Philips Wouwerman

1619 - Haarlem - 1668

A Stag Hunt

Signed with initials, lower left: PHW
Oil on panel, 19⅛ x 30⅞ ins. (48.5 x 78.5 cm)
Framed dimensions: 61 x 95 x 7 cm 

Datable circa 1646/47 

VP4985 

Provenance

Jacques Meijers; Sale, Rotterdam, 9 September 1722, lot 100
Monsieur De Pile [Roger de Piles?], Paris; (probably)
His deceased sale, Ford, London, 29-30 April 1742, lot 81 (70 gns. to the Prince of Wales)
Acquired in 1742 by [Jacques?] Rigaud for 1,500 livres on behalf of the following,
Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony (1696-1763), Dresden
Royal Picture Gallery, Dresden, and by whom sold to the following in 1927,
With Galerie van Diemen, Berlin, where presumably acquired by the great-grandfather of the previous owner.
Private collection, Europe, until 2021.


Literature

G. Hoet, Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen, met derzelver pryzen…, 3 vols., The Hague, 1752, vol. I, p. 267. P. Guarienti, Manuscript Inventory of the electoral collections, Dresden, before 1753, inv. no. 1534.
J.A. Riedel and C.F. Wenzel, Catalogue des Tableaux de la Galerie Electorale à Dresde, Dresden, 1765, p. 46, no. 244.
J.A. Riedel and C.F. Wenzel, Verzeichnis der Gemälde in der Churfürstl. Gallerie in Dresden, Leipzig, 1771, p. 47, no. 244.
J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, I,London, 1829, pp. 201-202, no. 3, erroneously said to be on canvas and with measurements as 29 x 45 ins.
F. Matthäi, Verzeichnis der Königlich Sächsischen Gemälde-Galerie zu Dresden, Dresden, 1835, p. 239, no. 1210.
Catalogue des Tableaux de la Galerie Royale de Dresde, Dresden, 1846, p. 188, no. 1680.
J. Hübner, Catalogue de la Galerie Royale de Dresde, Dresden, 1856, p. 266, no. 1305; 1862, p. 311, no. 1332; 1872, p. 260, no. 1261; 1880, p. 294, no. 1437.
K. Woermann, Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden, Dresden, 1887, p. 155, no. 1414; 1892, p. 154, no. 1414; 1902, p. 457, no. 1414; 1905, p. 454, no. 1414.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, II,London, 1909, p. 445, no. 619.
H. Posse and K. Woermann, Catalogue of the pictures in the Royal Gallery at Dresden, Dresden, 1912, p. 156, no. 1414.
H. Posse, Katalog der Staatlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden, Dresden, 1920p. 153, no. 1414.
Katalog der Staatlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden, Dresden, 1927, p. 152, no. 1414.
U. Thieme and F. Becker, eds., Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, XXXVI, Leipzig, 1947, p. 266.
F. Simpson, ‘Dutch Paintings in England before 1760’, The Burlington Magazine, XCV, 1953, p. 42.
B. Schumacher, Philips Wouwerman (1619-1668): The Horse Painter of the Golden Age, Doornspijk, 2006, I, pp. 233-234, no. A160; II, plate 151.
(Probably) F. Vivian, A Life of Frederick, Prince of Wales, 1707-1751: A Connoisseur of the Arts, Lewiston, 2006, p. 296.


Notes

ENGRAVED
Jacques Philippe Le Bas (1707-1783), LA CHASSE Á L’ITALIENNE, 1739 in the Cabinet Du Piles.
J. Rigaud (1680-1754) 

Essay

Philips Wouwerman was the most successful seventeenth-century Dutch painter of equestrian scenes.  He developed a wide repertoire of themes to demonstrate his virtuosity at rendering horses.  His subjects include simple, unpretentious scenes of farriers, stables, riding schools and travellers at rest, as well as larger, multi-figured compositions of hunting parties, country fairs, army encampments and cavalry battles.  He was unusually prolific and, despite a relatively short career, left an oeuvre numbering nearly six hundred paintings.  According to his biographer Arnold Houbraken he died a rich man.

Hunting scenes in various forms were Wouwerman’s favourite subjects.  He painted them throughout his career, but in the last decade of his life they dominated his output.  He depicted every aspect of the sport in variations ranging from the departure of the hunting party, to the pursuit of diverse types of prey, the rest during the hunt and the return of the hunting party.  The subject not only offered him the opportunity to demonstrate his talents at depicting lively scenes filled with horses and elegantly dressed people, but also found an eager audience.  Whilst traditionally hunting had been the exclusive preserve of the nobility and high-ranking officers of state, by the second half of the seventeenth century the booming Dutch economy had given rise to a newly wealthy urban elite who aspired to the lifestyle of the old landed aristocracy.  Pictures with a hunting theme - whether of hunting itself, still lifes of hunting trophies and accessories, or portraits of sitters in hunting dress – thus held a special appeal for members of this status-conscious class. 

