Emanuel de Witte (Alkmaar c. 1617-1691/1692 Amsterdam)
Emanuel de Witte (Alkmaar c. 1617-1691/1692 Amsterdam)

Interior of the Oude Kerk in Delft

Emanuel de Witte (Alkmaar c. 1617-1691/1692 Amsterdam)
Interior of the Oude Kerk in Delft
signed and dated 'E de Witte fecit A 1669' (lower right)
oil on canvas
31 3/8 x 26 in. (79.7 x 66 cm.)
with G. Arnot, London, from whom acquired in July 1939 by the following,
B. de Geus van den Heuvel (1886-1976), Amsterdam and Nieuwersluis; his sale (†), Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 26 April 1976, lot 83.
Anonymous sale [Property from a Private Collection]; Sotheby's, London, 8 December 2010, lot 21, where acquired by the present owner.
E. Trautscholdt, F. Thieme and U. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildende Kunst, Leipzig, 1947, XXXVI, p. 125.
I. Manke, Emanuel de Witte, Amsterdam, 1963, pp. 80-81, no. 13, pl. 71.
H.S. Nienhuis, ed., Collectie B. de Geus ban den Heuvel, Amsterdam, 1963, I, p. 57, no. 83; II, pl. 83.
W.A. Liedtke, Architectural Painting in Delft, Doornspijk, 1982, p. 126, under Appendix V, no. XIII, pl. XIII.
J. Ingamells, The Wallace Collection. Catalogue of Pictures: Dutch and Flemish, London, 1992, IV, p. 439, under no. P254.
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Schilderijen uit particuliere verzamelingen in Nederland, 1939-40, no. 60.
Schiedam, Stedelijk Museum, 1951-2, no. 90.
Delft, Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Nederlandse meesters uit particulier bezit, 21 December 1952-1 February 1953, no. 85.
Utrecht, Centraal Museum, Nederlandse architectuurschilders 1600-1900, 1953, no. 113.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Holländer des 17. Jahrhunderts, 4 November-20 December 1953, no. 181.
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni; and Milan, Palazzo Reale, Mostra di Pittura Olandese del Seicento, 4 January-25 April 1954, no. 183 and no. 179 respectively.
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Kunstschatten uit Nederlandse Verzamelingen, June-September 1955, no. 140.
Arnhem, Gemeente museum, Collectie B. de Geus van den Heuvel te Nieuwersluis, 11 December 1960-26 February 1961, no. 81.

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Lot Essay

This depiction of the Oude Kerk in Delft is a mature work by Emanuel de Witte, one of the greatest architectural painters of the seventeenth century. This specific viewpoint, showing the south aisle crossing looking north-east across the building, had been captured in a work by the painter eighteen years earlier, in 1651, in the earliest dated example of this type of composition in his oeuvre (fig. 1; London, Wallace Collection). While this early painting served as the basic model for the present composition, de Witte inventively adapted it, distancing the pulpit, adding the (fictitious) organ shutters at the left and extending the scene at the right to include a more extensive view of the nave. Likewise, the figures grouped in the foreground, turning to listen to the Calvinist preacher in the pulpit, have been moved and adapted. The artist reused a number of stock figures during his career, incorporating them in numerous different works each time with subtle modifications. The man with his back to the viewer and his cloak thrown over his shoulder on the right, for example, was one of his most successful figure types and appears in numerous works including the Protestant Gothic church (1669) and Interior of the Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam (1680) in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the Protestant Gothic church (1685) in Brussels (Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique).

From around 1660 onwards, de Witte’s style is characterised by a growing interest in the depiction of the varying qualities and effects of light within an architectural space. As Liedtke observed: ‘his use of light to describe space and form was a metamorphosis of the genre’s most fundamental qualities…he was extraordinary, the sudden culmination of a long evolution, the end of a tradition, and the beginning – or rather the prophet – of much later painters of architectural views like Sargent, Sickert and Monet’ (op. cit., pp. 78-9). Here the subtle illumination of the church, filtered through the windows in the clerestory in the upper left, is used to pick out details in the architecture. By employing carefully placed passages of light and dark as a means of evoking space, the soft light also creates a sense of tranquility, which can be seen to echo the work of other artists working in Delft, like Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer, following de Witte’s move to Amsterdam in 1652.

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