AMSTERDAM.-With the joint purchase of an early drawing by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) the Kröller-Müller Museum and the Van Gogh Museum have made a remarkable addition to their respective collections. The drawing was made in 1880/81 by Van Gogh at the start of his career as an artist in Belgium. Few works by the artist from this period in Belgium have survived. The drawing, entitled The daughter of Jacob Meyer (after Bargue after Holbein), is a copy of a work by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98-1543), actually based on a reproduction of this work in a loose-leaf volume on drawing, Cours de dessin, by Charles Bargue (1826/27-1883).
Copying is a tried and trusted method when learning art. When Van Gogh resolved to become an artist, in August 1880, he began by copying prints after works by Jean-François Millet (1814-1875). A befriended art dealer lent him a drawing course, Exercices au fusain, as well as the two-part Cours de dessin by Charles Bargue. The latter comprised 70 examples of drawings from plaster models and 67 reproductions after various masterpieces from art history. These included no less than 28 works by Holbein. Van Gogh copied these several times within the space of a year, amounting to hundreds of copies but only three of these survived. Two of these are versions of The daughter of Jacob Meyer.
This new acquisition is the earliest version and was probably made between September 1880 and April 1881. By the time Van Gogh moved from the Borinage to Brussels in early October 1881, he had already copied most of the examples in Bargue's art course at least once, including The daughter of Jacob Meyer. Because he subsequently copied them a second time in Brussels, the dating has been kept wide. He made his last copies from Bargue in the summer of 1881, while staying at Etten in Brabant. It is from this period that the second known version of The daughter of Jacob Meyer, currently in the Kröller-Müller Museum collection, dates.
The newly acquired sheet is drawn entirely in pencil and closely follows the picture in the drawing course, even in format. The only difference is the girl's hair, which is wilder, while the figure is slightly stockier than in Holbein's original. The later copy of The daughter of Jacob Meyer differs both from the original and from the new acquisition. It is a pen-and-ink drawing over a rudimentary pencil sketch. In this later version the girl's face has a more rustic expression.