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Jan Lievens (Leiden 1607-1674 Amsterdam)
Jan Lievens (Leiden 1607-1674 Amsterdam)

Two river gods, probably the Tiber and Nile

Details
Jan Lievens (Leiden 1607-1674 Amsterdam)
Two river gods, probably the Tiber and Nile

pen and brown ink, brown ink framing lines, indistinct armorial watermark
7 5/8 x 11 ¼ in. (19.3 x 28.5 cm.)
Provenance
Cornelis Verheyden de Lancey (1889-1984); R.W.P. de Vries, Amsterdam, 20-22 July 1926, lot number unknown; where purchased by I.Q. van Regteren Altena for 10 guilders (Inventory book: '146. t. Lievens Tibergod').
Literature
H. Schneider, Jan Lievens: Sein Leben und Seine Werke, Haarlem, 1932, no. Z31 (with erroneous provenance).
H. Schneider and R.E.O. Ekkart, Jan Lievens: sein Leben und seine Werke, mit einem Supplement von R.E.O. Ekkart, Amsterdam, 1973, no. Z31 (with erroneous provenance).
W. Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, New York, 1983, VII, no. 1633x.
Exhibited
Amsterdam, Rembrandthuis, Jan Lievens: Prenten & Tekeningen, 1988-89, no. 43 (catalogue by P. Schatborn and E. Ornstein-van Slooten).
Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, In de ban van Italië: Tekeningen uit een Amsterdamse verzameling, 1995, no. 14, with erroneous provenance (catalogue by I. Oud, M. Jonker and M. Schapelhouman).
Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, Milwaukee, Art Museum and Amsterdam, Rembrandthuis, Jan Lievens: A Dutch Master Rediscovered, 2008-09, no. 105 (not exhibited), with erroneous provenance (catalogue entry by G. Rubinstein).

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Lot Essay

This drawing, along with one in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (also formerly in the van Regteren Altena collection; Washington 2008-09, op. cit., no. 104), seems to derive from a composition by a student of Rubens showing the River Scheldt (H. Mielke and M. Winner, Peter Paul Rubens: Kritischer katalog der Zeichnungen: Die Zeichnungen Alter Meister im Berliner Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, 1977, no. 42 Kr). Probably dating from the end of Lievens’s residence in Antwerp, around 1640, the present drawing is considerably freer and livelier than the Washington drawing, having been sketched with such spontaneity that the background is represented by only a few darting lines. The buildings shown there appear to be a triumphal column and, perhaps, the Castel Sant’ Angelo with its distinctive tower, suggesting that at least one of the two river gods should be seen as an embodiment of the Tiber. The other god may be an alternative study of the Tiber or might also be interpreted as a personification of the Nile: the very freely-sketched shape beside the gods appears to be an elephant, with its trunk reaching down to the water, adding an exotic note to the composition.

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