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    Sale 2788

    Old Master Pictures

    6 May 2008, Amsterdam

  • Lot 26

    Cornelis van Poelenburch (Utrecht 1594/5-1667)

    A 'capriccio' view of Rome with the Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence

    Price Realised  


    Cornelis van Poelenburch (Utrecht 1594/5-1667)
    A 'capriccio' view of Rome with the Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence
    signed with initials 'C.P.F.' (lower right)
    oil on panel
    45.3 x 58.2 cm.

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    We are grateful to Dr. Nicolette Sluijter-Seijffert for confirming the attribution after inspection of the original (verbal communication, 6 March 2008). She dates this lot to the last years of Van Poelenburch's Roman sojourn, circa 1622-5, just after he left Florence where he worked for the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Sluijter-Seijffert points out that this lot is one of the few figural compositions Van Poelenburch painted, such as the Stoning of Saint Stephen in the Louvre, The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence in Kassel and Clorinda rescuing Sofronia and Olindo from the Stake in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (see N.Sluijter-Seijffert, Cornelis van Poelenburch (ca. 1593-1667), Enschede, 1984, pp. 70-4). In these architectural pictures, the numerous figures form a colourful group with figures in costumes, dating from different periods such as the 15th and 16th centuries. Although the historical setting of the story of Saint Stephen and Clorinda is Jerusalem, all four pictures show unmistakebly Rome. The composition of the capriccio of the present lot is closest to the Ottawa picture; both show the statues of Castor and Pollux on the Capitoline Hill and the column, that appears to be the Trajan column. In addition, this lot seems to have the columns of the Temple of Apollo to the near left, with behind it part of Saint Peter Cathedral and the Colosseum in the centre.

    Special Notice

    Christie’s charges a premium to the buyer on the Hammer Price of each lot sold at the following rates: 29.75% of the Hammer Price of each lot up to and including €5,000, plus 23.8% of the Hammer Price between €5,001 and €400,000, plus 14.28% of any amount in excess of €400,001. Buyer’s premium is calculated on the basis of each lot individually.


    In the family of the present owner for at least 70 years.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the strip of wood of circa 7 cm. along the upper edge is part of the original composition.

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Amsterdam Art Market since the Golden Age

    by Marten Jan Bok

    Christie's Amsterdam auctions continue a tradition which goes back well into the 16th century. Thanks to various recent publications, all resulting from thorough scholarly research, we now know much more about the historical importance of Amsterdam's art market than we did when Christie's opened its Amsterdam sale rooms in 1973. It has emerged that ever since the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam has played a very specific, and at times pivotal role in the European art market.

    No single factor suffices to explain the ascendency of Amsterdam as an artistic centre, but it is clear that it would not have taken place without the large fortunes that were amassed by the city's merchants as Amsterdam took over from Antwerp as the staple market for Europe, north of the Alps. The Baltic trade and the rapid colonial expansion of the East India Company (founded in 1602) brought the Dutch to all corners of the world. The Dutch fleet, commanded by admirals such as Cornelis Tromp (portrayed, lot 30), dominated the seas. When in the 1620s the collecting of paintings became high fashion, hundreds of talented young artists entered the profession, often specializing in totally new genres, such as the Italianate landscape (Cornelis van Poelenburch, lot 26), still life (Kraen, lot 31) or barn scenes (Isaac van Ostade, lot 32). Together this generation of artists produced a vast quantity of works, the surviving part of which today still forms a significant chunk of the market for old master paintings.

    In the 16th century, movable goods in Amsterdam were sold by professional auctioneers who were appointed by the city. The preserved records of the auctions held on behalf of the Orphans Chamber during the first four decades of the 17th century, allowed the late J. Michael Montias to analyse the Amsterdam art market in that period. Already, auctions were the main venue for the secondary sale of Dutch and Flemish paintings - then still attracting mainly local collectors, artists and dealers -, whereas Italian and other foreign paintings were usually sold by specialized art dealers. Only now and then very important international sales took place, such as the 1639 sale of Lucas van Uffelen, which contained famous works by Raphael and Titian, attracting wealthy foreign buyers. This would remain a characteristic of the Amsterdam auctions for paintings up until the present day. Other than in London - where auctions had become fashionable during King Williams reign -, Paris or later New York, Amsterdam auctions would mainly serve sellers and buyers of Dutch and Flemish paintings.

    A recent study by Koenraad Jonckheere of the Amsterdam sale of King William's paintings in 1713, organized in a highly sophisticated fashion by the banker Jan van Beuningen and the art broker Jan Pietersz Zomer, revealed that the auction had matured as a venue for the sale of art works (fig. 1). Van Beuningen and Zomer had detailed catalogues (fig. 2) printed in several languages. They sent these to selected potential buyers throughout Europe, published advertisements in newspapers well in advance, allowed for viewings, etc. During the 18th century, these marketing practices were further developed in Paris by the illustrious dealer Edme Franois Gersaint, and in London by Christie's and other auction houses. Only recently, the Internet has added a fundamentally new dimension of transparency to the art market. Further research into the history of the Amsterdam art market based on preserved auction catalogues and on archival documents will allow us to trace the provenance of ever more individual works of art to their original owners. Already, the J. Paul Getty Provenance Index, founded in 1981 by its visionary first director Burton B. Fredericksen, as well as current databases of sold works of art, serve all who are interested in the art market and its history.

    Dr. Marten Jan Bok is associate professor in the History of Renaissance and Early Modern Art at the University of Amsterdam. Together with Prof. Dr. Eric Jan Sluijter he currently supervises a research program on Artistic and Economic Competition in the Amsterdam Art Market, c. 1630-1690; History Painting in Rembrandt's Time (funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research NWO).