Salomon Koninck

(1609 - Amsterdam - 1656)

A Scholar sharpening his Quill

Signed and dated, centre right, below the niche: SKONINCK 1639
(‘SK’ in ligature)
Oil on panel, 26⅜ x 20⅛ ins. (66.8 x 51.1 cm)
Framed: 34¼ x 28 ins. (87 x 71 cm)



John Pemberton Heywood, Norris Green, Lancashire and Cloverly Hall, Shropshire
His sale, Christie's, London, 10 June 1893, lot 53 (378 gns.)
Hon. Mrs. Denham collection
With Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, by 1900
Adolphe Schloss (1842-1910), Paris, and by inheritance to his wife, Mathilde Haas (1858-1938), by whom bequeathed to her children
Maguerite, Lucien, Henry and Juliette Schloss, by whom stored for safekeeping at Château de Chambon, Laguenne, 20 August 1939
Seized by Vichy officials and German security agents at the Banque Jordaan, Château de Chambon, Laguenne, 16 April 1943 (Schloss 138); transferred to the Banque de France, Limoges, 24 April 1943; transferred to CCQJ headquarters, Paris, 11 August 1943, where it was earmarked for Hitler's planned museum in Linz (ERR no. Schloss 113)
Transported for storage to the Führerbau, Munich, from where stolen, April 1945
With Walter Andreas Hofer (1893-c. 1971), Munich, from whom acquired in 1952 by a private collector, and by descent in the family
Restituted to the heirs of Adolphe Schloss in 2019
Private collection, France, until 2022
Anon. sale, Christie’s, New York, 10 June 2022, Lot 7


llustrated Catalogue of the Sixth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters of the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French, and English Schools, being a portion of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1900, pp. 26-27, no. 20, illustrated
U. Thieme and F. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, XXI, Leipzig, 1937, p. 275
Répertoire des biens spoliés en France durant la guerre 1939-1945, II, Berlin, 1947, p. 183, no. 4085, illustrated.
H. van de Waal, 'Rembrandt's Faust etching, a Socinian document and the iconography of the inspired scholar', Oud Holland, LXXIX, 1964, p. 47
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, III, Landau, 1983, pp. 1645, 1679, no. 1105, illustrated, with incorrect provenance
M. Hamon-Jugnet, Collection Schloss: Œuvres spoliées pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale non restituées (1943-1998), Paris, 1998, p. 99, with incorrect provenance


In this well-preserved painting, Koninck has depicted a white-haired old man seated at a table, sharpening his quill.  He applies himself to the task in hand with acute concentration, his brow furrowed and his gaze directed downward.  He is clad in a black, velvet cape and a beret, and wears a gold chain about his neck.  A large manuscript book, two pages of which are marked with slips of paper, lies before him: an inkwell stands to the right.  A strong raking light illuminates one side of the old scholar’s face, his hands, and the white pages of the open book.  Also captured in bright light is a bowl of porridge standing on a slim, vellum-bound volume, placed across the corner of the table.  The background of the old man’s study is shrouded in semi-darkness, in which we can make out a door to the left and a niche containing books and an hourglass to the right.  The scene is executed almost entirely in shades of brown, cream, tan, ochre and black. 

Our principal source of information about the life of Salomon Koninck is Cornelis de Bie’s biography in his Het Gulden Cabinet, published in 1661[i].  The unusually detailed and accurate account of the artist’s life suggests that de Bie knew Koninck personally.  The son of a goldsmith, originally from Antwerp, Salomon Koninck was born in Amsterdam in 1609.  His artistic education began at the age of twelve, learning drawing from the art dealer and painter David Colijns (1582-c. 1665), followed by a period of study with François Venant (1591-1636) and Claes Moyaert (1591-1655), both history painters in the circle of Pieter Lastman (1583-1633).  He must have been active as an independent master from around 1630, when he joined the Amsterdam painters’ guild.

