Newly Acquired Seventeenth-Century Paintings

‘Future collection’ was the intriguing heading of an email from the archaeologist, art historian and collector Jan Willem Salomonson (1925-2017), which I received a couple of summers ago.

1. Jan Willem Salomonson and his wife Karin Rupé in London in the 1950s

I first met him when I was studying in Utrecht and I had always maintained a very friendly relationship with him and had great respect for what he did and published as an archaeologist and art historian. Just two weeks later I joined him at his home in Bilthoven in the Netherlands to look at the collection he had amassed with his wife Karin Rupé, particularly after he retired from his post as a professor at the University of Utrecht (fig. 1). At the heart of the collection were seventeenth-century Netherlandish paintings, but there were also sculptures and several paintings dating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Before he died, Jan Willem was able to publish the catalogue of the collection under the title Diversiteit en samenhang. Catalogus van een studiekabinet (Diversity and Coherence. Catalogue of a Study Cabinet) (Delft 2016) with the aid of Marina Aarts and his daughter Jantien Black. Jan Willem had always admired Frits Lugt (1884-1970) and knew the Fondation Custodia’s collection well. Given the nature of the paintings, he believed that part of his collection would be a good fit. And he was right.

It was decided to select a group of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings which the Fondation Custodia would purchase from the heirs. Two others will be transferred to the Dutch State in lieu of inheritance tax and placed in the Fondation Custodia, a not for profit foundation in the Netherlands. The purchase has now been completed and we are awaiting the Dutch State’s decision about the two paintings.

2. Jacob Esselens (Amsterdam c. 1627 – 1687 Amsterdam), Portrait of a Young Woman
Oil on canvas. – 58,5 × 47 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.41

Frits Lugt appreciated the qualities of Jacob Esselens (1626/28-1687) as a painter of beach views, and acquired two of the very best examples of his work. Now, an extremely rare Portrait of a Young Woman, signed in full, which had once been published by Lugt’s friend Wolfgang Stechow, has been added (fig. 2). It is extremely appropriate because the interior in which the woman is shown, standing before a cabinet on which toiletries are placed, is an example of a salon hollandais like the one Lugt and his wife created in the Hôtel Turgot.

3. Willem van Mieris (Leyden 1662 – 1747 Leyden), Portrait of Willem Cornelisz Backer, 1688
Oil on panel. – 14 × 11 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.43

The small Portrait of Willem Cornelisz Backer, by Willem van Mieris (1662-1731) (fig. 3) dated 1688, is particularly well preserved. There are only a few works by fijnschilders (fine painters) in the collection and this superb sample of the artistry of Frans van Mieris’s son is a splendid addition to our collection of portrait miniatures and the series of small portraits in oils. The pendant, the Portrait of Magdalena de la Court, Backer’s wife, likewise dated 1688, is in Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden.

4. Monogrammist I.S. (active 1633-58), Self-Portrait as the Personification of the Choleric Temperament, 1634
Oil on panel, 25 × 21,5 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.37

An intriguing Self-Portrait, dated 1634 with the monogram I.S., has strengthened the collection (fig. 4). The artist, whose oeuvre of thirty or so paintings can be reconstructed, but whose true identity has not yet been established, portrayed himself repeatedly in various roles and costumes. Here he sits on a chair with his foot on a pile of books, with a war hammer in his hand and a sweat cloth around his head—marks of valour. Salomonson believed that these iconographic elements indicated that the artist personified himself here as the choleric temperament and that this is the pendant of a small painting in Aschaffenburg from the same year in which he is studiously immersed in reading books, depicting the sanguine temperament.

5. Esaias van de Velde (Amsterdam 1587 – 1630 The Hague), Aeneas Fleeing from the Burning City of Troy with Anchises and Ascanius, 1626
Oil on panel. – 20 × 15,5 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.40

The only work by Esaias van de Velde (1587-1630) that is not a landscape or genre scene but a mythological subject—Aeneas Fleeing from the Burning City of Troy with Anchises and Ascanius (fig. 5)—is no less exceptional. Signed “E.V. Velde” and dated 1626, it is precisely the kind of unusual painting that would have appealed to Frits Lugt, who spent his entire life in search of the one out of the ordinary work in the oeuvres of various painters.

6. Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer 1598 – 1657 Amsterdam), Italianate Landscape with Ruins and a Page showing his Way to a Horse Rider
Oil on copper. – diam. 25 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.39

The circular Italianate landscape painted on copper, in which a page points the way for a horseman in front of a Roman ruin converted into a house, is not signed in full but bears the monogram BB (fig. 6). Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657) is represented in the Fondation Custodia with a series of exceptional drawings and with a painting, the preliminary study for which was acquired recently. This painting calls to mind the circular, timeless landscapes by Goffredo Wals (c. 1600-1638/40) and it shows the kinship between the work of the two artists, who were both in close contact with Claude Lorrain.

7. Abraham Bloemaert (Gorinchem 1566 – 1651 Utrecht), Lot and his Daughters, c. 1646-47
Pen and brown ink, brown oil paint, heightened in white oil paint, on panel. – 18,5 × 19,4 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.36

The collection of grisailles and monochrome paintings in the Hôtel Turgot was given a wonderful boost with Lot and His Daughters (fig. 7), a scene painted and drawn on a small primed panel by Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651). Lot’s wife, turned into a pillar of salt, stands in the background on the right, while Lot’s daughters have started to get their father drunk so that they can seduce him and ensure the continuation of the line. The technique is typical of Bloemaert. He applied touches of paint and worked over them with a pen and brown ink. The result is close to the chiaroscuro prints he was in the habit of making in his studio, in which the tone was achieved with the aid of woodblocks and an etching plate created the pattern of lines.

8. Herman Saftleven (Rotterdam 1609 – 1685 Rotterdam), View of the City Wall of Utrecht from the South, at the Mariawaterpoort, 1645
Oil on panel. – 26,2 × 21,1 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.38

A painting that was very dear to Jan Willem and his wife, Karin, is Herman Saftleven’s (1609-1685) View of Utrecht City Wall from the South at the Mariawater Gate of 1645 (fig. 8), the preliminary drawing for which they acquired at a sale in Munich in 2013. The painting was recently cleaned and given a seventeenth-century frame and now hangs in the dining room of the Hôtel Turgot. The view gives the impression of having been made on a sunny day and proves that golden sunlight is not exclusive to South European countries. The painting takes you straight to the city wall in Utrecht and has an almost nineteenth-century ‘sur le motif’ character. Jan Willem wrote a detailed study about this painting and its topography. It is a miracle of the handling of light and the stark forms of the buildings on the wall heighten the magic of the scene. Utrecht is in the process of rebuilding its original wall and re-opening canals that have been filled in and has already asked for the loan of this painting for the exhibition that will accompany the completion of this project.

