18. Abraham van Diepenbeeck

’s-Hertogenbosch 1596 – 1675 Antwerp

Family Group on a Terrace

It is obvious from the many surviving preparatory drawings for his paintings and prints that Abraham van Diepenbeeck worked systematically and purposefully. After an initial, usually swift sketch, and sometimes a slightly more resolved variation of it, he went on to create an accurately detailed modello, sometimes followed by an oil sketch in grisaille.1 This drawing of a family on a terrace belongs to the first category. The hurried sketch still reveals a degree of doubt. Van Diepenbeeck’s thoughts can be more or less followed through the repetition and the divergent lines. The father’s hat, for instance, is in two positions and the mother faces forward and to the side.

The modello that followed is now in Weimar.2 Van Diepenbeeck most probably arrived at the finished version by indenting this sheet. There are several evident changes between the modello and the drawing in the Fondation Custodia. The girl carries a basket under her arm rather than holding it in her hand, and the father no longer looks at his wife, but has turned to look at his son who walks in front of him. A castle has appeared in the garden in the background. No trace has been found of the final painted family portrait. Remarkably, there is a somewhat later painting of a family group that broadly corresponds to Van Diepenbeeck’s composition.3 It is unclear whether the maker knew one or both of the drawings or made a variation of a painted version that is now lost.

Originally the family in this drawing was thought to be that of Charles I of England (1600-1649).4 It is unlikely that Van Diepenbeeck portrayed them – chiefly because there is no evidence that the artist ever visited England.5 Others thought that this was William Cavendish (1592-1676) and his family.6 Between 1648 and 1660 he and his second wife Margaret Cavendish, neé Lucas (1623-1673) were in exile in Antwerp, staying in the former house of the painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).7 The couple gave Van Diepenbeeck various commissions; he was responsible for the illustrations in Cavendish’s Méthode nouvelle et invention extraordinaire de dresser les chevaux (1658), as well as a number of illustrations for books written by Margaret.8 By then, however, Cavendish’s children – from his first marriage – were already grown up.9


1Hans Vlieghe, ‘Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596-1675)’, in Paul Huys Janssen (ed.), Meesters van het Zuiden. Barokschhilders rondom Rubens, exh. cat. ’s-Hertogenbosch (Noordbrabants Museum) 2000, pp. 57-58; see Stefaan Hautekeete (ed.), From Floris to Rubens. Master Drawings from a Belgian Private Collection, exh. cat. Antwerp (Royal Museum for Fine Arts of Belgium) and Maastricht (Bonnefantenmuseum) 2016, no. 77.

2Klassik Stiftung Weimar, inv no. GHz/Sch.I.XVIII,13; a very close copy after the Weimar drawing was sold by Galerie Jean-Marie Le Fell, Dessins anciens - catalogue no. 7, no. 13 and seems to be the sheet that Frits Lugt thought to be a copy after his drawing (RKD Hofstede de Groot, fiche no. 1361303 - attributed to Daniel Mijtens (c. 1590-1647/48)).

3Anonymous, Portrait of Hendrick de Sandra, Margaretha Tortarolis and Anna Maria de Sandra, c. 1660, oil on canvas, 62,5 × 80,5 cm., private collection.

4Exh. cat. London/Paris/Bern/Brussels 1972, no. 23; RKD Hofstede de Groot, fiche no. 1114141.

5Exh. cat. ’s-Hertogenbosch 2000 (note 1), p. 61.

6Documentation and correspondence Fondation Custodia, Paris; the drawing in the Klassik Stiftung Weimar still carries the title Cavendish, William 1st Duke of Newcastle (1592-1676) mit seiner Familie.

7Ben van Beneden and Nora De Poorter (eds.), Royalist Refugees: William and Margaret Cavendish in the Rubens House 1648-1660, exh. cat. Antwerp (Rubens House) 2006.

8Poems and Fancies (1653), Philosophical and Physical (1655), The Worlds Olio (1655), Natures Pictures drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (1656) and A True Relation of my Birth, Breading and Life (1656).

9Cavendish and Margaret had no children. Diepenbeeck’s drawing of William Cavendish and his Family (British Museum, London, inv. no. 1858,0417.1629) which was used for Margaret’s Natures Pictures drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life… and engraved by Peeter Clouet (Hollstein IV, no. 15) probably shows William’s (adult) son Henry (1630-1691) and his wife Frances Pierrepont.

10For the transcription see exh. cat. London/Paris/Bern/Brussels 1972, no. 23.