De Bie tells us that Koninck “was inclined to history painting” – depictions of exemplary stories taken from the Bible, classical antiquity and mythology - an inclination that was no doubt fostered by his teachers, all three of whom specialised in history painting.  Koninck also took a keen interest in the work of other young painters, in particular, that of Rembrandt, whose arrival in Amsterdam in late 1631 or early 1632 coincided with his own early career.  Although he was never a pupil of Rembrandt, who was only three years his senior, we can infer from Koninck’s early work that he was very familiar with Rembrandt’s history paintings of the late 1620s and 1630s.  That Koninck had access to Rembrandt’s work comes as no surprise since the two young artists moved in the same artistic circles.  Both belonged to the network of artists who frequented the Anthoniebreestraat, in the southeast of Amsterdam.  Koninck’s teacher Venant lived there, as did the renowned history painter Pieter Lastman, with whom Rembrandt had completed his training in 1625.  Among the other residents of Anthoniebreestraat was the art dealer Hendrick Uylenburgh, in whose house the young Rembrandt lived and worked until 1635 when he set up his own workshop in nearby Nieuwe Doelenstraat.  It is indeed more than likely that Koninck knew Lastman, Rembrandt and Uylenburgh personally.

The innovative work of Rembrandt inevitably made a deep impression on Koninck, as it did on many others of his generation.  As Houbraken later wrote, “Rembrandt’s art was generally appreciated as something wholly new, so artists were obliged to master his manner of painting if they wanted their work to do well in the market …”[ii]  However, Koninck was far from being a slavish follower: rather he had the ambition to develop a distinctive style of his own and to successfully carve out a niche for himself in the competitive art market of his day.  By the late 1630s and early 1640s, he had forged an individual style, combining facets of Rembrandt’s history paintings with the more refined manner of the Leiden fijnschilders (fine painters) in medium to large format. The impact of Rembrandt is especially apparent in Koninck’s choice of biblical subjects.  Unlike his teachers, who mostly painted multi-figured scenes set in the outdoors under uniform lighting conditions, Koninck turned to interiors and employed strong contrasts of light and shade.  In addition to religious and historical scenes, Koninck painted many single-figure depictions of old scholars and church fathers reading and writing in shadowy interiors, and misers counting or weighing gold.  His expressive use of chiaroscuro and palette of warm, predominantly brown earth tones recall Rembrandt.  Once formulated, his manner of painting changed little during the course of his career.  

From several sources, it becomes clear that Koninck enjoyed a considerable degree of success.  Once again, we are indebted to Cornelis de Bie, who not only informs us that his work was highly valued by connoisseurs “who daily admire his works with great pleasure”[iii], but also provides us with an invaluable list of the names of owners of Koninck’s paintings with a description of their subjects.  From this source, we can determine that his works attracted an affluent and discerning audience.  His clients mostly lived in the best neighbourhoods in Amsterdam and included a number of well-known art collectors, wealthy merchants and members of the ruling elite, such as Joan Huydecoper, one of Amsterdam’s most powerful men who served as burgomaster several times.  Other collectors of Koninck’s paintings lived further away in Haarlem, Leiden, Dordrecht, Rotterdam and Antwerp, while a painting of David and Bathseba was in the possession of the Portuguese ambassador in The Hague.  We are also informed by de Bie that Koninck executed two large history paintings for the King of Denmark[iv].  Another name that crops up in de Bie’s list is that of the influential art dealer and connoisseur Johannes de Renialme.  To judge from other documentary sources, it seems that de Renialme had a special relationship with Koninck and may well have been the painter’s principal dealer[v].  In the inventory compiled after the art dealer’s death in 1657, no less than twelve works by Koninck are listed, including four paintings of the Evangelists, pendants of Saints Peter and Paul, and a series of the four Latin Fathers of the Church.  Remarkably, the latter set of four was valued at 150 guilders apiece, a very high price at that time for single-figure compositions.

The theme of the learned scholar at work in his study was popular with Rembrandt and his Leiden circle.  Here, Koninck has focused upon a particular aspect of a scholar’s activities, the need to prepare his writing instrument for use.  In seventeenth century Dutch art, a representation of a man cutting his quill was often employed to illustrate the classical concept of practice (Usus or Exercitatio), and thus may be understood as an allegory of diligent study.  The collection of old books and the hourglass seen in the background of this painting are standard vanitas accoutrements, serving as reminders of the transitory nature of earthly existence. 

