Poelenburgh in the National Gallery of CanadaHome
| Français | Introduction
by Malcolm Waddingham
| 2 | 3
1 According to Arnold
Houbraken, De Groote Schunburgh (Amsterdam, 1718) vol. I, p.
128, Poelenburgh was born in 1586. Some recent scholars prefer to
believe that he was born a decade later, c. 1595, which would make
him a younger man when he visited Italy.
2 Documents and drawings give proof that Poelenburgh was definitely
in Rome in 1617, 1620, 1621, 1622, and 1623, and one reference may
possibly (though not certainly) refer to him there in 1625.
Poelenburgh is recorded back in Utrecht in 1627, but he may have
returned a year, or even two years, earlier.
3 Joachim von Sandrart, Academie Der Bau-, BiId- und MahIerey-Künste
Von 1675 (A. R. Peltzer edition; Munich, 1925), pp. 157, 175,
179, 193, 260, 330, 400, 418, 433.
4 Eckhard Schaar, "Poelenburgh und Breenbergh in Italien und
ein Bild Elsheimers," MitteiIungen des Kunsthistorischen
Institutes in FIorenz, IX (1959-1960), pp. 25-54.
5 This painting was bought by Captain Palmer from Mr Daan Cevat
soon after this dealer acquired it in a London saleroom in
1949-1950. The National Gallery of Canada purchased P. & D.
Colnaghi & Co. Ltd. in 1973, but it was exhibited under
Colnaghi's name in Fanfare for Europe at Christie's in
London, 4-11 January 1973 (no. 23). This was an exhibition sponsored
by The British Antique Dealers' Association; Christie, Manson and
Woods; The Society of London Art Dealers; and Sotheby and Co.
6 Canto II, stanzas i-l iv. The poem was completed in 1574 but not
published until 1581.
7 Nor can any stylistic relationship be discerned between
Poelenburgh's picture and the engraving Olindo and Sofronia by
Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630) for a Gerusalemnle Liberata. The
same can be said of the Ottawa panel and the Guercino-school
frescoes on Clorinda themes in the Villa Giovannina, Cento. For a
discussion of these decorations see Renato Roli, l fregi centesi
del Guercino (Bologna, 1968), pp. 99-109, and pls 79a-83.
8 The gracious, sensuous beauty of Sofronia's body is similar to
the charms of the naked women surrounding the goddess in Diana's
Bath in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy, which - like the
Poelenburgh of the same subject in the Prado, Madrid - is again an
outstanding work from his Roman period.
9 Expressed in the catalogue when Olindo and Sofronia was
included (as a Breenbergh) in Wildenstein's loan exhibition Artists
in Seventeenth-Century Rome, London, June - July 1955 (no.
The introduction to the catalogue and the entries for foreigners
working in Italy were written by Denys Sutton.
10 Confirmation of this comes from a comparison of the horseman's
features with the representation of Poelenburgh in the celebrated
series of engraved portraits by, and after, Van Dyck, usually known
as the Iconography of 1641. An enlarged new edition of these
engravings, known as the Centum Icones, was published by
Giles Hendrinx in 1645 and other editions appeared in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For the etching of Poelenburgh
see also Marie Mauquoy-Hendrickx, L'Iconographie d'Antoine Van
Dyck: Catalogue Raisonné (Brussels, 1956), pp. 16, 74,
79, 199-200, and etching no. 35. Sandrart uses a circular
variation of the Van Dyck engraving in his Academie Der Bau-...,
p. 179. That the rider in the picture represents Poelenburgh is
clear from a comparison with a later engraved portrait of Poelenburgh
as an older man like Coenrad Waumans's print (after a
self-portrait drawing) which first appeared in Jan Meyssen's Images
de divers hommes d'esprit sublime...(Antwerp, 1649). This same
portait was used again in Cornelis de Bie's, Het Gulden Cabinet
(Antwerp, 1661), p. 257. It also appeared in the English version of
Meyssens's volume, entitled The True Effigies of the most
Eminent Painters, and other Famous Artists That have
Flourished in Europe (London, 1694), no. 64, p. 6. There is a
self-portrait in Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran, monogrammed
"C. P." (wood panel, 6-7/8 x 5-1/4 in.): Poelenburgh is
much older in this picture, but similarities with the Ottawa
panel are strongly evident.
11 Poelenburgh especially liked, and tried to interpret,
Elsheimer's landscape style. This is very evident in a delightful
pair of landscapes on copper, Landscape with Tobias and the Angel
and Landscape with the Road to Emmaus, in the collection
of Michael Jaffé, Cambridge (exhibited in Agnew's Small
Pictures for Small Rooms, April-May 1964, nos 59, 62). Two copper
panels, Mercury and Argus and Nymph and Satyrs, attributed
to the school of Elsheimer in the 1966 catalogue of the Städelsches
Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, are also - in my view - very early
Poelenburghs. A circular panel, Landscape with Pond and House, attributed
to Elsheimer in the Staatliches Museum der Bildenden Künste, Riga,
could also be an Italian-period Poelenburgh.
12 I am indebted to Dr Myron Laskin, Jr. of the National Gallery of
Canada, for some of the information concerning these pentimenti and
for kindly sending me the revealing infra-red photographs. Some
mention should be made of a large, shadowy, frontal figure of a man
who appears in one of the infra-red photographs and is situated on
- and his head extends above - the distant foundation wall behind the
central rider on the left. On the right side of the panel, between
the so-called Arch of Constantine and one of the Dioscuri, two
monumental spiral columns appear in the infra-red photographs
which, perhaps, originally derived from Raphael. These facts, hidden
beneath the paint, certainly show that Poelenburgh was not
unprolific when it came to working out painterly solutions.
13 Despite recent research, confusion between Breenbergh and
Poelenburgh is still not uncommon. On 24 June 1964, for instance, a
pair of oval copper panels by Poelenburgh, Landscape with Roman
Ruins and Flight into Egypt, were sold at Sotheby's as
Breenberghs; but Agnew's, who purchased the latter work, included it
as a Poelenburgh in the exhibition Small Pictures for Small Rooms: II, October-November 1966, and illustrated it in colour
on the front of the catalogue.
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