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A young woman holding a hare with a boy at a window

A young woman holding a hare with a boy at a window
signed 'GDOV' ('GD' linked, center right, on the lantern)
oil on panel
20 7⁄8 x 14 ½ in. (53.2 x 37.8 cm.)
Paulus, Heer van Santvoort Loot (1673-1753), Amsterdam, and by bequest to his widow,
Margareta Verhamme (1722-1753), Amsterdam; (†) her sale, Amsterdam, 16 March 1757, lot 2, where acquired for 2,500 florins by,
Jan Bisschop (d. 1771), Rotterdam, from whom acquired by,
John Hope (1737-1784) and his uncle, Adrian Hope (1709-1781), Amsterdam, and by descent to the former's eldest son,
Thomas Hope (1769-1831), Amsterdam and London, under the tutelage of his mother, Philippa Barbara van der Haven (?-1790), until 1790, and then of his father’s cousin, Henry Hope (1735-1811), until full ownership in 1794, and by descent to his eldest son,
Henry Thomas Hope (1808-1862), London, and by bequest to his widow,
Anne Adèle Hope, née Bichat (1814-1884), and by descent to her grandson,
Lord Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope (1866-1941), 8th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne, London and Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, from whom acquired in 1898 by the following,
with Asher Wertheimer and P. & D. Colnaghi, London.
Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905), in the Salon rouge, hôtel Saint-Florentin, Paris, and by descent to,
Baron Édouard de Rothschild (1868-1949), Paris.
Confiscated from the above by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg following the Nazi occupation of France in May 1940 (ERR no. R 84).
Acquired by Hermann Göring (1893-1946) from the above on 5 November 1940 (no. RM 966).
Recovered by the Monuments Fine Arts and Archives section from Berchtesgaden (no. 704) and transferred to the Munich Central Collecting Point, 29 July 1945 (MCCP no. 5752).
Returned to France on 20 September 1946 and restituted to the Rothschild family.
By descent to the present owners.
J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, I, London, 1829, pp. 5-6, no. 7, where valued at 500 gns.
G.F. Waagen, Works of Art and Artists in England, II, London, 1838, p. 331.
G.F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss., &c. &c, II, London, 1854, pp. 116-117.
W. Martin, Het leven en de werken van Gerrit Dou beschouwd in verband met het schildersleven van zijn tijd, Leiden, 1901, p. 223, no. 259.
The Rothschild Archive, London, Inventaire après le décès de Monsieur le Baron Alphonse de Rothschild, A. Cottin Notaire, 16 October 1905 (hôtel Saint-Florentin, Salon rouge, ‘Un tableau de Gérard Dou – 30.000 francs’).
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, I, London, 1907, p. 413, no. 196.
E. Wiersum, Het schilderijen-kabinet van Jan Bisschop te Rotterdam, 1910, 28th year, 3, p. 174.
W. Martin, Gérard Dou. Sa Vie et son Oeuvre. Étude sur la peinture hollandaise et les marchands du dix-septième siècle, L. Dimier, trans., Paris, 1911, p. 206, no. 265.
A. Graves, Summary of and Index to Waagen, London, 1912, p. 57.
C. Frégnac, Belles demeures de Paris. 16e-19e siècle, Paris, 1977, illustrated in situ p. 74 and p. 259, illustrated in black and white in situ p. 254.
C. Frégnac, W. Andrews, The Great Houses of Paris, London, 1979, illustrated in situ p. 74 and p. 259, illustrated in black and white in situ p. 254.
J.W. Niemeijer, 'De kunstverzameling van John Hope (1737-1784)', Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 1981, XXXII, pp. 166 and 178.
R. Baer, The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), Ph.D. dissertation, 1990, under Appendix A, as 'perhaps Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit'.
N.H. Yeide, Beyond the Dreams of Avarice. The Hermann Goering Collection, Dallas, 2009, pp. 143 and 357, no. A976, illustrated.
Les Archives diplomatiques, J.-M. Dreyfus, Le Catalogue Goering, Paris, 2015, pp. 436-437, no. RM966/F1229, illustrated.
London, Pall Mall, British Institution. Pictures now exhibiting, 1815, no. 73.
London, Pall Mall, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, 1854, no. 65.
Manchester, Museum of Ornamental Art, Art Treasures of the United Kingdom, 1857, no. 1045.
London, Pall Mall, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, 1866, no. 11.
London, South Kensington Museum, Catalogue of Pictures of the Dutch and Flemish Schools, the Property of Mrs. Henry Thomas Hope, on loan to the South Kensington Museum, 1869, no. 52.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Including a collection of drawings by John Flaxman, R. A., 1881, no. 97.
London, South Kensington Museum, A Catalogue of Pictures of the Dutch and Flemish Schools lent to the South Kensington Museum by Lord Francis Pelham Clinton-Hope, 1891, no. 15.