Koninck evidently did particularly well with his single figure depictions as the high valuation of de Renialme’s pictures testify.  He painted them throughout his career and they represent a sizeable portion of his oeuvre.  This painting, dated 1639, is among Koninck’s earliest dated examples of this genre.  Another painting of an elderly scholar cutting his pen is in the Phoenix Art Museum[vi].  He also made an etching of the subject[vii]. 

When Werner Sumowski first published this painting, he mistakenly associated it with a painting that appeared in the second sale of works recently restituted to the heirs of Adolphe Schloss, held at Galerie Charpentier on 5 December 1951.  In fact, the painting in the 1951 sale was another painting of a similar subject by Koninck, also looted from the Schloss collection and today in the Museo Nacional del Madrid, Madrid.  When the present painting was seized in 1943, it was earmarked for the planned Führermuseum in Linz.  Having been out of public view in a private collection for nearly seventy years, in 2019, it was finally restituted to the heirs of Adolphe Schloss. 


Our principal source of information about the life of Salomon Koninck is the biography in Cornelis de Bie’s Het Gulden Cabinet, published in 1661[viii].  The unusually detailed and accurate account of the artist’s life suggests that de Bie knew Koninck personally. Koninck was born in Amsterdam in 1609, the son of Pieter de Koninck, a goldsmith and jeweller from Antwerp, who became a citizen of Amsterdam in 1595.  The painters Jacob Koninck (c. 1614/15-1690) and Philips Koninck (1619-1688) were probably his cousins.  According to de Bie, in 1621, at the age of twelve, he entered the studio of David Colijns, who gave him drawing lessons.  He then became a pupil of François Venant, before completing his training with Claes Moyaert, in whose studio he must have worked sometime during the later 1620s.  In 1630, he became a member of the Amsterdam guild after which he worked as an independent master.  Sometime around 1653, Bernart van Vollenhoven (1633-1692) became his pupil.  On 25 February 1638, Salomon married Abigaël van Nieulandt, daughter of the painter Adriaen van Nieulandt (1587-1658).  He died in Amsterdam in 1656. 

[i] Cornelis de Bie, Het Gulden Cabinet van de Edele vry Schilder-Const (Golden Cabinet of the Noble Free Art of Painting)Antwerp, 1661-62, p. 250. 

[ii] A. Houbraken, De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols., The Hague, 1718-21, vol. 3, p. 206 (in the biography of Aert de Gelder), as quoted in translation in the exh. Cat., Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck: Rembrandt’s Master Pupils, The Rembrandt House Museum and the Amsterdam Museum, 13 October 2017 to 18 February 2018, p. 105.

[iii] Cornelis de Bie, 1661, op. cit., p. 250. 

[iv] E. J. Sluijter, Rembrandt’s Rivals: History Painting in Amsterdam 1630-50, 2015, p. 210.  Koninck participated in a shared commission in 1640 to 1643 with Gerard van Honthorst, Adriaen van Nieulandt, Claes Moyaert and Isaac Isaacsz to provide a series of history paintings for the King of Denmark.  Only one of Koninck’s paintings is known today. 

[v] For more on Koninck’s relationship with Johannes de Renialme see: John Loughman “Salomon Koninck’s ‘St. Mark the Evangelist’”, The Burlington Magazine, Oct 1997, vol. 129, no. 1134, pp. 692-695. 

[vi] Salomon Koninck, The Pen Cutter, oil on panel, 60.4 x 46.4 cm, Phoenix Art Museum. 

[vii] F. W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, Amsterdam, 1949-87, IX, p. 274, no.6.

[viii] Cornelis de Bie, Het Gulden Cabinet van de Edele vry Schilder-Const (Golden Cabinet of the Noble Free Art of Painting)Antwerp, 1661-62, p. 250.