This painting, one of Wouwerman’s earliest depictions of the hunt, is filled with a sense of great energy and movement.  In an expansive landscape, hunters on horseback, attended by servants in red livery running on foot and hunting dogs, are driving a stag into a net slung between two trees.  A huntsman on a white horse gallops in from the right, sounding the horn, as the chase reaches its climax.  With the ladies’ draperies flying and the glinting of shoe iron, the whole company converges upon its prey: one can almost hear the thudding of hooves and the penetrating sound of the horn.  Ruined Italianate buildings, sprouting vegetation, appear in the right background, while on the left, a sandy track winds its way across marshy ground towards a remote cottage silhouetted against the early morning sky. 

Like the vast majority of Wouwerman’s paintings, A Stag Hunt is undated, however, both the form of signature and the style of the painting suggest an early date, probably around late 1646 or early 1647.  Between about 1642 and 1646 Wouwerman signed his work with the monogram ‘PH.W’, but after that he lengthened it to ‘PHIL. W’ or ‘PHILS.W’.  Also consistent with the years around 1646 to 1647 are the relatively low viewpoint, the subdued palette in tones of green, beige, brown and black, with a few accents of brighter colour, and the naturalistic rendering of horses.  Later, Wouwerman adopted a lighter, sunnier palette and his horses became more idealised in appearance.

During this early phase of Wouwerman’s career, the main influence on his art was that of fellow townsman Pieter Van Laer (1599-after 1642), who had returned to Haarlem in 1639 after a fifteen-year stay in Rome.  Van Laer’s scenes of Roman street life, which became known as bambocciate after van Laer’s nickname ‘Bamboccio’ (clumsy figure), created a new genre that soon became very popular both in Italy and in the Netherlands.  According to Houbraken, Wouwerman got hold of a number of van Laer’s sketches and studies after his death, but apparently had them destroyed when he was on his deathbed to protect his own reputation[i].  Whether or not Houbraken’s account is true, Wouwerman undoubtedly drew inspiration from van Laer’s street scenes, as well as from the older Haarlem artist’s landscapes and paintings of robberies and travellers resting at an inn.  The horses in Wouwerman’s early paintings in particular recall those of Van Laer both in their conformation and in the way in which they move.  Compare, for example, the galloping horses, seen from the side and from the front, in the present painting with those in an engraving by Cornelis Visscher after Pieter van Laer[ii].  After 1650, Wouwerman increasingly replaced the naturalism of the horses in his early paintings with horses modelled on graceful, high-stepping Arab types. 

Although already successful in his lifetime, Wouwerman’s reputation rose steadily after his death.  Writing some fifty years later, Houbraken noted that “his paintings fetched a far higher price after his death than in his lifetime”.  In particular, his paintings appealed to aristocratic collectors and many of his works found their way into the collections formed by European monarchs in the eighteenth century.  The same is true of the present painting, which was acquired in 1742 for Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony (1696-1763) for his picture gallery in Dresden.  Following its de-acquisition from Dresden in 1927, its whereabouts were unknown for nearly a century, but it has recently come to light in a private collection in Europe. 

BIOGRAPHY

The eldest son of the painter Pauwels Joostsz. Wouwerman, Philips was baptised in Haarlem on 24 May 1619.  His younger brothers, Pieter (1623-1682) and Johannes (1629-1666), also became artists and painted in the style of Philips.  Wouwerman probably took his first instruction in painting from his father.  According to Cornelis de Bie, he subsequently became a pupil of Frans Hals (1582-1666), but there is no trace of Hals’s influence in his work.  In 1638, against the wishes of his family, Wouwerman travelled to Hamburg to marry a Catholic girl named Annetje Pietersdr. van Broeckhof.  While in Hamburg, he worked briefly in the studio of the obscure German history painter Evert Decker.  By 1640, he had returned to Haarlem where he joined the guild.  In 1646, he served as a member of the guild’s executive committee (as vinder or agent).  He seems to have remained in Haarlem for the rest of his life.  He died on 19 May 1668 and was buried in the Nieuwe Kerk in Haarlem.  His wife survived him by less than two years and was interred in St. Bavo’s Church on 24 January 1670. 

Though he lived to be only forty-eight, Wouwerman was one of the most prolific and successful artists of the Dutch Golden Age.  He occasionally painted staffage in the landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/9-1682), Jan Wijnants (1632-1684) and Cornelis Decker (1618-1678).  He had numerous pupils and followers and died a wealthy man, leaving a substantial inheritance to his three sons and four daughters.  During the eighteenth century, he became one of the most highly esteemed Dutch painters in Europe: indeed no princely collection was complete without one of his paintings. 




[i] A. Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols, Amsterdam, 1718-21, vol. 2, p. 75. 

[ii] Cornelis Visscher after Pieter van Laer, The Pistol Shot, engraving.