9. Cornelis Saftleven (Gorinchem 1607 – 1681 Rotterdam), Allegory of Human Folly, 1629
Oil on panel. – 48 × 62 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

And then there is the inventive painting by Herman’s brother Cornelis (1607-1681), illuminatingly analysed by the collector. It is an Allegory of the Vices and the Impossibility to Weed Out Human Folly (fig. 9). In a desolate landscape we encounter a group of figures, mostly animals or half animal-half human, representing the human vices. They are addressed by a pig, symbolizing Gluttony (Gula), who is standing on a beer barrel, a tankard on his belt and reading from the ‘Varkenskrant’ (the Pig Newspaper). The white banner at the left, which bears a signature, the date 1629 and the text ‘Elck spelt met syn sottie’ (Everyone plays with their folly) is carried by a feathered dog signifying Pride (Superbia). Several creatures carry a marotte (a jester’s bauble) to indicate their foolishness. Their doings are uncontrolled, to say the least, and no one seems to pay attention to the message that shines from above through the clouds.

10. Anonymous, published by Aux Quatre Vents, The Family of Fools
Engraving. – 160 × 247 mm (platemark)
Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels

On the other side of the composition there is a skull perched on a dead tree and a bell indicating that death will end all human endeavours and squabbling. Below, Saftleven creates a wonderful paradox: in the nest there is an owl hatching her eggs. This symbolises that death cannot prevent that a new generation of owls (fools) will emerge. This last notion was eloquently illustrated in a sixteenth-century engraving, published in Antwerp by the widow of Hieronymus Cock, showing a nest in which two foolish parents bring to life a family of fools (fig. 10). The other motifs, that mankind is ruled by vices and the temporariness of life, also find their origin in earlier art, but the way of displaying them in this biting and monochromatic way is due to the creativity of Cornelis Saftleven.

11. Reynier van der Laeck (The Hague 1615/1620 – 1647/1648 The Hague), Venus and Amor Mourning the Death of Adonis, 1641
Oil on panel. – 44 × 37 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

The Lugt painting collection is not too strong on scenes of classical mythology, and therefore the remarkable Venus and Amor Mourning the Death of Adonis by the rare artist Reynier van der Laeck (1615/1620-1647/1648), who was active in The Hague, is a welcome addition (fig. 11). The depiction has something of a theatre scene, enhanced by the anthracite-grey sky. The goddess of love and her son are shedding tears near the lifeless body of the beautiful young man spread out on a blanket, and the bareness of the landscape adds to the dramatic impact of the picture. The story is stripped down to its essence. There are no anecdotal details, and this painting dated 1641 is rather unusual. Until the 1950’s it was in the collection of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. It was sold in order to buy contemporary art. The Salomonsons bought it in 1979, with the hope of giving it a permanent place in a befitting context. This has now happened. The picture hangs next to a painting by Jacob van Loo, Diana and Calisto, with a not dissimilar mise-en-scène of a classical motif.

12. Cornelis de Vos (Hulst 1584 – 1651 Antwerp), Alexander the Great and the Family of Darius
Oil on panel. – 43 × 57,5 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.42

The Antwerp artist Cornelis de Vos (c. 1584-1651) is known above all as a portraitist, but he also made a number of history paintings strongly influenced by Rubens. We acquired one of the very rare oil sketches by De Vos for the large painting Alexander the Great and the Family of Darius (fig. 12) from the Salomonsons’ collection. This modello was previously owned by the collector D.G. van Beuningen, a benefactor of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, which bears his name since 1958. The sketch is very reminiscent of work by Rubens. The large canvas, which hardly differs from the sketch, is in the museum of Oldenburg in Germany. The wish to add the Cornelis de Vos to the collection reflects the important place oil sketches now occupy in the Fondation Custodia: late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century landscapes, but also sketches from the seventeenth century. Some years ago we acquired the swiftly and skilfully executed picture of a musical company on a gold-coloured ground by the Flemish painter Antonie Sallaert and a brunaille by Adriaen van de Werff (a ricordo of a lost painting in Potsdam); a friendly Dutch historian promised us the gift of a sketch by Hans Jordaens III in which various, mostly biblical, motifs in oils had been put together for staffage in landscapes.

  • 13. Jan Weenix (Amsterdam 1640 – 1719 Amsterdam), Sketch of Peacock and Hunting Trophies, 1708
    Oil on canvas, on panel. – 23,8 × 20,3 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2019-S.55
  • 14. Jan Weenix (Amsterdam 1640 – 1719 Amsterdam), Peacock and Hunting Trophies, 1708
    Oil on canvas. – 200 × 195 cm
    Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, inv. no. 454

The purchase of a modello by Jan Weenix for one of his large still lifes in the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection in Lisbon (fig. 13) at this year’s TEFAF in Maastricht is absolutely sensational in this context. I first spotted this incredibly loose sketch when it went up for sale previously (sale Christie’s, Monte Carlo, 21 June 1987) and tried to buy it for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, where I was working at that time. Three years before that, this museum had staged an inspiring exhibition of oil sketches, which featured another example from the Herzog Anton Ulrichmuseum in Braunschweig. I did not know that free paint handling like that existed in a seventeenth-century still life, and the sketch brought to mind the still lifes of Manet. It delights me now to give this Weenix a place in the Lugt Collection. Together with the above-mentioned works it is a true impulse for the representation of the seventeenth century in our house.

Ger Luijten
Director

A Dutch Impressionist

Willem Bastiaan Tholen (1860-1931)

Exhibition from 21 September to 15 December 2019

In January this year, the Dordrechts Museum in the Netherlands announced the acquisition of a self-portrait by the artist Willem Bastiaan Tholen (fig. 1). The painting occupies a singular position in the work of the artist because, quite unusually, we see him in the open air, painting in a forest.

1. Willem Bastiaan Tholen, Self-portrait in a Wooded Landscape, 1895
Oil on canvas. – 64 × 89 cm _Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht, inv. no. DM/019/1300, gift of the Society of Friends of the Museum (Bedrijfsvrienden), 2019

Executed in 1895, when the painter was 35, Tholen presents himself as a genuine landscape painter. With his lively, short brushstrokes used to render the splashes of light shining through the leaves of the trees, the painting echoes the work of the Impressionists. The self-portrait has been published several times, but until recently its whereabouts were unknown. It was rediscovered in a private collection. The Bedrijfsvrienden (Friends of the Museum) were instrumental in its purchase, presenting it to the museum on the occasion of their twenty-fifth anniversary.

The painting is exhibited at the large retrospective exhibition organised by the Fondation Custodia and the Dordrechts Museum, which opens in Paris on 21 September. The two museums wish to introduce this hitherto unknown painter to the public in the Netherlands and in France. The painter did not enjoy the attention that was paid to some of his contemporaries, for example to the artists of the naturalist movement of the Hague School to which his teacher P.J.C.(Constant) Gabriël (1828-1902) belonged, or to those of the Amsterdam Impressionists such as George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923). Nevertheless, Tholen was much appreciated during his lifetime. He received numerous prizes, had several monographic exhibitions in galleries, and his work was collected in Britain, Canada and America. This retrospective is an opportunity to discover the artist, and shows a varied selection of works to illustrate his talent.

Tholen began to work in the 1880s, mainly as a landscape painter. During the years 1880-1885, while he was active as a drawing teacher in Kampen, the town in which he grew up, he discovered Giethoorn. This village was at the time very difficult to reach and had preserved its customs and idiosyncrasies. Its inhabitants had the defining characteristic of going everywhere by boat, and so the village was criss-crossed with canals and typical little wooden bridges that had to be high enough to allow boats laden with hay to pass beneath them.