Lot Essay

This painting both exemplifies the hallmarks of Dou’s compositional innovations and illustrates the remarkable technique that made him among the most successful Dutch artists of the seventeenth century. A young woman, holding in her left hand a hare by its hind legs, stands behind a window ledge on which is displayed a profusion of objects. Her right hand rests on the handle of a wicker basket full of apples. A boy stands slightly behind her, his left hand on her shoulder while his right is placed on the rim of the basket. She looks up and to the right, as though in the process of hanging the hare on the hook holding the birdcage. The boy smiles, eyeing the hare. The broad flat arched opening enframing the scene is inscribed in a rectangular stone surround, with a keystone at top center and a bas-relief below the ledge. Among the objects on the ledge are a large, dented brass milk jug; a splayed bunch of carrots; an oversize head of purple cabbage; a dead cock on top of a frayed piece of striped cloth; and a large delicata squash. Below the birdcage is an unlit red lantern, which bears the artist’s signature. An elaborate tapestry curtain hangs from inside the arch and is pulled across and hooked at left. The form of a hearth can be made out at right behind the figures, situating the scene in a domestic interior. The illumination comes from the left, outside the picture frame, causing shadows to be cast by the birdcage and squash and leaving the boy’s face only partially lit.

Although Dou trained with Rembrandt as a young man, he soon deviated from his master’s style and subject matter, largely specializing in images of people engaged in quotidian tasks painted in a meticulous and fine manner. Here, Dou recombines motifs and reuses elements from his other works, such as the François Duquesnoy bas-relief, today in the Galleria Doria Pamphilij, Rome, of children playing with a goat that first appears in the artist’s Doctor in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (fig. 1) and Violin Player in the Liechtenstein Princely Collections, both dated 1653. Many of the objects and foodstuffs are also featured in the Maid and Boy Enframed in Karlsruhe, dated 1652 (fig. 2), and in the Kitchen Maid of about the same date in the Louvre. The tapestry curtain, dead cock and broad arch appear in Dou’s Woman with Fruit at Waddesdon Manor, dated 1657 (fig. 3). Based on these comparisons, a date of about 1653-57 can be proposed for the present painting.

Dou subsequently combined the motifs of a woman holding a hare, fowl displayed on a ledge under which the (compressed) Duquesnoy relief appears and the wide flat arch with keystone for The Poulterer’s Shop in the National Gallery, London, dating to the mid- to late 1660s (fig. 4). While the present panel is relatively large for a Dou genre scene, the London painting is even larger. In the latter, the accoutrements have been pared down, the depth of the interior has been described and a narrative can be posited: a maid with her metal shopping bucket—already containing poultry—is in the process of buying the hare held by the older woman. The present picture, by contrast, shows the artist strutting his stuff, painting a great variety of materials and textures, poultry and vegetables, tapestry and sculpture in a composition marked by its copiousness and virtuosity. This approach signals Dou’s self-confidence and is a hallmark of his full maturity.

