After the Hunt
Jan Baptist Weenix
Oil on panel, 34 x 29 ins. (87 x 75 cm)
Étienne-Edmond Martin, Baron de Beurnonville (1825-1906)
His sale, Féral, Georges Petit, Paris, 9 May 1881, lot 545, as “Après la Chasse” (sold to George)
Margherite Soldati (1907-2001), Paris
Thence by descent to the present owner
Private collection, Switzerland, 2015
By Charles Courtry, 1881, with the title “Après la Chasse”.
We are grateful to Dr. Anke Van Wagenberg-Ter Hoeven for sharing her research and findings with us. She is currently preparing the catalogue raisonné on Jan Baptist Weenix and Jan Weenix, in which this painting will be included.
EssayJan Baptist Weenix was a prominent member of the so-called second generation of Dutch Italianates - artists who travelled to Italy between about 1635 and 1675 – which included Jan Both (c. 1615-1652), Jan Asselyn (c. 1615-1652) and Karel Dujardin (c. 1626-1678). Weenix lived in Rome from 1643-47, where he joined the Schildersbent, or Bentvueghels (Birds of a Feather), the Netherlandish artists’ society in Rome, and worked for Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphili, who became Pope Innocent X in 1644. No dated works from his Roman years are known, but dated works exist for 1647, the year in which he returned to his native Amsterdam, as well as for subsequent years. His familiarity with the countryside around Rome, its classical ruins and picturesque inhabitants, nevertheless, served him well for the remainder of his career. Besides his views of the Roman campagna and imaginary Mediterranean seaports for which he is best known, he also painted genre scenes, history subjects, portraits and still lifes. Partly owing to his premature death, he left a relatively small body of paintings.
This attractive work is a major addition to Weenix’s oeuvre. Although the composition was known from the engraving by Courtry, the whereabouts of the painting has only recently been discovered. Hidden for several generations in a French then Swiss private collection, it has now emerged in near perfect state, thus allowing us to fully appreciate its exceptional quality. A boy in a red hunting jacket appears in a pool of light close to the viewer, together with three hunting dogs. In his arms he carries a bundle of nets and lying at his feet lie are the spoils of the day’s sport - a hare, a heron and two smaller game birds – and a blue hunting bag. Behind him, viewed through an archway, the other members of the hunting party may be seen resting in the portico of a ruined Roman temple. A young beggar boy, cap in hand, is seated close by at the base of a column, his simple country clothing offering a contrast to the elegantly attired ladies and gentleman. A vista to the left offers a glimpse of distant plains and mountains bathed in warm evening light.
With its glowing colours and liquid touch, After the Hunt characterises the Italianate views painted by Weenix after his return to the Netherlands. As so often in his work, architecture plays an important role in ordering the composition and serving as a foil for the figurative elements. Here, the massive arch provides a stage-like setting for the foreground figure motif whilst framing the scene in the mid-distance and the landscape beyond. The carefully judged lighting and the accents of colour are likewise calculated to direct the viewer’s gaze from the foreground, where the eye dwells irresistibly upon the youngster, in his brilliant red jacket and the beautifully rendered still life of dead game, to the more generally realised scene taking place amid the ruins beyond where the fleeting figures of hunters on horseback may be glimpsed. A large archway also features in Weenix’s Italianate Landscape with a Vegetable Vendor (i), of 1656, a painting formerly in the Hascoe family collection, and a similar device, created by an overhanging rock-face, is utilised to structure the composition in his Poultry and Vegetable Sellers before an architectural Capriccio (“the thieving cat”), in an Austrian private collection (ii). In the latter, a large-scale figure group consisting of a female market vendor and a boy, together with a richly detailed still-life, occupies the lower right corner of the picture, while a scene of figures gathered before a classical temple is seen in the middle ground. According to Dr. Anke Van Wagenberg-Ter Hoeven, both the latter our painting, which may also be closely compared in terms of colouring and handling of paint, may be dated to around 1656.
The theme of hunters taking their ease is one to which Weenix turned quite often. His interest in the subject doubtless reflects the vogue for hunting imagery which developed towards the middle of the seventeenth century. Landscapes and genre scenes incorporating hunting motifs, portraits of individuals in hunting apparel and still lifes of hunting trophies all gained in popularity at this time. Traditionally, the pursuit of game had long been the exclusive preserve of the court and nobility in Holland and such privileges were closely guarded by restrictive gaming laws. Increasingly, however, the newly wealthy members of the urban middle classes sought to associate themselves with the leisure pursuits of their social superiors. Indeed, it became fashionable for prosperous Dutch families to purchase country estates and to build themselves country houses in emulation of the landed aristocracy.
Jan Baptist Weenix was born in Amsterdam in 1621, the son of the architect Johannes Weenix and his wife Grietgen Heeremans. His first biographer Arnold Houbraken based his account of the artist’s life on the firsthand report of the artist’s son Jan Weenix (c. 1642-1719) and is therefore considered reliable (iii). According to Houbraken, he studied first with the little-known painter Jan Micker (c. 1598-1664), then with Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651) in Utrecht and finally with Claes Moeyaert (1592/93-1655) in Amsterdam. In 1639, Weenix married Josina de Hondecoutre, daughter of the landscape painter Gillis Claesz. de Hondecoutre (c. 1570-1638). In October 1642, he drew up a will in which he stated that he was planning to travel to Italy in order “to experiment with his art” (iv). The following March he passed through the French port of Rouen on his way to Rome. There, he joined the Schildersbent, or Bentvueghels (Birds of a Feather), the society of Netherlandish artists in Rome, and was given the nickname Ratel (rattle) because of a speech defect. In Rome, he worked for Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphili, who became Pope Innocent X in 1644. Perhaps in reference to this illustrious patron, he signed his paintings Gio[vanni] Batt[ista] Weenix after his return to Amsterdam in 1647. Two years later, he moved with his family to Utrecht, where he became an officer of the Guild of St. Luke. In 1657 he moved to Huis ter Mey, a moated castle in the village of De Haar, just north of Utrecht, where, according to Houbraken, he died at the early age of thirty-nine in a state of bankruptcy. On 25 April 1659 a public auction was held at which more than a hundred paintings from his estate were sold. Weenix had two pupils: his eldest son Jan Weenix and his nephew Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695).
79 x 68.6 cm, formerly the Hascoe family collection.
ii Jan Baptist Weenix, Poultry and Vegetable Sellers before an architectural Capriccio (“The thieving cat”), on canvas, 56 x 44.5 cm, private collection, Austria.
iii Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh … , 3 vols, Amsterdam, 1718-21, 2:277-83; III, 113, 131, 3:70, 72.
iv Abraham Bredius, “Een testament van Jan Baptist Weenix”, Oud Holland, 1928, 45:177.
Jan Baptist Weenix
Amsterdam 1621 – 1659 De Haar, near Utrecht
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