A Town Square with an old Woman selling Vegetables at a Market Stall
Justus de Gelder
Oil on canvas, 31¼ x 40⅞ ins. (79.3 x 103.8 cm)
George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), at Egremont House, 94 Piccadilly, London, by 1837 (Inventory of Paintings, Sculpture and Books at Petworth House, Property of the Late George, 3rd Earl of Egremont), and later at Petworth House, Sussex
And by descent
The Earl of Egremont, Petworth House, Sussex, until 2014
C. H. Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Petworth Collection of Pictures in the possession of Lord Leconfield, London, 1920, p. 102, no. 626a, as “Rembrandt School”
W. Robinson, The Early works of Nicolaes Maes, 1653-1661, Phil. Diss., Cambridge (Mass), 1996, no. C-25, as “Nachfolger von Maes”
L. Krempel, Studien zu den datierten Gemälden des Nicolaes Maes (1634-63), Fulda, 1999,
p. 364, no. E7, fig. 410 as “Maes (?)”.
An old woman in a black hat is seated at a market stall selling vegetables. Baskets of cucumbers and artichokes appear on a table, while cabbages and carrots are heaped up on the cobbles beside her. She has picked out a large cabbage and is offering it to a maidservant, who is wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat and carrying a shopping pail. A girl with a shawl wrapped about her head and a boy in a black hat stand behind the old woman. Appearing in the left foreground are a dog and a wheelbarrow: beyond is a view of a town square surrounded by step-gabled houses.
Justus de Gelder was the stepson of the painter Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693). He was about four or five years old when his mother married Maes and it is assumed that he became a pupil of his father. However, he probably did not go on to pursue an artistic career since he is described in later documents as a merchant and a town councillor. Nevertheless, a small body of work, comprising genre scenes in the manner of Maes, is now considered to be by his hand. These include paintings which, like the present example, formerly went under the name of Maes, or a “follower of Nicolaes Maes”. The attribution of our painting to de Gelder was first suggested by Dr. Fred G. Meijer. Drs. Peter Schoon, Director of the Dordrecht Museum, is of the same opinion.
Born and brought up in Dordrecht, Nicolaes Maes served an apprenticeship with Rembrandt in Amsterdam in the late 1640s or early 1650s. Shortly afterwards, he returned to his hometown, where he married the widow of Arnoldus de Gelder and established himself as an independent painter. From the mid-to-late-1650s Maes painted domestic genre scenes in a Rembrandtesque manner, using strong chiaroscuro and a warm palette, but after 1660 he turned to the more lucrative field of portraiture and developed a more elegant style.
Maes is probably best known for his domestic interiors featuring women engaged in everyday activities, but in the late 1650s, he also painted a series of outdoor scenes, depicting a single figure, or a small group of figures, seen against the backdrop of a townscape. In several of these, young women wearing broad-brimmed straw hats, sell milk or vegetables at the doors of wealthy homes (i), while in two others, a maidservant, carrying a shopping pail, is seen returning from the fish market (ii). Not only the subject matter, but also the figure types and composition of the present painting suggest that de Gelder drew his inspiration from this series of paintings. The influence of early Maes is also evident here in the warm harmonies of brown and black, with accents of subdued red and white, and the strong contrasts of light and shade.
Paintings capturing the lively bustle of the market place became popular with Dutch genre painters in the 1650s. The theme had its roots in the sixteenth-century market scenes of such Flemish artists as Pieter Aertsen (c. 1507/8-1575) and his nephew Joachim Bueckelaer (c. 1534-c. 1574), but there was a revival of interest in these subjects after 1650. At the forefront of this trend was the Rotterdam genre painter Hendrick Martensz. Sorgh (1609/11-1670), who painted about a dozen pictures of fish or vegetable markets between c. 1650 and 1665. Among the other painters who took up the theme were Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667) and Emanuel de Witte (c. 1617-1692) in Amsterdam and Quirijn van Brekelenkam (c. 1620-1668) in Leiden.
Only fragments of the life story of Justus de Gelder have come down to us. The son of Adriana Brouwers and the preacher Arnoldus de Gelder, Justus de Gelder was baptised in Dordrecht on 20 July 1650. Following his father’s death in 1652, his mother was remarried to the painter Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693) on 21 January 1654. He must have received his artistic training from his stepfather, whose influence is evident in his work, but he probably did not become a professional painter. He is mentioned in documents as a merchant in Dordrecht in 1678 and as an Alderman in Vianen from 1685 onwards. He is further documented in Dordrecht in 1671, in Delft in 1677 on the occasion of his marriage, in Dordrecht again in 1678, in Amsterdam in 1679 and in Vianen between 1685 and 1707. His date of death is not recorded, but Maria Prep is mentioned as the widow of Justus de Gelder in Amsterdam in 1724.
i For example, A Woman selling Milk, signed, on panel, 55.9 x 41.9 cm, The Harold Samuel Collection, Mansion House, London; The Milk Girl, signed, on canvas, 69.8 x 82.5 cm, The National Trust, Ascott, Buckinghamshire; The Milk Girl, signed, oil on canvas, 59.7 x 63.8 cm, Wellington Museum, Apsley House, London; The Vegetable Seller, canvas, 48 x 38.5 cm, Kunstmusem, Basle, Switzerland.
ii Nicolaes Maes, A chatting Maid after returning from the Fish Market, Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht (on loan from The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage) and Maid returning from the Market, canvas, 66 x 88 cm, formerly with the Galerie Charpentier, 1954.
Justus de Gelder
(Dordrecht 1650 - 1707/1724 Vianen)
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