Donation by Gerhard Greidanus

Two sketches with views of the rooftops of Paris

by Pierre-Antoine Demachy (1723-1807) and Pierre-Antoine Mongin (1761-1827)

Former treasurer of the Fondation Custodia and a great admirer of the house, Gerhard Greidanus has just made a gift in memory of his friendship of more than 60 years with Jan Maarten Boll.

There are many reasons for donating a work of art to an institution. It may be out of love for the work and the desire to place it in good hands. It can also be to celebrate the memory of a loved one.

The former treasurer of the Fondation Custodia, Gerhard Greidanus, lost one of his best friends a few weeks ago. He was deeply touched by the unexpected passing of Jan Maarten Boll, chairman of the Vereniging Rembrandt (Rembrandt Association) in the Netherlands for many years and supporter of various modern artists. Gerhard Greidanus wished to pay tribute to this great art lover by offering the Fondation Custodia two sketches previously chosen by the Fondation.

Pierre-Antoine Demachy (Paris 1723 – 1807 Paris), Clouds above the Rooftops of the Louvre, c. 1769-85
Oil on paper, mounted on board. – 18.6 × 33 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, Gift of Gerhard Greidanus, Amsterdam, in memory of his friend Jan Maarten Boll

One of them, from the Talabardon & Gautier gallery in Paris, represents the rooftops of the Louvre, which housed several artists, including Pierre-Antoine Demachy. He lived there from 1769 to 1806. The painter depicts these lodgings surmounted by stylised clouds as seen in 18th-century landscapes. The study must have been executed before 1784-1785, when the architecture was modified. Produced with a very limited palette on a simple and direct underdrawing, this oil on paper gives an insight into how Demachy used sketches to create his paintings.

Can we speak here of open-air painting? Not quite, but painting while looking outdoors, from a window.

  • Pierre-Antoine Mongin (Paris 1761–1827 Versailles), Rooftops in Paris, 1823
    Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 44,3 × 33,4 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, Gift of Gerhard Greidanus, Amsterdam, in memory of his friend Jan Maarten Boll
  • Pierre-Antoine Mongin (Paris 1761–1827 Versailles), The Curious One, 1823
    Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 43,5 × 34,6 cm
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Noah L. Butkin 1977.116

The second work is also a recent discovery, found in the south of France by the Parisian art dealer Stéphane Rouvet. It is a view of the rooftops of Paris, most likely next to the Louvre. Stéphane Rouvet was able to identify it and attribute it to Pierre-Antoine Mongin, of whom we know the painting The Curious One, exhibited at the Salon in 1823, that is clearly based on our sketch. In the final version of this painting, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art, a young man uses a ladder to climb over the wall to the courtyard of the ‘institution de jeunes demo[iselles] dirigée par Mme Wachsam’ according to the inscription. This anecdote does not occur in our study.

Jan Maarten Boll never saw these two sketches but he would certainly have admired them. He liked to observe the roofs of Amsterdam from the completely glazed top floor of the house of his friends Gerhard and Dineke Greidanus. During a stay in Paris, where he had a pied-à-terre, he confided to Ger Luijten, director of the Fondation Custodia, from a window of the Hôtel Turgot: "I understand why rooftops have always inspired artists and early photographers, because their forms are proto-abstract. If you really start contemplating them, you can ask yourself: what are the lives that have been led under these roofs for hundreds of years? Tell me, Ger, doesn’t it make you imagine it? »

Jan Maarten Boll (1942-2020) worked throughout his life to promote and safeguard works of art. It was thanks to his action and determination that the Dutch State decided in 1998 to acquire the last painting by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Victory Boogie Woogie, for the Kunstmuseum in The Hague, one of the most important public purchases in the Netherlands ever.

Jan Maarten Boll was also a passionate collector. During his lifetime he donated a large part of his collections to Dutch museums, in order to share the art he enjoyed with a wide public.

View of the rooftops of Paris from Jan Maarten Boll and his wife Pauline Kruseman’s flat