2. Willem Bastiaan Tholen, Houses under Construction, 1895
Oil on canvas. – 42 × 66 cm
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, inv. no. KM 108.927
© Photo Rik Klein Gotink

The painter moved to The Hague in 1886 and began to paint much more varied subjects: urban views, interiors, portraits, seascapes. His choice of subjects is sometimes surprising, for example the sun-filled painting of construction workers in The Hague (fig. 2). Here the centre of attention seems to be the wooden shack in light wood that the workers have erected for themselves. As well as demonstrating the artist’s observational skill, it also shows how he is able to invest an ordinary subject such as a building site with its own beauty. When the painting was exhibited in 1896 in the premises of the art dealer Biesing in The Hague, a critic expressed astonishment: ‘Who could have imagined that a building site scattered with heaps of stones and wooden constructions, piles of mortar and beams, could, by the artist’s hand, become a delightful work of art in its colours and tones?’.

3. Willem Bastiaan Tholen, View of Oude Wetering, 1904
Oil on panel. – 31.8 × 46.2 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2016-S.36

In 1901, Tholen commissioned a traditional sailing boat to be built, the Eudia, in which he sailed the Dutch lakes, the Zuiderzee (formerly a bay of the North Sea, now transformed into a lake, the IJsselmeer), and Zeeland. From then on, he devoted himself increasingly to seascapes and views of fishing villages. In 1904, while sailing near Oude Wetering in his boat, he executed a painting of this village on the banks of a canal, near the lakes of Braassemermeer and Kaag (fig. 3). This painting joined the collection of the Fondation Custodia, thanks to a gift, in 2016.

4. Willem Bastiaan Tholen, Studio Window at Ewijkshoeve, 1898
Oil on panel. – 36 × 26.7 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits, Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2019-S.26

The Fondation Custodia has recently been able to acquire another painting by the artist (fig. 4). This work perfectly illustrates the attention he gave to the most ordinary subjects: a view of a simple wall, with an open window, is the subject. On the right, several trees can be seen and, lower down, near the wall, a black chicken. This is the outer wall of the studio on the Ewijkshoeve estate. The property belonged to the family of the painter Willem Witsen (1860-1923), a close friend of Tholen. It was an important meeting place for artists, writers and musicians. From 1885, Tholen often worked at Ewijkshoeve. The Witsen family had even put the studio represented here at his disposal. The painting, small in size, was probably executed partly from nature, like an oil sketch. In fact, Tholen often painted out of doors and was at pains to represent what met his eye with great fidelity.

5. Willem Bastiaan Tholen, View of Roofs
Black chalk and orange crayon. – 127 × 211 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2016-T.125

His prints and drawings are testimony to this as well. He was a particularly skilful and prolific draughtsman, transferring everything he saw to paper, including for example this view of roofs, a drawing donated to the Fondation Custodia in 2016 (fig. 5).

6. Willem Bastiaan Tholen, Garden in Barbizon, 1887
Oil on panel. – 28 × 17 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

Finally, we can announce some recent news: this summer, the Fondation Custodia was able to buy a panel that is a rare document concerning Tholen’s journey to Barbizon, of which little was known (fig. 6). Only one drawing by him, representing a view of a studio, said to be that of Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), was published before, but this sheet was not dated. Thanks to a letter by the artist Jan Veth to Witsen, mentioning Tholen, we have proof that the latter was in Barbizon before (or around) 14 May 1887. The painting acquired by the Fondation Custodia, hitherto unknown, is dated 1887, which confirms the year in which Tholen must have stayed in the artists’ village near the forest of Fontainebleau. This view of a gate and wall of a garden in Barbizon is now shown for the first time.

The comprehensive retrospective exhibition of this artist, whose work has never before been exhibited in France, contains some hundred exhibits: paintings, drawings and prints. It is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue in Dutch, partially translated into French.

Rhea Sylvia Blok

Practical Information

Willem Bastiaan Tholen (1860-1931). Een gelukkige natuur
Edited by Marieke Jooren
Uitgeverij THOTH, Bussum, 2019
320 pages, 300 colour illustrations, 24 × 28 cm

ISBN: 978 90 6868 792 7 (hardcover)
39,95 €

To order this book, please fill out the form below. You will receive an invoice by e-mail, including package and postage fees. Payments can be made by bank transfer.

ISBN: 978 90 6868 793 4 (paperback)
29,95 €

To order this book, please fill out the form below. You will receive an invoice by e-mail, including package and postage fees. Payments can be made by bank transfer.

Works on Paper

Palézieux (1919-2012)

Exhibition from 21 September to 15 December 2019

Concurrently with the exhibition dedicated to Willem Bastiaan Tholen, the Fondation Custodia shows more than one hundred works on paper of the Swiss artist Gérard de Palézieux (1919-2012).

The techniques favoured by Palézieux are prints, drawings, wash drawings and watercolours. This exhibition presents an opportunity to take stock of the coherence of his work as he dealt with his favourite subjects: landscape, portraits and still-lifes.

The ‘silent music’ of Palézieux

Ger Luijten, director of the Fondation Custodia since 2010, regularly opens its doors to contemporary artists who work in traditional media. These artists, whom Ger Luijten would like to be better known in France, use techniques on paper that echo the techniques of the Old Masters.

Gérard de Palézieux, Barns at Chippis
Lithographic crayon on antique laid paper. – 246 × 368 mm
Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, Vevey

How did you get to know Gérard de Palézieux?

In 2000 there was a large exhibition devoted to his work in the Museum Het Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam. He produced large numbers of drawings, prints and watercolours and was also a painter. Visitors to the exhibition in Amsterdam were hugely impressed by it and so was I, so I decided to meet Palézieux. He was famous in Switzerland. I went to visit him in 2012 in Veyras where he worked. He was already old and fragile, he spoke with difficulty but was able to express himself perfectly clearly. I suggested that he should have an exhibition at the Fondation Custodia. He was immediately enthusiastic and offered me a choice of his prints as a donation. It was clear that because of his health we would probably be unable to organise the exhibition during his lifetime. He accepted the idea without question and said to me: ‘It’s nice to know that when I am no longer here my work will be presented in Paris, at the Fondation Custodia, after Amsterdam and Vevey’.

Now, one hundred years after his birth, we are paying homage to him with this show focusing on his works on paper. We also intend to follow up with an exhibition entitled Palézieux Peintre in a few years’ time.

Gérard de Palézieux, Sardine
Watercolour on wove paper. – 129 × 174 mm
Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex,Vevey

What struck you most during your visit to his studio in 2012?

The visit made a great impression on me because I was able to go through all of his work. I realised that the drawings, prints and watercolours that I was looking at were linked to the work of the artists of the past. He even used antique paper to lend his work a certain age.

Palézieux had a very keen eye for structure and this can be clearly seen in his drawings and prints. He understood how Rembrandt, Castiglione, Canaletto or Tiepolo used etching to achieve very specific effects. He also met and became friends with Giorgio Morandi, whom he admired for his way of life and for his art. In fact, he said that he had trouble freeing himself from Morandi’s graphic vocabulary. However, soft-ground etching, aquatint and monotype led him off in another direction. He also discovered, relatively late, the possibilities of watercolour. At that time, he was inspired by the traditions of Japan and China.

Did you go back to the studio later?

