Dirck van Delen (Heusden 1604/5-1671 Arnemuiden)
Property of a Private Collector
Dirck van Delen (Heusden 1604/5-1671 Arnemuiden)

An architectural capriccio with Jephthah and his daughter

Dirck van Delen (Heusden 1604/5-1671 Arnemuiden)
An architectural capriccio with Jephthah and his daughter
signed and dated 'D.van Delen.f.1633' (lower right) and dated 'Anno. 1633.' (above the central arch)
oil on panel
50 3/8 x 77 3/8 in. (127.9 x 196.6 cm.)
Simon Stinstra, Amsterdam; his sale, Amsterdam, 26 March, 1783, lot 44.
Lieutenant Colonel William Forbes, Callendar House, Falkirk; Christie's, London 29 November, 1963, lot 40 (1400 gns.) to Arnold.
with Didier Aaron & Cie, Paris, 1978.
with Maurice Segoura, Paris, where acquired in 1986 by
Lily and Edmond J. Safra, New York; Sotheby's, New York, 26 January 2006, lot 2, where acquired by the present owner.
World Collectors Annuary, 1963, no. 15, p. 104.
Apollo, November 1963, pl. 3.
The Burlington Magazine, November 1963, p. 39.
W. Liedtke, 'From Vredeman de Vries to Dirck van Delen: Sources of Imaginary Architectural Painting', in Bulletin of Rhode Island School of Design: Museum Notes, Winter 1970, p. 24, under note 4.
T. T. Blade, The Paintings of Dirck van Delen, dissertation, University of Minnesota, Ann Arbor 1976, p. 227, no. 45, fig. 69, as with figures possibly by Dirk Hals or Palamedes.
Paris, Didier Aaron, Tableaux et Dessins Anciens, 22 November-22 December 1978, no. 13.

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Lot Essay

Dirck Van Delen was one of the most inspired practitioners of 17th-century Dutch architectural painting. Based in Arenmuiden near Middelburg, where he served as burgomaster, Van Delen devoted his entire artistic career to painting architectural subjects. His rich palette and highly refined technique brought him enormous success during his lifetime, and, as noted by Bernard Vermet, he became the most influential force for the following generation of architectural painters in Antwerp. This astonishingly well-preserved, monumental view of an imaginary and fantastical palace exterior ranks among Van Delen’s largest and most important surviving works, prominently signed and dated ‘1633’ in two places.

Although the present scene has sometimes been incorrectly identified as showing Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the subject of the panel – as was recognized as early as its 1783 sale – is in fact that of Jepthah and his daughter. The Old Testament story of Jepthah (Judges 11:30-40) tells how the Israelite warrior was called to lead his people into battle against the Ammonites. Before going into combat, Jepthah made a vow to God that, in exchange for victory, he would sacrifice the first creature to emerge from his house upon his return – unaware that it would be his daughter. Van Delen has distilled the central moment of this biblical account in the foreground of the panel. As the victorious Jepthah approaches his residence, he is met by his daughter. Realizing what he has done, Jepthah recoils in horror and tears at his garments in a deliberate echo of the biblical passage: 'when he saw her…he rent his clothes.' The protagonists are clothed in sumptuous, exquisitely rendered costumes that generally recall Eastern types and are accompanied by entourages of soldiers and attendants in similarly colorful attire.

The distant view through the meticulously described porticoes also reveals Van Delen’s sensitivity to the distinctly Dutch style of landscape gardening that was coming into vogue in the 17th century, known as the ‘golden age’ of Dutch garden design. Van Delen translates directly onto the panel the windowed arbors and covered walks lined with trees that would have undoubtedly recalled local gardens of his day. By depicting what would have typically been planted along the perimeter of a private garden, Van Delen evokes a sense of seclusion among intimate, luxurious grounds sheltered by a labrynthine arboreal border. Notable examples of gardens like those that might have inspired Van Delen’s imagery are still in existence today at the royal palaces of Het Loo and Huis den Bosch in the Netherlands.

The attribution of the present work was confirmed on the basis of photographs at the time of the 2006 sale by Bernard Vermet, who also confirmed that the figures are by Van Delen.

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