• Old Master & 19th Century Pain auction at Christies

    Sale 2282

    Old Master & 19th Century Paintings, Drawings, & Watercolors

    27 January 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 23

    Jacob Duck (Utrecht c.1600-1667)

    An Allegory of Faith

    Price Realised  


    Jacob Duck (Utrecht c.1600-1667)
    An Allegory of Faith
    oil on panel
    15½ x 15 in. (39.5 x 38.3 cm.)

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    In the opulent domestic interior of Jacob Duck's Allegory of Faith, a beautifully attired woman sits amid an array of delicately and precisely rendered objects which fill the composition. An hourglass, a skull and crossed bones on a table and a flickering candle evoke the brevity of life and certainty of death. Worldly knowledge - represented by a great pile of books, and worldly treasure - displayed in the form of jewels and fine silks, tell of the inexorable end that awaits each of us.

    Despite the heightened realism with which each object is rendered, we are clearly in the world of signs and symbols, allegory and vanitas. Who is the young beauty sitting amongst the symbols of life's transcience? Sumptuously attired in yellow silk and white lace, with pearls in her hair and at her neck, she has been associated with 'Lady World', an idea first presented by Eddy de Jongh. An iconographic conceit popular in German and Dutch art, 'Lady World' is depicted in opulent clothes and jewels; she holds a mask, representing artifice, and money. Jacob Cats' 1656 edition of Ouderdom en Buyten-Leuven contains an engraving of 'Lady World' with her attributes, including an accompanying text warning against this deceptive temptress.

    More convincingly, it has been proposed that Duck's painting is an Allegory of Faith. A rosary lays over the table, and the young woman gazes in the direction of the cross, at the same time grasping her pearls, which carry dual meanings as symbols of faith and excess wealth. The subtly layered iconography of the painting invites curiosity and introspection.

    The similarities between this work and Johannes Vermeer's Allegory of Faith (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) are unmistakable, and the crushed serpent at the feet of Vermeer's central character and presense of a Crucifix behind her make it clear that this painting represnts an allegory of Faith. In David Tenier II's Allegory of Faith (Hermitage, St. Petersburg), the subject violently clutches her pearl necklace, surrounded by the same items as Duck's protagonist -- a table laden with books, a globe, and a skull -- and the putti make the religious subject unmistakable.

    This complex and multi-layered picture is a superb and unusual work by Duck, who specialized in merry companies and guardroom scenes, rather than sophisticated allegorical or religious works such as this.


    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 24 February 1971, lot 31.
    with Leger, London, 1971.
    with Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, London.
    Private collection, San Francisco.
    with Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, London and Thirty Victoria Street, Syndey, where purchased by the present owner in 1999.

    Pre-Lot Text



    E. de Jongh, 'Vermommingen van Vrouw Wereld in de 17de eeuw', Album Amicorum, J. G. van Gelder, The Hague, 1973, p. 201, fig. 6.
    N. Salomon, Dreamers, idlers and other dozers, PhD diss., New York University, 1984, p. 142.
    N. Salomon, Jacob Duck and the gentrification of Dutch genre painting, Doornspijk, 1998, pp. 96-98, p. 165, no. 102, fig. 93.
    E. de Jongh, 'The changing face of Lady World', in Questions of meaning: theme and motif in Dutch seventeenth-century painting, Leiden, 2000, pp. 70-73, fig. 20.


    London, Leger Galleries, Old master exhibition, 4-29 May 1971, no. 15.
    San Francisco, Fine Arts Museum, Masters of light: Dutch painters in Utrecht during the golden age, 13 September-30 November 1997, no. 20; also Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, 11 January-5 April 1998; and London, National Gallery of Art, 6 May-2 August 1998.