Hendrick Martensz. Sorgh

1611 ? Rotterdam - 1670

An Amorous Couple at a Table

On silvered copper, 3 x 2 ins. (7.5 x 5 cm)



Anonymous sale, Bonhams, London, 12 August 2004, lot 27
Private Collection, New York, 2007-2015 


This miniature painting shows a peasant couple caught in an amorous embrace.  The man, who has clearly been drinking, has placed one arm about the woman's shoulders, whilst trying to slip his other hand beneath her bodice.  Although she appears to resist his advances, her direct gaze and playful smile tell a rather different story.

Hendrick Sorgh was an accomplished and versatile painter.  He specialised in peasant interiors and market scenes, but also turned his hand occasionally to small-scale portraits, marines and religious, mythological and allegorical subjects.  Sorgh's peasant interiors, the earliest of which date from 1641, belong to a distinctive low-life genre tradition that had taken root in Rotterdam by the mid-seventeenth century.  In common with other Rotterdam painters of this period, Sorgh's peasant scenes reflect the influence of such Flemish masters as Adriaen Brouwer and David Teniers the Younger.  Indeed, the embracing couple here strongly recalls the depictions of amorous grapplings in paintings by David Teniers.   

The subject matter and style of this present painting is characteristic of the genre scenes produced by Sorgh in the first decade of his activity.  The painting can be dated to the mid-1640s based on comparisons with other dated examples, including a pair of panels of 1644 in the National Gallery, London (i) and a tavern scene from the same year sold at Christie's in London in 2002 (ii).  However, the diminutive size of the painting -no larger than can be held in the palm of one hand - and the silver copper support upon which it is executed are both unusual, if not unique in Sorgh's oeuvre. 


Hendrick Maertensz. Sorgh, who also signed his works ‘Sorch’ and ‘de Sorch’ was born in Rotterdam.  His precise date of birth is unknown, but a self-portrait of 1645, inscribed ‘Aet. 34’ (age 34), puts it at around 1611, whereas, a document of 1646 states that his age was ‘approximately thirty-seven’, indicating an earlier date of  1609.  According to Houbraken (iii), his father Maerten Claesz. Rochusse (or Rokes) was a ferryman who delivered goods from Rotterdam to the market in Dordrecht.  ‘He always took such care with his consignment and deliveries' that he was affectionately known as ‘Zorg’ (meaning careful), the name which his son adopted.  Hendrick’s mother, Lysbeth Hendricks from Antwerp, was his father’s second wife.  Houbraken claimed that Sorgh studied with the Antwerp painter David Teniers and Willem Buytewech of Rotterdam.  Since the latter died in 1624, he must have been very young when he joined his studio.  In 1630, Sorgh drew up a Will in Rotterdam and, in 1633, he married Ariaentge Pieters Hollaer, a merchant’s daughter and sister-in-law of the Rotterdam painter Crijn Hendricksz. Volmarijn, who bore him at least five children.  By 1636 or 1637 he was a master in the Guild of St. Luke in Rotterdam and had a pupil, Pieter Nijs of Amsterdam: his nephew, Pieter Crijnse Volmarijn and Cornelis Dorsman were later students.  Sorgh was a man of means and a prominent figure in the community.  In 1637, he bought a house on the Steiger, called ‘Het Vrouwehoofd’, for a considerable sum.  A document from the following year describes Sorgh as ‘ferryman between this town and Dordrecht’, a similar position to that held by his father, but probably in an honorary capacity.  His appointment to the honorary municipal post of broodweger (bread weigher) in 1657 and brandmeester (fire chief) in 1659, together with his appearance in 1646 at a rabbit hunt in Vlaardingen with the sheriff of Rotterdam, prove that he enjoyed some local eminence.  In 1654, the artist was commissioned by the city of Rotterdam to restore a portrait of Erasmus and, in 1669, he was named a hoofdman of the Guild of St. Luke.  The year before he died, he bought a flower garden on the Schiekade.  He was buried at the Grote Kerk on 28 June 1670.


i  Hendrick Maertensz. Sorgh, A Woman playing Cards with Two Peasants, signed and dated 1644, on panel, oval, 26.3 x 36.1 cm and Two Lovers at a Table, observed by an Old Woman, signed and dated 1644, on panel,oval, 26.4 x 36.4 cm, London, National Gallery, Inv. Nos. 1055 & 1056.  
ii  Hendrick Maertensz. Sorgh, Boors in a Tavern, signed and dated 1644, on panel, 37.4 x 50.2 cm, Christie’s, London, 14 June 2002, lot no. 598.
iii  Arnold Houbraken, De Groote Schouburgh, 1718-21, vol II, pp. 89-90; vol. III, p. 244.