Yes. Palézieux had to be moved to a nursing home. I came back to prepare the exhibition that is currently at the Fondation Custodia. I once again was admitted into a very personal universe. The materials, the objects in his still-lifes, the elements he depicted in his work were all there, almost nonchalantly scattered around.

Gérard de Palézieux, Still Life, Jug, Vase and Basket
Lithographic crayon on antique laid paper. – 246 × 368 mm
Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, Vevey

Behind his chair, which looked out on to the garden, there was a reproduction of the self-portrait by the young Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, painted when he went to Italy for the first time. When I left the studio, I went to the nursing home where Palézieux was staying and I asked him: ‘There are antique sources that state that for the things we do during our lifetime, we have to act as if our best friend were looking at us, because our friend is also our severest critic. Does that explain the presence of the portrait of Corot that I have just seen in your studio?’. With tears in his eyes, Palézieux said: ‘Yes, that’s exactly it.’

Palézieux creates a dialogue with the artists of the past, without producing pastiches. He was above all a highly original artist who wanted to show where art came from. He died on 21 July 2012 at the age of 93.

Did he produce a lot of drawings of landscape?

Gérard de Palézieux, The Grammont
Watercolour on wove paper. – 149 × 149 mm
Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, Vevey

During my most recent visit to him in Switzerland, we walked around his village and I saw some of the places he had made drawings of. Going through his work today, I realise that he made it possible to view this landscape with its mountains, hills and rocks in a different way. He managed to make them legible, a bit like Cézanne with the Montagne Saint-Victoire and the countryside around Aix-en-Provence.

How should we remember Palézieux?

Palézieux loved poetry and his view of reality was poetic and simple. There is no aggression or brute force in his work. His work helps us find tranquillity in the world around us, and in ourselves. When I told my friend Jean-Baptiste Sécheret, the painter and printmaker, that we were preparing an exhibition on Palézieux his rejoinder was: ‘Ah! The silent music of Palézieux’. That encapsulates Palézieux for me, the calm of chamber music as opposed to a symphony.

Practical Information

Palézieux. Œuvres sur papier
Edited by Florian Rodari and Ger Luijten
5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2019
Four volumes, 21 × 25 cm (three volumes of images, one of text), casebound
ISBN: 978 88 7439 907 9
49,00 €

To order this book, please fill out the form below. You will receive an invoice by e-mail, including package and postage fees. Payments can be made by bank transfer.

Recent Acquisitions

Anonymous Flemish, 16th century
Panther, 1567
Pen and brown ink, watercolour. – 176 × 299 mm
2019-T.37
Anonymous Flemish, 16th century
Sardines on a Plate, c. 1570
Pen and brown ink, watercolour and body-colour over traces of pencil. – 187 × 216 mm
2019-T.40
Pierre Firens (? 1580 – 1638 ?) after Arent van Bolten (Zwolle 1563/83 – 1613/33 Leeuwarden)
Grotesque Ornaments: A Mascaron between two Volutes with a Mascaron, in profile, c. 1604-1616
Engraving. – 146 × 198 mm (plate)
2018-P.84(4)
Pierre Firens (? 1580 – 1638 ?) after Arent van Bolten (Zwolle 1563/83 – 1613/33 Leeuwarden)
Grotesque Ornaments: Five Spoons, c. 1604-1616
Engraving. – 148 × 198 mm (plate)
2018-P.84(1)
Raphael Sadeler I (Antwerp 1561 – 1632 Munich or Venice) after Joos van Winghe (Brussels 1544 – 1603 Frankfurt am Main)
Allegory of Wealth, Lust and Stupidity, 1588
Engraving. – 310 × 370 mm (plate)
2019-P.64
Lucas Franchoys II (Mechelen 1616 – 1681 Mechelen)
Satyr playing a Flute with two Putti, an Infant Angel and an Infant Satyr dancing, in a Landscape
Etching. – 127 × 207 mm (plate)
2018-P.81
Attributed to Johannes Thomas (Ieper 1617 – 1678 Vienna)
Man Standing behind a Parapet
Mezzotint. – 201 × 141 mm (plate)
2018-P.83
Cornelis Schut (Antwerp 1597 – 1655 Antwerp)
Album of prints by Cornelis Schut, title page
Etching. – 267 × 216 mm (plate)
2018-P.75
James Tissot (Nantes 1836 – 1902 Buillon)
The Cloackroom
Graphite. – 338 × 428 mm
2019-T.25
Henri Zuber (Rixheim 1844 – 1909 Paris)
View of the Rue de Vaugirard, Paris, c. 1900
Watercolour over a sketch in graphite. – 254 × 319 mm
2018-T.52
Gift from Daniel Greiner, Paris
Frans Vervloet (Mechelen 1795 – 1872 Venice)
Twelve Views of Pompeii, 1824-1825
Oil on paper, laid down on panel. – c. 12,5 × 17,5 cm
2018-S.31
Frans Vervloet (Mechelen 1795 – 1872 Venice)
Twelve Views of Pompeii, 1824-1825
Oil on paper, laid down on panel. – c. 12,5 × 17,5 cm
2018-S.31
Pierre-Louis Dubourcq (Amsterdam 1815 – 1873 Amsterdam)
View near Sorrento, 21 September 1843
Oil on paper, laid down on panel. – 16,1 × 52,4 cm
2018-S.9
Pierre-Louis Dubourcq (Amsterdam 1815 – 1873 Amsterdam)
Bay of Naples, with the Vesuvius, 17 September 1843
Oil on paper, laid down on panel. – 19,5 × 54,7 cm
2018-S.10
Hein Burgers (Huissen 1834 – 1899 Paris)
View from the Artist’s Workshop in Paris, 1877
Oil on canvas. – 24,4 × 32,5 cm
2018-S.33
Willem Carel Nakken (The Hague 1835 – 1926 Rijswijk)
Landscape
Oil on paper, laid down on panel. – 12,9 × 30,5 cm
2018-S.34
Gift from John H. Bergen, Amsterdam
Anonymous French, 19th century
Trees and Boulders, possibly in Fontainebleau
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 24,4 × 31,5 cm
2016-S.27
Gift from Bernard Branger, Paris
Anonymous French, 19th century
Landscape with Trees, maybe in Fontainebleau
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 25,4 × 32,3 cm
2018-S.26
Gift from Bernard Branger, Paris
Pietro Piranesi (? 1751 – after 1807 ?)
View of the Borghese Gardens, Rome
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 36,6 × 28,4 cm
2019-S.27
Gift from Giandomenico and Assunta Ghella, Rome
Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Huet (Paris 1745 – 1811 Paris)
Study of a Plant
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 46,5 × 34 cm
2019-S.53

Two Paintings from the Van Horne Collection

Two paintings recently acquired by the Fondation Custodia, by François Bonvin (Vaugirard 1817–1887 Saint-Germain-en-Laye) and Willem van Mieris (Leiden 1662–1747 Leiden)—each striking in its own right—unexpectedly share a common thread that reminds us, once again, of the unusual peregrinations works of art can take during their long histories.

