1593 Amsterdam), is signed and dated in brown ink, lower left: HA.S BOL/1573. Bol has based his image on the version of the story provided by St. John (19: 31-34), who includes several episodes and details not described in the other Gospels. The drawing appears to have been made as a preparatory study for the central panel of a small painted triptych which would have been used as a domestic devotional altar. It appears that Bol must have been particularly satisfied with this composition, as he produced several other versions of it during the course of his career: in addition to the painting of 1593 there survive two gouaches, dated 1587 and 1590, now in the Rhode Island School of Design, and Budapest Museum of Fine Arts (estimate: € 40,000-60,000).

Furthermore, the sale offers fine drawings by Dutch and Flemish artists from the 16th to the 18th century, including several works by Josephus Augustus Knip, marine drawings by Willem van de Velde the Younger and works by Cornelis Dusart. A drawing by Peter Paul Rubens of a Mother and child is estimated € 30,000-40,000.

On view: 29 October to 1 November 2004, 10am to 5pm daily, Sotheby’s Amsterdam

Sale: Tuesday 2 November at 7pm 

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October 28, 2016

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