Already in 1641 Dou was glorified by the chronicler Jan Jansz. Orlers in the second edition of his book on the history and illustrious ‘sons’ of the city of Leiden. In it, Dou was described as ‘an excellent master, especially as regards small, subtle and curious things,’ and that ‘everyone seeing these [paintings] must be amazed at their highly finished neatness and curiousness’ (J. Orlers, Beschryvinge van de Stad Leyden, Leiden, 1641, p. 380). In his address to his fellow artists in Leiden in that same year (and published the next), Philips Angel referred to Dou as the artist ‘for whom no praise is sufficient’ (P. Angel, Lof der schilderkunst, Leiden, 1642, p. 56). Angel discussed the traditional paragone debate, in which, according to him, painting is superior to sculpture because of its ability to create illusion and imitate all visual phenomena. Further, he listed the characteristics of a successful painting, one that would please the eye of the art lover: it was to include a wealth of objects, a careful and unified treatment of light and dark, the meticulous rendering of texture and light reflections (convincingly reproducing the luster and sheen of various materials) and a natural palette. All of this was to be put in the service of making the picture seem true-to-life or ‘real.’ For Angel, Dou was the painter who was best able to successfully capture all of these effects. (For a discussion of the consonance between Dou’s art and Angel’s treatise, see E.J. Sluijter, ‘In Praise of the Art of Painting: On Paintings by Gerrit Dou and a Treatise by Philips Angel of 1642,’ in Seductress of Sight: Studies in Dutch Art of the Golden Age, Zwolle, 2000, pp. 199-263.)

These acknowledgements of his standing and artistic gifts indicate his success and fame at an early age. Already in 1635, the Swedish ambassador to the Dutch Republic, Pieter Spiering, had been granted the right of first refusal of Dou’s work and paid the artist an annual stipend of 500 guilders for the privilege. Many of the paintings he acquired were sent to Queen Christina. Two paintings by the artist were part of the Dutch Gift, presented to King Charles II upon his restoration to the English throne in 1660. The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria and Cosimo III de’ Medici were also admirers, further indicating Dou’s international fame. And the local collector, Johan de Bye, owned twenty-seven paintings by the artist, which he exhibited in Leiden in 1665 in what may have been the first one-man show in history.

Angel lauded Dou as knowing how to combine neatness (that is, a careful and detailed manner of painting) with a ‘curious looseness’ of brushwork. Indeed, Dou’s manner of painting is flowing and lively, if only on a very small scale (he was reputed to use a brush of a single hair) and visible most effectively under magnification. The smooth surfaces of Dou’s paintings help to emphasize their illusionistic qualities. However, the relatively small size of the panel underscores the fact that what we are seeing is only a simulacrum of reality.

The present painting appeals to us precisely (at least in part) because it satisfies all of Angel’s requirements. It nods to the supremacy of painting by including a sculptural relief. Abundance, variety and decorative richness abound. Dou gives us two different types of wicker: the close work of the apple basket and the looser construction of the birdcage; he contrasts the tattered fabric and frayed edges of the cloth on the window sill with the finely detailed and decorative tapestry curtain; he captures the reflections on the milk jug that testify both to its material and its condition; he delineates the individual hairs of the hare’s fur as distinct from the feathers displayed on the cock’s belly and neck; he achieves convincing illusionism by depicting items on the window sill—cloth, cock’s head, carrots—that seem to extend into the viewer’s space. The technical virtuosity required to attain these effects is evident in the brushwork that at once captures the loose thread on the tapestry’s fringe and the tight weave of its design; the chips in the masonry and the way the stone has been worked; the broad strokes that conjure the reflective quality of the lantern’s glass and the careful description of the hinges, rivets and pierced holes that define the lantern’s construction.

The viewer is required to approach and closely scrutinize the painting in order to appreciate Dou’s brushwork. To encourage the art lover’s interest, Dou employed theatrical strategies: curtain pulled aside, strong lighting, proscenium arch and studied staging of the figures. But what is being presented? What is the subject? Dou avoids a specific narrative. As we’ve seen, the painting combines motifs familiar from his other works. Sometimes these elements are deployed in the context of a shop; at other times, as here, the setting is more domestic. The girl has apparently returned from her marketing. According to Marieke de Winkel, she is dressed as a maid, wearing a jacket with green oversleeves over a simple tartlet. Her dangling, crescent-shaped earrings are already a bit out of date. The boy wears the small collar of the 1650s, affirming the proposed date of the painting. A boy as onlooker also appears in other paintings by Dou, sometimes in transactional scenes and sometimes in domestic spaces. Although his gesture appears familiar as he leans forward, seemingly engaged in observing the girl’s actions, the relationship between the two figures is undefined. This ambiguity may have contributed to the allure of the painting.

