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    Sale 12109

    Old Masters

    26 October 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 76

    Godfried Schalcken (Made 1643-1706 The Hague)

    An allegory of Fortune

    Price Realised  


    Godfried Schalcken (Made 1643-1706 The Hague)
    An allegory of Fortune
    signed 'G.Schalcken.' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    13 ¾ x 11 in. (34.9 x 27.9 cm.)

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    This delightful painting displays all of the hallmarks of Godfried Schalcken’s mature style, which marries the refinement of Gerrit Dou and the Leiden “fine painters” with a freer handling and more buoyant palette. In the 1680s, when he created this work, Schalcken was celebrated internationally as one of the most accomplished artists of his generation and enjoyed the patronage of King William III, Grand Duke Cosimo II de Medici and the Elector Palatine Johan Wilhem. The composition represents a beautiful winged figure who smiles mischievously while gazing directly at the viewer. Her white chemise has slipped, revealing her bare shoulder as she rests her arm on a terrestrial globe. In her left hand she holds a scallop shell with a soap bubble inside it. A second bubble floats above it, perhaps kept aloft by the heat of the candle held in her right hand, which illuminates the scene.

    When this painting was engraved in the 17th century, it was given the title “Vanitas Vanitatum” because of its rich symbolic content. As David Dallas has recognized, however, this allegorical figure is perhaps best identified as Fortune, who alludes to the perils of Vanity in a world where everything is ephemeral (op. cit.): the soap bubbles will soon burst and the candle is already half-burned. Likewise, the cut roses that decorate her diadem also may be read as symbols of transience—one has already wilted. Dallas has further proposed that Schalcken may have intended his painting to be read as a warning against complacency within the Dutch Republic, newly independent from Spain (ibid.). According to this reading, the foundering ship on the rocky seas seen in the background at right as well as the partially draped globe bearing the single inscription “Hispania”, would allude to the political and mercantile decline of the Spanish Empire.

    A preparatory drawing in black chalk measuring 29.5 x 26.6 cm. is in the Collection de Grez, Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts, Brussels (Neve, 1913, no. 3221; see T. Beherman, op. cit., Paris, 1988, p. 253, fig. 195a).


    (Probably) Everard George van Tindinghorste; his sale (†), Ploos van Amstel, Amsterdam, 26 March 1777, lot 64 (FL 201 to Schley).
    Chevalier Gabriel François Joseph de Verhulst; his sale (†), Brussels, 16 August 1779, lot 172 (FL 100 to the Danish Ambassador) (according to a label on the reverse at the time of the 2001 sale).
    Lord Plymouth (according to a label on the reverse at the time of the 2001 sale).
    with D. Katz, Dieren, 1962-63.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, Monaco, 3 December 1989, lot 415.
    Private collection; Sotheby's, London, 13 December 2001, lot 16 (£91,500).
    with Johnny van Haeften, London, 2002, where acquired by the present owner.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the present work will be published in Dr. Wayne Franits’ forthcoming monograph on the artist.

    Pre-Lot Text



    J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, V, London, 1833, p. 287, no. 100.
    C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, V, Cambridge, 1976, p. 336, no. 94.
    T. Beherman, Godfried Schalcken, Paris, 1988, pp. 252-3, no. 159.
    Johnny Van Haeften, Dutch and Flemish Old Master Paintings, exhibition catalogue, London, 2002, XII, no.21 (entry by D. Dallas).


    Dieren, Kunsthandel D. Katz, Belangrijke tentoonstelling van oude Hollandse en Vlaamse meesters, 22 November 1962-15 January 1963, no. 48.