With his cousin Esaias van de Velde (1587-1630), Claes Jansz. Visscher (circa 1587-1652), and Willem Buytewech (1591/1592-1624), Jan van de Velde counts among the pioneering seventeenth-century Dutch landscapists, who infused a century-old Netherlandish tradition with a fresh kind of realism directly inspired by observation of the Dutch countryside, each with their own idiosyncratic graphic manner. Jan’s drawings are relatively rare, at least in private hands; the most important example recently at auction was a sheet in the sale of the I.Q. van Regteren Altena collection at Christie’s, London, 10 July 2014, lot 37), acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 2014.590; see J.G. van Gelder, Jan van de Velde, 1593-1641. Teekenaar, schilder […], The Hague, 1933, no. 16, fig. 69), while the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired a drawing last year from a private collection (inv. 2020.14; see J.G. van Gelder, ‘Jan van de Velde, 1593-1641, teekenaar-schilder. Addenda I’, Oud-Holland, LXX, 1955, pp. 24-26, fig. 1).
Hitherto unpublished, the present drawing is by the same hand as two views at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, one of which depicts the Oostpoort in Delft (inv. Mas. 1593, Mas. 1594; see F. Lugt, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du Nord, I, École hollandaise, Paris, 1950, nos. 125, 126, pl. XI, as by Buytewech; Van Gelder, op. cit., 1933, nos. 282, 283, as attributed to Van de Velde; Van Gelder, op. cit., 1955, p. 29; and M. van Berge-Gerbaud in L’Âge d’or du paysage hollandais, exhib. cat., Paris, Cabinet des dessins Jean Bonna, Beaux-Arts de Paris, 2014-2015, nos. 33, 34, ill.). The three drawings are on paper with the same watermark, and of all three second versions exist in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin (inv. KdZ 12527, KdZ 12528, KdZ 14125; see Van Gelder, op. cit., 1933, nos. 280, 281, fig. 79, as attributed to Van de Velde; Van Gelder, op. cit., 1955, p. 29, fig. 8, as by Van de Velde; Van Berge-Gerbaud, op. cit., p. 88, under no. 34; an additional copy of the Paris drawing, inv. Mas. 1593, is mentioned in Lugt, op. cit., p. 15, under no. 125).
In 1955, Jan van Gelder declared he was in no doubt that the drawings in Paris as well as the replicas in Berlin are all autograph works by Van de Velde, dating them to the second half of the 1620s (op. cit., p. 29). However, close comparison between the two groups must lead to the conclusion that the replicas are period copies. Discussing the view of Delft in Paris, which bears a seventeenth-century attribution to Buytewech, Michiel Plomp (in Vermeer and the Delft School, exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London, The National Gallery, 2001, no. 125, ill.) supported the attribution to Van de Velde, rather than that to Buytewech or the one to Visscher, proposed (without much conviction) by Egbert Haverkamp Begemann (Willem Buytewech, Amsterdam, 1959, nos. 151, 152, as possibly by Van de Velde or Visscher). Both Mària van Berge-Gerbaud (op. cit., p. 86, under no. 33) and Rob Fucci (e-mail, 11 May 2021) consider the pair in Paris as works by Van de Velde, an attribution which the rediscovery of the present drawing only helps to affirm. Among comparable sheets can be mentioned those in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, inv. KdZ 14127 (ibid., no. 30, fig. 29); the Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem (ibid., no. 48, fig. 41); the Albertina, inv. 8084 (Van Gelder, op. cit., 1933, no. 69, fig. 26); and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. JvdV 1 (PK) (Van Gelder, op. cit., 1955, p. 28, fig. 6).
The Berlin copy after the drawing under discussion (inv. KdZ 14125) bears an inscription on the verso – ‘Ruine van ’t huis ter Kleef buiten haarlem.’ – which identifies the view as one of the ruins of a medieval castle north of Haarlem, a beloved subject of seventeenth-century and later Dutch artists. A very similar view is included as the last plate in Visscher’s print series of views in the surroundings of Haarlem, titled Plaisante plaetsen, of about 1611-1612 (fig.; see Hollstein’s Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, Roosendaal, 1991, XXXVIII, p. 86, no. 160, XXXIX, ill.; and C.S. Ackley, Printmaking in the Age of Rembrandt, exhib. cat., Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, and Saint Louis Art Museum, 1980-1981, no. 36, ill.). Van de Velde enlivened his view by adding the animals in the foreground, which look forward to Rembrandt’s calligraphic style; and rocky formations in the background, which add an element of fantasy to the otherwise accurate depiction of the site. However, as usual in Van de Velde’s drawings, the charm of the drawing relies as much on its subject as on its execution: the loops, dots, strokes, parallel hatching and angular lines elevate what could have been little more than a picturesque view to a spirited exercise of graphic inventiveness.
We are grateful to Robert Fucci for his help in writing this note and for confirming the attribution to Jan van de Velde of the drawing, which will be included in his forthcoming catalogue of the drawings by the artist.
Fig. Claes Jansz. Visscher, A view of Huis ter Kleef near Haarlem. Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.