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    Sale 1986

    Important Old Master Paintings Part I And Part II

    15 April 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 19

    David Teniers the Younger Antwerp 1610-1690 Brussels

    The story of Hero and Leander

    Price Realised  

    David Teniers the Younger Antwerp 1610-1690 Brussels
    The story of Hero and Leander
    signed 'DT' (in monogram, center right)
    oil on canvas
    24 x 32 7/8 in. 61 x 83.5 cm.


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    Virgil and Strabo both mention the story of Hero and Leander but the first full account of it is that of the fifth-century Greek poet Musaeus. He tells of two Greek cities, Sestos and Abydos, that faced each other across the Hellespont at the eastern end of its narrows. Sestos on the Thracian side was the home of Hero, the beautiful virgin priestess of Aphrodite. At a festival of the goddess she met the young Leander from Abydos and they fell madly in love. As marriage to a priestess of Aphrodite was forbidden, Leander resolved to make a nocturnal visit to the tower on the shore where Hero lived, urging her to light a lamp to guide him across the strait. One nightly visit led to many and the ritual was repeated until winter set in and Leander's swim became dangerous. Powerless in the grip of fate, the lovers couldn't abandon their secret visits until one night Hero's beacon was extinguished by the winter wind and Leander drowned. In the dawn, when she saw her lover's corpse floating in the water below, Hero threw herself out of her tower to join him in death.

    The romance and high drama of the story is conveyed by the heroic figure of Leander held in the arms of the nereids, the putto on the left carrying love's extinguished torch, and the flash of lightening in the dark sky. This subject is unusual for an artist more often associated with tavern scenes and village fêtes. It is David Teniers' copy of Domenico Fetti's painting in Vienna (fig. 1; Kunsthistorisches Museum), one of over 240 copies he made of the Italian paintings in Archduke Leopold Wilhelm's collection in Brussels. He was court painter and keeper of the collection from 1651 and, in addition to buying paintings for the Archduke, he undertook the project of producing the first illustrated catalogue of a collection ever to be published. It was called Theatrum Pictorium and it illustrated 243 of the Archduke's finest works.

    Leopold Wilhelm was an Austrian Habsburg, the son of Emperor Ferdinand II and cousin of Philip IV who succeeded Cardinal Infante Ferdinand as Governor General of the Spanish Netherlands after the latter's premature death in 1641. He served as Governor General from 1647 to 1656, when he asked permission to retire and moved, together with his collection, back to Vienna. As many as 1,659 objects were inventoried in the Archduke's collection: 542 sculptures, 343 drawings, 517 Italian paintings and 888 German and Netherlandish paintings (see A.J. Loomie, 'John Michael Wright's visit to London in the summer of 1655', The Burlington Magazine, vol. 129/no. 1016, November 1987, p. 721). Teniers bought paintings from the collections of James I and the Marquess of Hamilton and the Archduke's warm relationship with Oliver Cromwell facilitated his purchase of paintings from the confiscated collections of Charles I and his supporters.

    Hero and Leander is unusual among Teniers' copies of the Archduke's paintings for its scale and degree of finish. His copies served primarily as models for the prints that were to appear in Theatrum Pictorium and the majority adhered precisely to the size of the engravings, literal modelli for the various printmakers working on the project. Teniers altered the scale of Fetti's original painting and made his composition considerably narrower, but this canvas is almost four times the size of most of his other copies, which were painted on panel. Fetti's painting, which appears in one of Teniers' eight gallery views of the archducal collection (fig. 2; Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich), may have been a particular favorite of Leopold Wilhelm or perhaps Teniers' copy was intended to serve some other as yet unknown function unrelated to the collection catalogue. Whatever its original purpose, Teniers' copy of Fetti's painting was clearly held in high esteem as it appeared in the eighteenth century in the collection of the Earl of Sunderland and Spencer at Althorp House.

    The Archduke seems to have lost interest in the Theatrum Pictorium project after his return to Vienna in 1656 and it was first published in Brussels in 1660 at Teniers' expense. Sales in Antwerp were handled by his brother Abraham and the printer Hendrick Aertssens (see M. Klinge, David Teniers the Younger, Antwerp, 1991, p. 279). A second edition was published in Antwerp in 1684 and two more editions appeared, one undated and one in 1755. Teniers continued to serve as court painter to Leopold Wilhelm's successor, Don Juan of Austria, and also worked for Queen Christina of Sweden and Philip IV of Spain. He used his prominent post at court to lobby for the establishment of an art academy in Antwerp modeled on those in Paris and Rome.

    Provenance

    Earl of Sunderland, Althorp House, by descent to
    the Hon. John Spencer, younger brother of the 5th Earl, by descent to
    his son John, later First Earl Spencer, in 1746, thence by descent in the family at Althorp until after 1976.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 3 July 1985, lot 60.
    with Johnny van Haeften, London.
    Private Collection, Europe.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 2 June 1989, lot 22.
    Daisy and Daniel Belin, Los Angeles.


    Literature

    G. Knapton, Catalogue of the Pictures at Althorpe and Wimbledon belonging to the late Honble. Mr. Spencer, 1746, no. 172.
    A Catalogue of the Pictures at Althorp House in the year 1750, listed in the 'Little Parlour'.
    Catalogue of the Pictures at Althorp House, 1831, no. 31.
    J. Smith, Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, III, 'Van Dyck and Teniers', 1831, p. 432, no. 650 (as 'in the style of Carracci with the figure of Hero on the left').
    G. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, III, 1854, p. 459 (noting the present work as 'very fine').
    K. Garlick, 'A Catalogue of the Pictures at Althorp', Walpole Society, XLV, 1976, p. 82, no. 638.
    E. Safarik, Fetti, Milan, 1990, pp. 247 and 250.
    P. Sutton, The Age of Rubens, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 22 September 1993 - 2 January 1994; Toledo, Toledo Museum of Art, 2 February - 24 April 1994, pp. 584-86, cat. no. 126, illustrated.


    Exhibited

    London, Johnny van Haeften Gallery, Dutch and Flemish Old Master Paintings, no. 18, illustrated.
    Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, and Toledo, Museum of Art, The Age of Rubens, 22 September 1993 - 2 January 1994 and 2 February - 24 April 1994, no. 126.