A PAIR OF PAINTINGS BY DAVID RYCKAERT III
A remarkable pair of paintings by the Antwerp painter David Ryckaert III (1612-1661), which has recently emerged from an old Spanish aristocratic collection. Originally commissioned from the painter by the distinguished Spanish courtier, soldier, diplomat and art collector the Marqués de Leganés (c. 1585-1655), their imposing size and unusual format suggest that they were intended for a specific location, perhaps as overdoors, or part of an architectural scheme.
The Adoration of the Magi
Born into a family of
artists, David Ryckaert III lived and worked in Antwerp all his life. In his early career, he painted mainly
low-life genre scenes, influence by Adriaen Brouwer (1605-1638) and David
Teniers the Younger (1610-1690), but around 1649, probably in a bid to attract
a more sophisticated clientele, he changed tack, introducing more elevated
subjects to his repertoire, and adopting larger formats and a more refined
technique. The ploy seems to have paid off since his work now came to the
attention of the art-loving Archduke Leopold Wilhelm (1614-1662), who acquired
four of his paintings for his picture gallery in the Coudenberg Palace, in
Brussels. In 1651, Ryckaert was elected
dean of the guild in recognition of the high esteem in which he was held by his
fellow artists. He was now at the peak
of his career.
Thus, this pair of paintings, executed in 1652, belong to an especially successful phase in the artist’s professional life, when he produced much of his best work. The discovery by Matías Díaz Padrón in 2008[i] that they had belonged to the Marqués de Leganés, one of the most distinguished collectors of the seventeenth century, tells us much about the artist’s reputation abroad during these years. The key to making the connection with Leganés is the characteristic inventory number “1324”, inscribed in white in the lower right-hand corner of The Annunciation, and the red collection seal of the Marqués affixed to the canvas of its companion piece. These marks make it possible to identify the paintings among the 1333 art works listed in the inventory of the Marqués’s estate drawn up on 21 February 1655[ii], where they are described as follows:-
“1.324. Otra Pintura de la Anunciación de Ntra. Sra. Con un ramillete de flores en la mano arriba dha de 2 y ½ varas ancho y de alto ¾, en 1.100.
1.323. Otra pintura de la Adorazión de los Reyes, de ancho 2 y ½ b. y alto ¾ de mano e
ricarente, en 1.100”.
Diego Mexiá Felípez de Guzmán, 1st Marqués de Leganés (c. 1585-1655) was the aristocratic
courtier par excellence. A cousin and protégé of the immensely
powerful Count-Duke of Olivares, the favourite of the young King Philip IV of
Spain, he rose through the ranks of the nobility, serving in important
positions at court and in the military.
During the 1620s, he was frequently in Flanders on military or
diplomatic missions and was a resident in Brussels from 1630 to 1635. As an intimate member of the court in
Brussels, he would have been familiar with the archducal collections, as well
as with many of the smaller collections of wealthy Antwerp citizens. He also met and became a major patron of
Rubens, who in 1628 described him as “one of the greatest connoisseurs of the
age” [iii]. His own collection, much of which was
acquired during his time in the Low Countries, reflects his great interest in
the art of living Flemish painters, as well as that of Italian and Spanish
sixteenth and seventeenth century paintings.
These two paintings by David Ryckaert III entered his collections
towards the end of his life, by which time he was once again living in
Spain. Although nothing is known about
the genesis of the commission, it seems likely that it came out either through
the Marqués’s connections with the court in Brussels, or through one of the
firms of art dealers in Antwerp with which Ryckaert had some dealings.
Pieter Paul Rubens, The Marqués of Leganés, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, inv. no. 8358.
In the painting of The Annunciation, Ryckaert collaborated with his Antwerp colleague, the celebrated flower painter Jan van Kessel the Elder (1626-1679), who added the magnificent vase of flowers and other floral still-life elements.
For a full description of both paintings go to the "Paintings" page of this website.
[i] Matías Díaz Padrón, “Dos Pinturas de David Ryckaert III identificadas en la colección del Marqués de Leganés: la anunciación & la adoración de los reyes”, Archivo Español de Arte, LXXXI, no. 321, 2008, ISSN: 0004-0428.
[ii] The 1655 inventory appears in J. López Navio, “La gran collección de pinturas del Marqués de Leganés,” Analecta Calasanctiana, nos. 7-8, 1962, p. 262-330.
[iii] The Letters of Peter Paul Rubens, translated and edited by Ruth Saunders Magurn, 1955, p. 145.