The drawing is related to Visscher’s Allegory of Transience (Memento Mori) in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. no. A 1533). Similar small-scale vellum studies, which correspond closely to larger compositions, are known in the artist’s oeuvre. One such example is the fully signed vellum drawing A crying boy holding a bowl and spoon in the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, which reappears in both versions of Visscher’s Gypsy (in the Edmond de Rothschild Collection at the Louvre, inv. nos. 565DR and 566DR). The fact that these studies tend to be fully signed and executed on vellum confirms Visscher’s simultaneous conception of them as autonomous works. This practice is found almost exclusively among his treatment of allegorical and genre subjects. Often, he capitalized further on the popularity of these drawings by reproducing them in prints. No known engraving of Visscher’s Allegory of Transience is known, though that drawing was evidently quite famous. At the 1773 sale of Dionis Muilman’s collection, it obtained the third highest price of any of Visscher’s drawings sold in Holland in the eighteenth century. The model is unknown, though she reappears in at least two additional drawings by Visscher, both of which are today preserved in the Rijksmuseum (inv. nos. A 11 and A 3685).
We are grateful to John Hawley, currently finishing his doctoral thesis on Cornelis Visscher, who has confirmed the attribution on the basis of a digital photograph and kindly assisted with the cataloguing of the drawing.