The Interior of a Protestant Church
Oil on panel, 28¼ x 37¼ ins. (72 x 94.5 cm)
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s, London, 10 April 2013, lot 43, where purchased by the present owner
Private collection, United Kingdom, 2017
The late Dr. Walter Liedtke of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, confirmed the authenticity of this work and suggested a date of c. 1640-45 (verbal communication).
In this large canvas of circa 1640-45, Anthonie Delorme has depicted an imaginary church interior lit by candlelight. The warm glow from a candlelit chandelier illuminates the lofty vaulted ceiling, supported by classical columns and arches, and casts pools of light and shadow across the black and white chequered floor. A shadowy tomb emerges from the gloom on the right. The complexity of the vast cavernous space is held together by the artist’s skilfully executed one-point perspective scheme and his masterful use of light. Unusually, the activities of man are absent from this scene and therefore offer no competition with the grandeur of the architecture. Unimpeded, the viewer’s eye can roam freely across the intricate surfaces and experience the powerful illusion of space.
Anthonie Delorme made his name as a painter of imaginary church interiors, inspired by his teacher Jan van Vucht (c. 1603-1637) and the architectural painter Bartolomeus van Bassen (c. 1590-1652). Around 1652, he made an almost complete break with this tradition and turned instead to representing the interior of his local church, the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam. This sudden change of heart was undoubtedly a response to the new trend for depictions of real church interiors initiated by Gerard Houckgeest (c. 1600-1661) a few years earlier in nearby Delft. In 1650, Houckgeest had switched from painting imaginary architectural views to making faithful depictions of the actual interiors of the Nieuwe and Oude Kerks in Delft. There was evidently a demand for this new type of church interior and the soon caught on with other architectural painters such as Hendrick van Vliet (1611/12-1675) and Emanuel de Witte (c. 1616-1691/2). From 1652 onwards, Delorme devoted himself almost exclusively to producing accurate views of the inside of Rotterdam’s great Gothic church.
The present painting exemplifies the imaginary church interiors painted by Delorme in the early part of his career. By comparison with dated examples of his work, it may be firmly situated in the years from 1640 to1645. During this period Delorme made something of a speciality of capriccios of classical churches by night, which display his preoccupation with the effects of artificial lighting. At this time, he regularly collaborated with the Delft figure painter Anthonie Palamedesz., who added staffage to his scenes. However, the present example is not unique, there are other paintings which likewise remain mysteriously silent and deserted, as if the artist wanted us to appreciate fully his virtuosity without distraction from anecdotal details.
Very little is known about the life of Anthonie Delorme, who was born in Doornik around 1610 (I). He was first recorded in Rotterdam in 1627, when he served as a witness for his teacher Jan van Vucht, a painter of church interiors. In 1647, he married Maertje Floris in Rotterdam. Apparently Delorme apparently also had a shop where he is believed to have sold paintings and art supplies. The French nobleman Balthasar de Monconys mentioned Delorme as a painter of the St. Laurenskerk in his Journal des Voyages, published in 1666 (ii). He died in Rotterdam in 1673.
i For what little documentary evidence survives see the biography in the exhibition catalogue,
Perspectives: Saenredam and the architectural painters of the 17th century, Rotterdam, Museum
Boymans-van Beuningen, 1991, p. 237.
ii “[Il] ne fait que l’Eglise de Rotterdam en diverse veues, mais il les fait bien.” Balthasar de Monconys, Journal des voyages de Monsieur de Monconys, 2 vols., Lyons, 1665-66, p.131.
Doornik c. 1610 - 1673 Rotterdam
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