Unlike other of Dou’s images of servants, the girl displays no décolleté, nor does she overtly solicit the viewer, making it difficult to attribute a symbolic or allegorical meaning to the scene. The real subject of the painting is Dou’s technical virtuosity. It was his painstaking, labor-intensive manner that made his works so expensive. According to the painter and artists’ biographer, Joachim von Sandrart, a small painting by Dou commanded 600, 800, 1,000 or more guilders (J. von Sandrart, Joachim von Sandrarts Academie der Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste von 1675: Leben der berühmten Maler, Bildhauer und Baumeister, A.R. Peltzer, ed., Nuremberg, 1675-79; reprinted Munich, 1925, p. 195). Here, the artist has foregrounded a multitude of objects (perhaps more than in any of his other paintings)—not to enhance the ‘meaning’ of the work, but to allow him to display his skill in rendering a great variety of textures and materials in his inimitable fijnschilder style. The use of the arched window surround as a staging device was another hallmark of the famed artist’s paintings. The coalescing of all these defining characteristics makes this one of Dou’s most self-aware artistic statements.

The appreciation of Dou, among the most highly valued of seventeenth-century Dutch painters, continued throughout the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries. When the present painting figured in the Verhamme sale of 1757, it commanded 2500 florins, the second highest price of the auction. (The most expensive was Adriaen van der Werff’s Two Holy Families, now at Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam, which made 4050 florins and was acquired by Frederick the Great.) The other two paintings by Dou in the sale, long regarded as masterpieces by the artist (Woman with Fruit at Waddesdon Manor (see above) and The Trumpeter at the Louvre (fig. 5[HJ5] )), brought 2225 and 1925 florins respectively. No other work in the sale fetched more than 260 florins. When the present painting was exhibited in London in 1815, the catalogue’s compiler remarked, ‘Those who think that genius and fancy will supply the place of care and attention, mistake the course they have to pursue’ (Catalogue Raisonné of the Pictures now Exhibiting in Paul Mall, London, 1815, pp. 43 and 71, no. 73). By this point, the painstaking craftsmanship of Dou’s approach was being supplanted in some quarters by the idea of inspired genius, which Rembrandt would embody.

The importance of the present painting was again recognized in 1829, when John Smith, the London art dealer and compiler of the nine-volume Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters (in which the frontispiece of Part One is a lithograph after a self-portrait by Dou), described the work and opined, ‘This admirable picture is of the choicest quality and perfection’ (loc. cit.). When Gustav Waagen, the Director of the Royal Picture Gallery in Berlin, traversed England looking at works of art in 1831, he encountered the present painting in Richmond and again described it, ending, ‘This picture is not only of the first class for the delicate execution of all the objects…but the subject is more feeling and dramatic than usual’ (loc. cit.). (Smith interpreted the boy as appearing to bargain for some fruit (which was repeated by Hofstede de Groot in 1907), whereas Waagen saw the boy as eagerly desiring the hare.)

The picture has changed hands only infrequently during the approximately 370 years since it was painted, and its owners have been avid and discerning collectors. In the mid-eighteenth century, the painting was acquired at auction by Jan Bisschop of Rotterdam, who, in 1771, owned a total of 232 paintings, in addition to books, drawings, prints and notable porcelain. At Bisschop’s death, the paintings collection went in its entirety to John and Adrian Hope of Amsterdam. The Dou stayed in that family through two sales that more than halved the number of paintings remaining from Bisschop’s collection. It descended in the English branch of the Hope family until 1898: it was here that Smith and Waagen saw the picture and it was from here that it was loaned to several exhibitions in London in the second half of the nineteenth century. The painting was acquired by the highly esteemed collector Alphonse James de Rothschild by 1901 and has remained in the Rothschild family’s possession until the present day, except for its theft by the Nazis in 1940 and subsequent restitution to the family in 1946. Virtually out of sight for over a century, the re-appearance of one of Dou’s most accomplished genre paintings is an occasion to be celebrated.

We are grateful to Dr. Ronni Baer, Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Distinguished Curator and Lecturer, Princeton University Art Museum, for compiling this entry.

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