An Allegory of Covetousness
David Teniers the Younger
Signed, upper right: D. TENIERS
Oil on panel, 8¼ x 6½ ins. (21 x 16.5 cm)
Claude-Alexandre Villeneuve, Count de Vence (1702 – 1760)
His sale, Paris, 9th -17th February 1761, lot 69
Baron Maximilian von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, Frankfurt am Main
Zacharias Max Hackenbroch, Frankurt
with Dr. Albert (Alfred) Heppner, Berlin and Amsterdam, on consignment
from the above, by November 17, 1933, and until at least 8 March, 1934
Curt Bohnewand, Berlin and Rottach-Egern, by 1942
His sale, Lempertz, Cologne, 28 March 1969, lot 22
Herbert Girardet, Kettwig, 1970
Waterman, Amsterdam, from whom acquired by
Norman and Suzanne Hascoe, Greenwich, Connecticut
Restituted to the heirs of Zacharias Max Hackenbroch, January 2015
With Fergus Hall Ltd, London, 2015
(see also note on the provenance below)
J. A. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters, London, 1831, III, p. 286, no. 86.
F. Winkler, Aus der Sammlung Curt Bohnewand, Munich, 1942, pp. 44, 54.
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Sammlung Herbert Girardet Holländische und Flämische Meister, 24 January-30 March 1970 and 24 April-7 June 1970, no. 56
Providence, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1983-1987, on loan
Greenwich, Bruce Museum, Old Master Paintings from the Hascoe Collection, 2 April-29 May 2005, no. 15 (catalogue by P. Sutton)
François Basan, 1760
This exquisitely fine and beautifully preserved painting was formerly part of the celebrated Goldschmidt Rothschild collection (see note on the provenance below). Datable to the 1640s, it was created at the peak of the master’s powers, and is amongst the very finest works that the artist produced.
The subject of a couple weighing gold belongs to the tradition popularised by Quentin Massys, Marinus van Reymerswael, and other early Netherlandish painters, for whom it was associated with the admonition in Leviticus 19:35: "You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure". The theme was always understood as a warning against covetousness and greed; indeed, when the present work was engraved in 1760, it was accompanied with the inscription: "What do you wish to do with this Gold? A vain Pile, what folly! Soon you will lose your Life; Will you take your Treasure with you?".
Teniers’s touch here is wonderfully light and painterly, capturing brilliantly the tactile qualities of fur, metal, and glass, as well as the weathered faces of the protagonists. Their description is a tour de force, delighting the eye of the beholder. As the famous portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds observed, “His manner of touching, or what we call handling, has perhaps never been equalled, there is in his pictures that exact mixture of softness and sharpness, which is difficult to execute” (i).
Note on the Provenance
Claude-Alexandre Villeneuve, Count de Vence (1702 – 1760) was a French military commander and collector, from the Provencal branch of the House of Villeneuve, one of the most important noble families in Provence. His library, deemed one of the largest in France, was sold shortly after his death, as was the present painting, which was engraving in 1760 by Francois Basan.
Baron Maximilian von Goldschmidt-Rothschild 1843 – 1940 was a German banker, heir to the Goldschmidt family bank, and a major art collector. He married Minna Karoline Freiin von Rothschild, later adopting the Rothschild name on the death of his father in law, the last male of the Frankfurt Rothchilds. At one point, he was considered the richest person in the German Empire.
David Teniers the Younger was one of the most important seventeenth-century Flemish painters of genre and landscape. Born in Antwerp, he first studied with his father David Teniers the Elder (1582-1649), and became a member of the Guild of St Luke in 1633. He married Anna Brueghel, daughter and heiress of the celebrated flower and landscape painter Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), in 1637. Anna’s guardian Peter Paul Rubens was a signatory to their marriage contract.
Married into a famous dynasty of painters and highly successful in his own right, Teniers gained social prominence and prestigious offices, such as his appointment as Master of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament in St Jacobskerk between 1637 and 1639. Between 1645 and 1646 he was Dean of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke. By 1647 he was working for the Habsburg Archduke Leopold Wilhelm (1614-1662), son of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II and Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. In 1651, when Teniers was at the height of his powers, Leopold Wilhelm brought him to Brussels as his Court Painter and Curator, giving him an authoritative role in building up the royal collection, which founded what is today the Gemäldegalerie of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. In the same year, he travelled to London to purchase paintings from the former collection of King Charles I.
From 1656-59 Teniers was Court Painter to the new Spanish Governor, Don Juan of Austria, brother of Philip IV of Spain, and retained close ties with the court for the rest of his life. In 1663 Philip IV gave Teniers permission to found the highly influential Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, and it was around this time that Teniers acquired his country estate, “Dry Toren” (Three Towers) at Perck, close to Rubens’s former estate at Steen. He continued to paint long into old age, and his last known dated work was painted in 1683; Teniers died in Brussels in 1690.
Teniers’s early works were influenced by Adriaen Brouwer (1605/6-1638), particularly his treatment of peasants, low-life subjects and interior scenes, although he also painted landscapes, genre, portraits, religious and allegorical subjects. Later, Teniers turned increasingly to landscapes with figures; unlike his predecessors, however, he generally sought to convey the serenity of rural life.
The work of David Teniers the Younger is represented in most of the great museums of the world including the Metropolitan Museum, the Hermitage, the Louvre, the Prado, the Rijksmuseum and the National Gallery (London).
i Sir Joshua Reynolds, A Journey to Flanders and Holland in the year MXCCLXXXI, London 1819.
David Teniers the Younger
Antwerp 1610 - 1690 Brussels
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