1. François Bonvin, Still Life with Drawings Portfolio, Plaster Cast and Pot, 1873
Oil on canvas. – 27 × 35,3 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2019-S.45

François Bonvin’s Still Life with Drawings Portfolio, Plaster Cast and Pot (fig. 1) is an appealing late example of the dramatically-lit, sensitive arrangements of commonplace objects that came to be much admired by later collectors who recognized Bonvin’s place in the lineage of European still life painting. Bonvin drew on the lessons of Golden Age Dutch still life painters, and of the 18th-century French master of the genre, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin (1699–1779), whose works he studied at the Louvre. Bonvin’s compositions offer the spectator an unassuming yet noble vision of the everyday, that links his work to the prevailing Realist aesthetic and values espoused, albeit more radically, by his contemporary Gustave Courbet (1819–1877).

Here, the tools of the artist’s trade are the theme of the painting. In this sense, it is a kind of portrait of his profession, but such modest subject-matter—typical of his work—was a choice probably made as much of necessity as of artistic preference. He was born into humble circumstances and suffered from frail health throughout his life. He had little formal artistic training, and until his thirties supported his family as a clerk in a police station. He began exhibiting at the Paris Salons in 1849, and while his work received favourable critical notice, he found limited financial success. The suicide of his impoverished half-brother Léon Bonvin (1834–1866), himself a talented but unacknowledged painter, brought him further hardship. Towards the end of his life his dire situation was such that his fellow artists organized a sale to raise funds to alleviate his poverty.

2. Willem van Mieris, Portrait of Willem Cornelisz. Backer, 1688
Oil on panel. – 14 × 11 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2018-S.43

By contrast, Willem van Mieris’s Portrait of Willem Cornelisz Backer (fig. 2) presents us with a richly dressed sitter, observing us with the confidence that comes from a comfortable station in life. Van Mieris himself enjoyed renown in his lifetime. Born into a dynasty of painters in Leiden, he studied under his father Frans, whose studio he inherited, and where he continued in his father’s footsteps in the fijnschilder tradition, producing small-scale, highly finished works prized by affluent Dutch patrons.

The sitter, Backer, was an Amsterdam lawyer, a noted collector of naturalia, city burger and warden of the newly built Amstelkerk. He married Magdalena de la Court, a member of a prestigious Leiden family of cloth merchants and politicians, further cementing his position in the highest echelons of Dutch society. The Backer and De la Court families, indeed, counted among Van Mieris’s most important patrons, commissioning numerous portraits, history paintings and genre pieces. In fact, Van Mieris’s tiny oval panel—barely larger than a miniature—is one of several known versions. The Fondation Custodia portrait is likely that recorded in a 1749 inventory of the De la Court family possessions.

3. Wm. Notman & Son, Sir William Van Horne, c. 1905
© McCord Museum, Montreal II-212767.0

Worlds apart in style, purpose and era, the Bonvin and the Van Mieris find a natural home at the Fondation Custodia, through their shared links to Dutch painting and its legacy. They enter it from different sources: the Bonvin from the Galerie Ambroise Duchemin, Paris, the Van Mieris from the estate of the famed medievalist Jan Willem Salomonson. Yet astonishingly, their histories had already intersected about 100 years ago: in the early years of the 20th century, both belonged to the renowned Canadian collector Sir William Van Horne (1843–1915; fig. 3), a fact confirmed by the survival of verso labels, identified through the felicitous collaboration of the Fondation Custodia’s Maud Guichané and the author (fig. 4). Such discoveries, enriching understandings of the afterlives of paintings, exemplify the scholarly legacy of the Fondation’s creator, Frits Lugt.

4. Van Horne’s label

Van Horne’s is a classic rags-to-riches story in the history of North America’s Gilded Age. Born to modest means near Chicago, he rose through the ranks of the booming railway business; he emigrated to Canada in 1881 to lead the construction of the transnational line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, thereby making his fortune. Settling permanently in Montreal, he began collecting with the same acumen that had assured his business success, and by the end of his life had amassed a collection of some 300 Old Master and 19th-century European paintings, often seeking advice from leading specialists, including Bredius, Hofstede de Groot and Bode. In its day, the Van Horne collection ranked with North America’s best.

The Fondation Custodia’s Bonvin was one of four Van Horne purchased by the artist. Archival records show that its source was the New York dealer Frederick A. Chapman in 1905, who was said to have acquired it either from or through the American painter William Merritt Chase. According to an estate inventory of Van Horne’s household effects, it hung in the sitting room, among many of his best 19th-century French paintings, including two by Delacroix, a Cézanne, and several Corots.

When acquired by Van Horne in 1909 from the London dealer Colnaghi, the Van Mieris was attributed to the artist’s father Frans (its signature was revealed in a cleaning in 1964; the sitter’s identity was recovered by later scholars). It shared space in Van Horne’s grand reception room with his Rembrandts, three portraits by Frans Hals and other prized acquisitions.

As far as Canadian cultural history is concerned, the fate of the Van Horne collection is unfortunate. Although some major works were bequeathed to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts by Van Horne’s daughter Adaline, much of the collection later sold, in groups and individually, both at auction and privately, over the decades. The Bonvin left the collection in 1967, the Van Mieris in 1991, each changing hands several times before their acquisition here, where they are now happily—and permanently—reunited.

Janet M. Brooke
Independent scholar, Montreal, and specialist on the Sir William Van Horne collection

Théophile Thoré-Bürger through the prism of letters and manuscripts

The digitisation of the collection of letters and manuscripts in the Fondation Custodia has allowed us to take stock of some very fine groups of materials which had been stored just as they were since the time of their acquisition in 2012.

Studio of Nadar, Théophile Thoré, art critic, c. 1865
Photograph, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, source Gallica

Tucked away in four very inconspicuous archive boxes was part of the correspondence of Théophile Thoré-Bürger (1807-1869) who, in 1832, abandoned his career as a lawyer to find expression for his political and aesthetic ideas in journalism and art criticism. His radical Republicanism led to his exile from France between 1849 and 1859, years which he chose to spend in Belgium. There, he came into contact with Flemish culture, became familiar with it, learned to appreciate it and wrote about it. During that time, he wrote under the pseudonym William Bürger, which allowed him to publish his articles in France without incurring the wrath of the censors. Since his death in 1869, he has been generally known as Théophile Thoré-Bürger.

Our first task was to sort and classify the documents, and then to take a careful, critical look at them in order to assess the interest they might hold for scholars. We had to be sure we had identified Thoré’s correspondents, or at least discovered as much as possible about their identities and their biographies. This involved painstaking research into the different social circles in which Thoré moved during his career. His activity as an art connoisseur and critic began in 1842 when he created the Alliance des Arts with ‘Bibliophile Jacob’, the nickname of Paul Lacroix (1806-1884), a close friend. After the death of Thoré, Lacroix preserved the letters he had received and the Fondation Custodia acquired them from his heirs. The collection contains nearly five hundred documents.

It was Théophile Thoré-Bürger who managed to influence the public view on Dutch painting of the Golden Age towards the dazzling revelation of Vermeer, then called Jan Van der Meer and nicknamed by Thoré ‘the sphinx’. From the moment he published on Vermeer, first in 1858 in his major publication Musées de la Hollande, then in 1866 in a fascinating article in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, the letters he received were often on the subject of Vermeer, whose enigmatic magnetism was to some extent invented, or crystallised by the critics. This group of letters throws light on the creation of his own collection, the development of his taste and on some of the important moments in his career – in admittedly a much more lively fashion than do his own writings: his correspondents react to his recent articles and discoveries, they watch his interventions in the European art world and ask for his assistance with dealers and collectors.

