Paulus Potter* (1625-1654)
Paulus Potter* (1625-1654)

God appearing to Abraham at Sichem

Paulus Potter* (1625-1654)
God appearing to Abraham at Sichem
signed 'paülus.potter./' [ao linked]
oil on canvas
38½ x 51½in. (100.4 x 130.8cm.)
Dr. Giorgius Henricus Trochel, Amsterdam; sale, van der Schley, Amsterdam, May 11, 1801, lot 66 (Dfl. 99 to Pruysenaar).
Mr. Brooks, St. James's Galley, no 17 Regent Street; his sale, Christie's, London, April 29-May 1 (=2nd day), 1871, lot 163 (126gns. to the following).
Lord Dunmore; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 3, 1884, lot 3 6,000 francs).
J.N. Sepp, Munich, 1884-9.
Heinrich Theodor Höch, Munich; sale, Lempertz, Munich, Sept. 19, 1892, lot 168 (DM 19,000 to Fleischmann).
A.C. Hencken, New York, sale, American Art Association, New York, Jan. 20-1, 1921, lot 119 (unsold), and by descent to
Hugh Hencken.
Kleine Mitteilungen, 1892, p. 272, illustrated.
A. von Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, 1908, II, pp. 350 and 353.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné etc., IV, 1912, pp. 588-9, nos. 1-2.
W. von Bode, Die Meister der Holländischen and Vlämischen Malerschulen, 1917, pp. 221-2.
E. Michel, Paulus Potter, 1930, p. 36.
R. von Arps-Aubert, Die Entwicklung des reinen Tierbildes in der Kunst des Paulus Potter, 1932, pp. 11 and 35, no. 1.
N.I. Romanov, An Unknown Painting by G.W. Horst and its forerunners, Oud Holland, LI, 1934, pp. 278-9.
W. Martin, De Hollandsche schilderkunst in de zeventiende eeuw, 1935-6, II, p. 329.
S. Nihom-Nijstad, Reflets du siècle d'or. Tableaux hollandais du dix-septieme siècle. Collection Lugt, 1983, p. 108.
A.L. Walsh, Paulus Potter: his works and their Meaning, Columbia University, (dissertation), New York, 1985, pp. 122-5 and fig. 137.
L. Goosen, Van Abraham tot Zacharia. Thelma's uit het Oude Testament in religie, beeldende kunst, literatuur, muziek en theater, 1990, p. 21.
C. Tümpel, Het Oude Testament in de Schilderkunst van de Gouden Eeuw, 1991-2, pp. 28, 48, note 27.
Munich, Permanente Gemälde-Ausstellung alter und moderner Meister und Kunsthandlung von A. Rupprecht's Nachfolger, 1889.
The Hague, Mauritshuis, Paulus Potter, Paintings, Drawings and Etchings, Nov. 8, 1994-Feb. 5, 1995, no. 1.

Lot Essay

As Hofstede de Groot observed (op. cit.), this very early work by Paulus Potter was painted when he was only sixteen or seventeen and shows the influence of his father, Pieter Potter, especially in the figures, as well as the Pre-Rembrandtist, Nicolaes Moeyaert, notably in the animals. Walsh cited the latter's treatment of the same theme, which also features prominent livestock in the foreground, dated 1628, now on loan from Netherlands Office for Fine Arts, The Hague, Inv. no. NK 3401, to the Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht (see Walsh, op. cit.; and the catalogue of the exhibition, The Hague, 1994-5, p. 22, fig. 5) as a specific source, while noting that Potter moved the figures to the left side of the design in adapting aspects of his diagonally retreating landscape from an etching by another Pre-Rembrandtist, Moses van Uyttenbroeck (see the catalogue of the 1994/5 exhibition, op. cit., p. 58, fig. 2). The amber cast and diagonal organization of the landscape also attests to Potter's appreciation of the 'tonal' paintings of contemporary Dutch landscapists, such as Jan van Goyen. This eclectic receptivity to multiple sources was characteristic of the youthful artist's approach.

Only one painting by the artist is dated to the preceding year, 1641, while a small group are dated to 1642, including the present work, and A Landscape with Cattle and Goats, sold at Sotheby's, London, Dec. 11, 1996, lot 27 for £120,000=$200,000.

The subject from the Old Testament depicts the kneeling Abraham, who had obeyed the Lord's command in taking his family, flocks and possessions out of Ur to Canaan. By the terebinth (turpentine-tree) on the plain of Moreh, the holy place of Sichem, God appeared to Abraham a second time saying 'Unto thy seed will I give this land' (Genesis 12:7). The subject was popularized by Rembrandt's teacher, Pieter Lastman, whose treatment of the theme dated 1614 (Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Inv. no. 8306) also employed rays of light (just visible in the upper right of the present lot) to symbolize God's divine presence. Noting the individualized features of several of the figures on the left in the present work, the authors of the 1994/5 exhibition catalogue (op. cit.) theorized that the picture might be a portrait historié.