Originally this grisaille must have been part of a series of five depictions of sayings: Armoe soeckt list (Poverty leads to Cunning), List soeckt rijckdom (Cunning leads to Wealth), Rijckdom soeckt weelde (Wealth leads to Luxury), Weelde soeckt ellende (Luxury leads to Misery) and Ellende soeckt de doo(d)t (Misery leads to Death). Adriaen van de Venne painted several versions of this series in different sizes and executions (grisaille and polychrome), but no complete series has come down to us.
Judging from the high quality of the present lot and the date of 1630, relatively early for a grisaille by Van de Venne, this may have been part of the prototypes for the other known versions. A signed grisaille depicting Ellende soeckt de Doo(d) that was in the Dietz collection in 1959. once belonged to the same ensemble. The measurements, 32.5 x 22.5 cm., are almost the same.
The high quality of Weelde soeckt ellende from 1630 becomes especially clear when compared to the panel with the same composition in the Kunsthalle, Bremen, dated 1632. The 1630 picture is more persuasive in its depiction of the scene. The rich lady contrasts with the beggar not only by their clothing but also by the style of painting. The elegantly dressed lady is painted very detailed, with a lot of attention to the clothes done in tiny brush strokes and very subtle highlights. In contrast the beggar is painted by broad and more expressive brush strokes, that seem to fit with his rough exterior.
We are grateful to Edwin Buijsen of the RKD, The Hague, for his help in cataloguing this lot.