All the great names are present, for example Ingres, Delacroix, Manet,1 each of whom invited Thoré to visit their studio so that they could receive the valued opinion of the critic and art-lover. The dealer Paul Durand-Ruel also wrote to him: his letter of May 18672 allows us to imagine a special visit by Thoré to an exhibition, at the dealer’s gallery, of the works of Théodore Rousseau in the presence of the artist.

From letters written by the critic’s correspondents we gradually discover the personality and taste of certain collectors and educated patrons, whose names are linked with some of the finest works of the great Dutch masters. The most enthusiastic and exceptional of these collectors are also the wealthiest. Here, the names of Charles de Brou (1811-1877) and Léopold Double (1812-1881) come to mind. A case in point is this letter illustrated by Charles de Brou himself. De Brou is mentioned in the will of Madame Rivière-Thoré, which was found among original biographical documents that came with the collection of letters.3 We know that Charles de Brou was the Thoré family solicitor and also a collector with a nose for new discoveries.

Charles de Brou, Letter to Théophile Thoré-Bürger, 27 May 1865
Pen and brown ink, graphite
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2012-A.75

I have at the moment in my bedroom a painting that intrigues me greatly, I can assure you. It is a most skilful pastiche of Hobbema, done at least a century and a half ago, without doubt, and possessing an admirable signature painted with a full brush. The background of the landscape and the sky are superb […] and in some ways worthy of the master. […] I am sending you a tracing of the signature and below I enclose a sketch of the subject, perhaps you recognise it? Do you recognise the subject? Could it be an early copy of a Hobbema? The painting style owes something to Van Kessel, and to others as well. This intriguing painting belongs to our friend Dumortier who, naturally, regards it as indisputable! So, don’t say anything bad about it to him.

Thoré’s correspondence (more than 70 letters)4 with Léopold Double reveals something about what went on behind the scenes at the great Exposition rétrospective aux Champs-Élysées organised in June 1866, in which masterpieces from French private collections were shown together.5 Léopold Double presented Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl (Frick Collection, New York). To Thoré, this event was certainly the moment at which his consistent eye for Dutch art was confirmed. Eleven paintings attributed to Vermeer were exhibited, all of them passed in front of him beforehand: these included The Geographer (in the collection of Isaac Pereire, now in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt). From his own collection, in addition to six paintings by Vermeer (including the Lady Seated at a Virginal, National Gallery, London, and the Woman with a Pearl Necklace, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), Thoré exhibited works by Abraham van Beyeren, Carel Fabritius, Frans Hals and Pieter de Hooch. Although several attributions have been queried over the years, questions of attribution are often raised in Thoré’s correspondence. He was an expert, an art lover and a critic and his gaze developed and sharpened as the years went by.

This collection of letters contains very few written by Thoré himself, but there is the occasional rough copy or the copy of a reply he had sent and wished to remember. As, for example, this copy of a letter to Léopold Double, expressing the excitement aroused by the marvellous exhibition which brought together works of art from both their collections.

Théophile Thoré-Bürger, Letter to Léopold Double, c. June 1866
Handwritten copy
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2012-A.148

Dear Sir and Friend, Imagine how happy I am with the success of your paintings in the exhibition. It’s our victory. My artistic, objective passion is to add to my friends’ collections masterpieces and rarities discovered by me but which I cannot give to myself. Of course, I shall express my feelings – as critic and fanatic – in l’Indépendance and elsewhere, about the exhibition in the Champs Elysées, and especially about our dear Van der Meer. As I await new discoveries, my dear friend, allow me to renew my affectionate devotion. W.B.

The Fondation Custodia has been interested in collecting Thoré-Bürger’s letters for many years, particularly with a group of letters to his friend and colleague Louis Viardot (1800-1883); these allow us to appreciate the critic’s singular style and enthusiasm.6 For scholars, historians and biographers there is much to discover in the detail of these letters. The names mentioned in the correspondence echo many of the projects undertaken by the Fondation Custodia. Letters to Thoré from a number of collectors might provide invaluable information for the inventory of collectors’ marks drawn up by Frits Lugt in 1921, now entirely online and continually being added to. In this collection of letters, one will probably find the work or the name of Jacobus Vrel, the little-known artist who is soon to be the subject of the first ever retrospective exhibition of his work, to be organised by the Fondation Custodia: a painter closely studied by Thoré – he sometimes wavered before attributing his monogram, J.V., to Johannes Vermeer.7 Not to mention Frans Hals: Thoré-Bürger salvaged him from being a painter known for the dissolute morals which threatened to make him disappear without trace – for the wrong reasons; some of his paintings recently were on show in the exhibition rooms of the Fondation Custodia.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Théophile Thoré-Bürger shone a light on all the qualities of Dutch painting and, in a broader sense, on the qualities of European art as well. His opinions were authoritative in tone on a large number of the subjects he broached, and which he often mentioned in his correspondence. There are exhibitions this year dedicated to the admirable art critics Félix Fénéon and Joris-Karl Huysmans, and there is no doubt that Théophile Thoré-Bürger, also a great discoverer, deserves to be similarly honoured.

Antoine Cortes

1Respectively inv. nos 2012-A.360/360a, 2012-A.94 and 2012-A.381/381a.

2Inv. no. 2017-A.257.

3Documents that also include the last wishes of Thoré, official papers concerning his funeral and burial, the catalogue of the estate sale of 1892 and a number of invoices of purchases made.

4Inv. nos 2012-A.132/206.

5Exposition rétrospective: Tableaux anciens empruntés aux Galeries particulières: Palais des Champs-Élysées, June 1866; catalogue available on Gallica.

6Some thirteen handwritten letters, signed, and acquired as they presented themselves, inv. nos 2003-A.911/914 and inv. nos 2013-A.184-192.

7In the 1866 exhibition, the Intérieur de ville hollandaise from the Bürger collection was presented as a Vermeer; it is now attributed to Vrel. The painting is in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

A Volume of Prints from the Library of Guillaume de Lamoignon

As well as numerous prints on loose sheets, the Frits Lugt Collection also includes a small nucleus of well-stocked volumes of bound prints.

Some of these volumes are still in their original binding, and some also present clues to the identity of the collector to whom they belonged in the past. These clues are of various kinds, for example an inscription, a stamp, an ex-libris, a supra ex-libris, or a monogram on the spine of the volume. The volume which is the subject of this article, whose origins Lugt was unable to trace, contains three distinct clues to its previous ownership and these have recently allowed us to identify its original owner.

