National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 26, 1975

Annual Index
Author & Subject

A Poelenburgh in the National Gallery of Canada

by Malcolm Waddingham

Pages  1  |  2  |  3  |  4 


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. 14). 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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