20. Govert Flinck

Cleves 1615 – 1660 Amsterdam

Sleeping Child, 1643

Here, Govert Flinck took advantage of a propitious moment. The boy has drifted off to sleep, presenting the artist with the opportunity to draw him in peace and quiet. The image is endearing, in part because of the striking detail of the model’s slightly parted lips. The intimacy of the scene might suggest that Flinck had portrayed his son here, but that is out of the question. Nicolaes Antonie Flinck (1646-1723), who would later become a collector, was born three years after the drawing was made.

The minimal fluid lines shape the little boy’s body, his blanket and the pillow on which he rests his head. Flinck created volume by adding a touch of brown wash in places. He used the pen more delicately in the lines around the mouth and the shadow on the cheeks. Here he departed from his teacher Rembrandt’s (see cat. 39) loose drawing manner. The same use of pen and ink and wash can be seen in a drawing of another sleeping child in the Rijksmuseum, although the attribution of that sheet is uncertain.1

Flinck was evidently fascinated by the motif of the sleeping child. There appear to have been two other drawings of sleeping youngsters by his hand.2 He also portrayed a dead child.3 The observation of sleeping children – their poses and expressions – may have helped him when he depicted the classical subject of the Sleeping Cupid. We know of at least three painted versions and a drawing of the theme by Flinck.4


1Schatborn 2010, cat. no. 80; Peter Schatborn, ’follower of Rembrandt van Rijn, Boy Sleeping / recto: Saskia in Bed (Rembrandt)’, in Jane Turner (ed.), Drawings by Rembrandt and his School in the Rijksmuseum, online coll. cat. Amsterdam 2017: hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.collect.28133 (accessed 30 March 2019), inv. no. RP-T-1901-A-4520(V).

2Von Moltke 1965, nos. D. 85 and D. 86 (which could possibly be the same drawing); sale, Cornelis Stroo, Alkmaar, 29 July 1811, Album H, no. 4 (Sleeping Girl).

3Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden, inv. no. C 1894.

4Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin (Potsdam), inv. no. GK I 50916; sale, London (Sotheby’s), 10 December 2001, no. 316; sale, New York (Sotheby’s), 15 January 1987, no. 24; Venus Disarming the Sleeping Cupid, Leiden (Leiden University Library), inv. no. PK-T-AW-514.