1. Hieronymus Ferri after Aegidius Sadeler, Title plate of the series Vestigi delle Antichità di Roma, Tivoli, Pozzuolo et altri luochi
Re-printed by Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi, Rome, undated but between 1660 and 1677
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

The volume in question contains a series of prints entitled Vestigi delle antichità di Roma, Tivoli, Pozzuolo et altri luochi come si retrovavono nel secolo M.D. The information given on the title plate, claiming that Marco Sadeler engraved the plates, is however very misleading: in fact this is an identical copy, executed for Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi in Rome by Hieronymus Ferri, a little-known and less talented printmaker, whose initials can be seen on four of the plates. The first edition of these copies dates from 1660 (inv. PL-71). In the edition which interests us here, the second (inv. PL-72), the date has been removed from the copper plate and the following sentence has been added at the end of the title: ‘Come si ritrovano nel secolo MD’ (fig. 1). The copper plates from this edition are now in the Calcografia of the Istituto Centrale per la Grafica in Rome. The Fondation Custodia also possesses a copy of the original edition of the series engraved by Aegidius Sadeler published in Prague in 1606. Sadeler basically takes up, in a smaller format, the compositions of the series by Étienne Dupérac which appeared under the same title in 1575 (inv. PL-73, fol. 1-40). In the Fondation Custodia copy of the Sadeler series, the last three plates are published by Marco Sadeler with no date but probably shortly after 1629 (inv. PL-73, fol. 77-121).

2. Front board of the above volume, with the coat-of-arms of the Lamoignon family
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

The binding of the second edition of the copies by Ferri is in brown calfskin and the front and back board bear the coat-of-arms of the Lamoignon family: losangé d’argent et de sable, au franc quartier d’hermines (fig. 2). The family was well-known in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; however, the coat-of-arms on its own is not sufficient to identify the person who bought the prints, commissioned the binding and had the family arms embossed in gold on the front board.

3. Parts of the spine of the volume bearing the monogram G D L stamped in gold
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

We ignore when exactly Frits Lugt acquired the volume, but we know that he had the binding restored as it was in bad condition. The spine of the binding was completely replaced, but two small pieces of the original leather survive and they bear a monogram stamped in gold (fig. 3), composed of the letters G D L. This second clue suggests that the volume belonged to Guillaume de Lamoignon (1617-1677), first president of the Parlement de Paris.

4. Robert Nanteuil, Portrait of Guillaume de Lamoignon, 1663
Engraving. – 328 × 252 mm (plate)
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 1868 (PW 97 I)

Guillaume de Lamoignon (fig. 4) lived in a town house bearing his name, in Paris (now the Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris), to which he regularly invited the many distinguished literary figures whom he took pleasure in supporting. Boileau said of him that ‘He was a Man of astonishing learning, & a passionate admirer of all the great books of Antiquity; & this is what made him suffer my works with ease: in them, he believed he espied a flavour of the Ancients’ (Œuvres diverses du sieur D***, Paris 1683, preface). The series of prints after Sadeler, showing the antiquities of Rome and other sites and present in our collection, confirm this passion. Guillaume’s library was passed down to his son, Chrétien-François Ist (1644-1709), assistant public prosecutor and then president of the High Court in the Parlement de Paris and member of the Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres. Chrétien-François enriched his father’s library and appointed as his librarian the scholar Adrien Baillet (1649-1706), who compiled a manuscript catalogue of the library in 35 folio volumes, now lost, known as the Catalogus Bibliothecae Lamonianae, ab Adriano Baillet compositus. The last owner of the ‘Bibliotheca Lamoniana’ was Chrétien-François II de Lamoignon, Marquis de Basville (1735-1789), Lord Chancellor of France. He added to it considerably, having inherited the library from his father-in-law, Nicolas-René Berryer (1703-1762) (also Lord Chancellor). In 1770 he had printed, for his sole use, 12 or 15 copies of the catalogue of his library; this edition was followed in 1784 by five supplements.

5. Mark with the letter L crowned in an oval, Lugt 5137

We know that the volume that interests us here was owned by the last descendant of Guillaume de Lamoignon because it bears an oval stamp containing the initial L surmounted by a fantasy crown, and this, the third clue, figures on the dedicatory print of the series (fig. 5). We should bear in mind that the prints, books and manuscripts from the library of Chrétien-François II are stamped in a fairly random manner, according to a logic that is difficult to follow.

When taken all together, the three clues dealt with above make it possible to identify the noble provenance of a volume of prints documenting the antiquities of Rome and other sites. For more information on the history of the ‘Bibliotheca Lamoniana’ the reader is referred to the entry under number Lugt 5137 on the database of the collectors’ marks, www.marquesdecollections.fr.

Peter Fuhring

Two of our Drawings in Florence

The Fondation Custodia is often conspicuous elsewhere in the world because of the loans we are happy to provide for exhibitions. Every year, dozens of works from the collection travel to museums on both sides of the Atlantic to feature in new temporary contexts that sometimes produce surprising perspectives for visitors as well as for the Fondation staff.

Earlier this year, two of the very finest sheets in the collection have been on show in Florence in Verrocchio, il maestro di Leonardo at the Palazzo Strozzi. The exhibition presented a comprehensive overview of the work of the artist (c. 1435-1488), who was both a sculptor and a painter but whose originality in the first of those two arts, above all, would leave a profound impression on his contemporaries and on future generations.

The Fondation’s drawings were shown in one of the last rooms, which examined the studies of draperies dal naturale that had become common practice in Verrocchio’s workshop, perhaps not surprising for an artist whose best statues owe much of their impact to the complex folds of the garments. They are both studies of the lower part of the body of a seated figure, hidden under heavy draperies, and both by pupils who had already become artists in their own right in Verrocchio’s studio: Lorenzo di Credi (c. 1457-1537), who after the master’s departure to Venice around 1483 would take over the running of his Florentine workshop, and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who was registered as a master in 1472, but who was certainly still working in Verrocchio’s workshop in 1476.

  • 1. Lorenzo di Credi, Study of Drapery for a Seated Figure, c. 1480-85
    Silverpoint, brush and pale grey watercolour, white body-colour, on pale pinkish ground. – 219 × 176 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, inv. no. 2491
  • 2. Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Drapery for a Seated Figure, c. 1475-85
    Brush and brown watercolour, grey and white body-colour, on grey-brown coloured linen, mounted on paper. – 241 × 193 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 6632

Lorenzo’s sheet (fig. 1) is a silverpoint drawing on tinted paper, a common technique in the Florentine Quattrocento, but Leonardo executed his study with a fine brush on a small piece of prepared linen, perhaps the reason why nothing of the astonishing intensity of light and plasticity of this study has been lost (fig. 2).1 A century later, Giorgio Vasari (1511-1578), the author of the first large collection of artists’ biographies, owned similar studies by Leonardo and wrote that the young artist made them after terracotta figures that he covered in soft rags which he had dipped in wet clay. Until recently, all seventeen existing specimens in this unusual technique were attributed to Leonardo himself, but it is now quite clear that a number of them are by other artists. Two of them are presented in the exhibition as the work of Verrocchio, assuming that he introduced the technique and passed it on to his pupils.

3. The two drawings from the Fondation Custodia being installed in the exhibition Verrocchio, il maestro di Leonardo
Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, February 2019

In the exhibition catalogue Carmen Bambach suggests that our study is one of the later, increasingly monumental examples of the eight she still considers to be by Leonardo, and that it may date from a time when he had already left Verrocchio’s workshop. None of them can be linked to any known project and it is possible that the artist made them, as Vasari suggests, as exercises. The artists in his circle must have greatly admired them, to judge from the use they made of them. Lorenzo di Credi’s study in the Fondation, for example, should undoubtedly be regarded as a variation of the best in Leonardo’s series, now in the Louvre, but in his own far more traditional technique. The three works were exhibited together on the same wall in Florence (fig. 3). The comparison confirms Vasari’s account that Lorenzo studied and imitated the work of his famous fellow pupil intensively, and in particular in drapery studies like these, for which he used the same method with draped terracotta figures; again, Vasari himself owned examples of such studies. The drapery in the sheet is very close to that of the Virgin in an altarpiece in Pistoia, commissioned from Verrocchio and largely prepared by him, but executed by his deputy after he left Florence.

