7. Anonymous, Dutch or Flemish 17th century

Family Group in a Landscape

This drawing has a companion in Munich, where it was also held for a long time.1 The two drawings are virtually the same size and the execution in black chalk and brown wash is identical. The connection is particularly clear because the artist used the same elements for both compositions: a group with children in the open air, a dog and a coach in the background. In the two sheets the artist explored ways of grouping the company. They could have been preliminary studies for a painted portrait, shown to the client for approval.

However, the difference in the make-up of the company – which is not immediately obvious – casts doubt on this function. The drawing in the Fondation Custodia’s collection is of one couple, whereas there are two in the sheet in Munich. The potential client may have changed his mind about this, although the sheets could also perhaps be regarded as general examples, variations the client could choose from: a seated (Paris) or standing (Munich) group portrait.

There are a number of candidates for the attribution. The painter from Antwerp Gonzales Coques (1614-1684) was once proposed, albeit with some hesitation.2 This attribution was based on a comparison with Coques’s painted group portraits, and not with his drawings.3 Daniël Mijtens (1590-1647) was also suggested at the same time,4 although his nephew, Johannes (Jan) Mijtens (1613/1614-1670) (see cat. 30), appears more likely. This artist from The Hague painted portraits (like Coques’s) which mainly show families in a rural setting.

Portrait of an Unknown Family (Staatliches Museum Schwerin), a painting attributed to Johannes Mijtens, contains many similarities to the drawings under discussion here.5 The two children, the dog and other elements in this family portrait appear to have been taken straight from them, as does the panorama (but not the coach). Unfortunately, a stylistic comparison to Mijtens drawn work, with countless uncertain attributions, does not provide a definite answer.

MvS

1As Gonzales Coques, Zwei Paare mit zwei Kindern, (Two Couples with Two Children) black chalk, brown wash, 208 × 354 mm, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung Munich, inv. no. 1354; see Wolfgang Wegner, Die niederländischen Handzeichnungen des 15.-18. Jahrhunderts, Berlin (Gebr. Mann Verlag) 1973, no. 505.

2Exh. cat. London/Paris/Bern/Brussels 1972, no. 19.

3Six drawings are attributed to Coques, see Marion Lisken-Pruss, Gonzales Coques (1614-1684). Der kleine Van Dyck, Turnhout (Brepolis) 2013, pp. 327-330.

4Exh. cat. London/Paris/Bern/Brussels 1972, no. 19, footnote 6.

5Attributed to Johannes Mijtens, Portrait of an Unknown Family, oil on canvas, 84 × 108 cm, Staatliches Museum Schwerin, bequest of Christoph Müller, inv. no. G 3878; see Alexandra Nina Bauer, Jan Mijtens (1613/14-1670). Leben und Werk, Petersberg (2006), no. C69, as Dutch, 17th century.