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The Harari Estate Collection

An elegant lady on horseback giving alms

An elegant lady on horseback giving alms
signed with monogram 'PHILS W' ('PHILS' linked, lower right)
oil on panel
14 x 16 ¼ in. (35.6 x 41.9 cm.)
(Possibly) Private collection, Germany, circa 1785.
Anonymous sale; de Vries a.o., Amsterdam, 26 November 1851, lot 20.
Robert Prioleau Roupell, Esq., Q.C. (1798-1886), London; (†), Christie's, London, 25 June 1887, lot 45 (265 gns. to Permain).
Mrs. M.E. Braithwaite; (†), Sotheby's, London, 16 July 1980, lot 116.
with Kunsthandel P. de Boer, Amsterdam, by 1981.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 8 July 1987, lot 114.
Private collection, Germany.
[The Property of a Gentleman]; Christie's, London, 4 July 1997, lot 8 (sold after the sale).
with Salomon Lilian, Amsterdam, by 2004-5.
with Noortman Master Paintings, Maastricht, where acquired by the present owner in 2005.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, II, London, 1909, p. 352, no. 335.
B. Schumacher, Philips Wouwerman: The Horse Painter of the Golden Age, I, Doornspijk, 2006, pp. 322-323, no. A384; II, pl. 51, 355.

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Lot Essay

Over the course of his three-decade career, PhilipS Wouwerman became renowned for his abilities as a painter of horses in dramatic sweeping landscapes. While there is no evidence that Wouwerman left his native city of Haarlem to travel to Italy, he too was inspired by the light and landscape that captured the imagination of his Dutch and Flemish contemporaries. He absorbed the visions brought back by his countrymen, particularly Pieter van Laer's depictions of the Roman campagna. Joining the Guild of Saint Luke in 1640, Wouwerman's early work focused on military and genre scenes. By the 1650s Wouwerman developed a greater interest in landscapes and began to use a brighter color palette, two hallmarks of his mature style.

In her 2006 monograph on the artist, Birgit Schumacher dates this painting to the second half of the 1650s (op. cit. p. 322). Schumacher describes the artist's stylistic evolution in the later fifties as shifting towards elegant scenes over peasant themes, with 'his dramatic evocation of human emotions [giving] way to a more pervasively reserved kind of acting' (op. cit. p. 98). Indeed, this painting plays out like a drama, with the characters arrayed across a stage against an almost flat backdrop of sky. Wouwerman uses color to give prominence to the subject matter - the sumptuous yellow and jaunty blue plumes of the lady on horseback and the beggar's red shirt pull the focus and underscore the interaction between high and low society. Wouwerman structures the composition around a gently sloping diagonal, which begins with the tree blowing in the wind at upper right, through the lady's slightly bent head, through the horses' parallel faces to the standing figure bending to tend to the dog. This compositional device serves to pull the eye straight back into the landscape deep in the background, borne along by the gentle curve of the river. The elegant composition and refined subject matter are emblematic of his paintings targeting the upper middle classes in seventeenth-century Dutch society.

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