Apart from exemplifying this complex interplay of creative exchange in Verrocchio’s workshop, there was a very different reason for bringing a number of these drapery studies together in Florence, namely to add weight to the attribution to the young Leonardo of a terracotta statuette, which would be his only known excursion into the field of sculpture.2 At the end of the nineteenth century this Virgin with the Laughing Child from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London had already been linked to the artist, whom Vasari said ‘had modelled a couple of heads of smiling women (…) and of putti’ in his youth, but over the course of the twentieth century this idea was abandoned in favour of an attribution to his older contemporary Antonio Rossellino (1427-1479). Leonardo’s authorship has once again been forcefully brought to the fore by the organizers of the exhibition. Among other things they point to the similarities between the Virgin’s robe, hanging from her knees in deep, crisp folds, and the drapery studies with their focus on the same motif – certainly the reason why the statuette was exhibited in close proximity to the studies from the Fondation Custodia and the Louvre (fig. 4). This spectacular presentation of Leonardo as a sculptor has inevitably been seized upon by the international press, but it has not immediately led to the unanimous acceptance of his authorship of the statuette. For the time being, the London museum still cautiously adheres to the current attribution to Rossellino.

4. Verrocchio, il maestro di Leonardo, exhibition view, 2019
Courtesy Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence
Photo: Alessandro Moggi

The Fondation Custodia’s two drawings come from the collection of more than four hundred Italian drawings from the fourteenth to the early nineteenth century that was amassed by Frits Lugt (1884-1970) and his successors. Whereas Lugt had acquired the sheet by Lorenzo di Credi from the London art trade in 1926, the Leonardo was a gift, undoubtedly the finest he ever received. He got it in 1954 from the Marquis Hubert de Ganay (1888-1974), in memory of his aunt, the collector and patron the Comtesse Martine de Béhague (1869-1939), who owned four of the other tele di lino from the series.

Hans Buijs

1James Byam Shaw, The Italian Drawings of the Frits Lugt Collection, 3 vols., Paris 1983, nos. 6 and 10; Carmen C. Bambach in Francesco Cagliotti & Andrea de Marchi (eds.), Verrocchio, il maestro di Leonardo, exh. cat. Florence (Palazzo Strozzi), 2019, nos. 9.10 and 9.12. For the group, see also Andrea De Marchi, ibid. pp. 51-52.

2Francesco Cagliotti, ibid., p. 45 and no. 9.11.

The Future of History of Art in our Library

For the past three years, in the first academic term of the year, the library of the Fondation Custodia has welcomed undergraduate students from the Paris University Panthéon-Sorbonne.

They come to prepare an essay and a written commentary on the work of a Flemish or Dutch artist. At the Fondation Custodia, the students have free access to a very large selection of books about these artists, and we try to guide their first hesitant steps towards suitable sources for the study of history of art: museum catalogues, catalogues raisonnés and databases, including the RKD (Dutch Institute for Art History). Carole Fonticelli, one of their lecturers and a former colleague at the library, tells us about the students in more detail.

Carole Fonticelli

You teach at university and are preparing your thesis at the same time; could you begin by telling us something about your academic career?

I took an undergraduate degree and a master’s in history of art at Panthéon Sorbonne, the only university in France that still offers the chance, under the supervision of Colette Nativel, to study Flemish and Dutch art from bachelor’s degree to PhD. Then I became a seminar teacher, while still preparing my thesis on Mary Magdalen in the art of the Northern Netherlands. I am lucky to be teaching in the area in which I specialise – this isn’t always the case for those in charge of seminars. I think it is beneficial for the students and it allows me to think more widely about my thesis, as students sometimes look at things from a different perspective.

Who are the students you send to us, and what are they working on?

They are students from Licence 2, who are aged about 20. There are 280 of them, in seven groups which my colleague Esther Guillaume and I share between us. The majority are working towards a degree in history of art, but others have chosen this seminar as an elective and come from the faculties of History, Philosophy and sometimes even Economics.

They study subjects stretching from the Romanists, the first artists from the Southern and Northern Netherlands to go to Italy in the mid sixteenth century, to the artists of the seventeenth century, in particular Bruegel, Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck, the Utrecht Caravaggeschi, Rembrandt and his school, Vermeer. We try and encourage them to work on artworks in public collections in Paris so that they can see them in the flesh. This allows them to view the work of art as an object, to think about the material aspects of the piece and about scenography and museography. These are subjects that the theoretical nature of the university does not always allow them to tackle.

These young students also have access to their university library, why do you think taking them to a specialised library is good for them?

As undergraduate students, they only have access to the university library and the libraries run by the Ville de Paris, whose holdings can be quite limited if we consider the detail in which they are required to approach their subjects. For students at the beginning of their course, to take the step of going to a specialised library is to already acquire a degree of professionalisation. When I tell them that, in your reading room, they may be seated between an art dealer and a museum curator, I immediately gain their attention. They are intrigued by the thought. As for more practical concerns, some of them are delighted that they can scan extracts from books for free, especially those who live far away and are short of time.

As a teacher and young researcher, do you give career advice to these apprentice art historians?

At the beginning they don’t dare think about this kind of question. Then, little by little, they come and see me – particularly to talk about internships. I try to make them realise that the theoretical training they receive at university points them primarily in the direction of research and the preparation of a thesis. Some of them already understand that, above all, they should get as much work experience as possible to open them to other professional milieux: the art market and public and private collections. As soon as their degree, they can easily find internships in galleries in Paris. I also try and encourage them to look abroad and to take part in exchange programmes. I insist (almost scaring them) on the importance of mastering several languages. English is indispensable, but if they want to study Dutch seventeenth-century art, learning Dutch is just as important. Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne offers this language as an option, so they can integrate it into their course. It can give interesting results: this year, a student quoted some proverbs in Dutch in her essay!

Among the many students you send us from January to April we notice that a number of them show genuine motivation and commitment. Do you sense the same thing?

Absolutely. Last year I received an excellent essay on Rubens, for example. We have just formed GRANIT (Groupe de Recherche sur l’Art du Nord: Images, Textes) and the blog that goes with it. We thought of suggesting to the undergraduate students that, if they had done an outstanding piece of work, they should publish it as an academic article on the blog. It could be very motivating for them.

The library team is proud and delighted to welcome these novices; there may be future great art historians among them. If you are a teacher, don’t hesitate to send us your recruits!

Cécile Raymond

Interview with Ger Luijten in Kunstschrift

Which exhibitions made an indelible impression on the memories of well-known exhibition makers? Which of them were groundbreaking or memorable, and why? Museum directors and curators give their views. How do these exhibitions compare with their own projects?

For its September 2019 issue, Dutch journal Kunstschrift asked the director of the Fondation Custodia about his favorite exhibitions.

Read the article here: Kunstschrift, September 2019.