Dirck van Delen (Heusden 1604/05-1671 Arnemuiden)
Dirck van Delen (Heusden 1604/05-1671 Arnemuiden)

An architectural capriccio with figures promenading and boys arguing over a game of skittles

Dirck van Delen (Heusden 1604/05-1671 Arnemuiden)
An architectural capriccio with figures promenading and boys arguing over a game of skittles
signed and dated 'D van delen. 1634' (lower right, on the base of the column)
oil on panel
23 7/8 x 39 in. (60.6 x 99.1 cm.)
F.W. Klever, Cologne; Heberle, Cologne, 19 January 1892, lot 2, as with figures by Palamedesz.
Anonymous sale; Koller, Zurich, 12-13 November 1982, lot 5034.
with David Koetser, Zurich, where acquired by the present owner circa 1983.
T.T. Blade, The Paintings of Dirck van Delen, Ph.D. dissertation, 1976, p. 234, no. 61, fig. 73, as 'Figures probably by Palamedes' and dated 1636.

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Lot Essay

Van Delen was one of the leading Dutch architectural painters of the 17th century. A citizen of Middelburg, whose guild he joined in 1639, van Delen lived and worked in the nearby town of Arnemuiden. There, he served as master of the toll-house and, as evidence of his financial success, sat almost continuously on the town council until his death.

His initial training under Frans Hals (1581/85-1666) had no lasting impact on his style. Van Delen’s earliest paintings tend to be interior scenes executed in dark earth tones, but around 1630 he began to paint palace exteriors using a brighter palette of pinks and bluish greens that was eminently suited to the lively, courtly atmosphere of these works. The open porch with steps and square patterned terrace that so frequently appear in these later paintings are indebted to earlier works by Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527-1606?) and would, in turn, serve as a primary source of inspiration for later Antwerp architectural painters. Like his contemporaries Bartholomeus van Bassen (c. 1590-1652) and Hendrick van Steenwyck II (c. 1580-1649), van Delen freely mixed Gothic and Renaissance motifs to create a series of arcades and side chambers that are structurally impossible. As is typical of his work, the shaded arcades in the present painting recede to a single vanishing point, drawing the viewer’s eye to the well-lit background courtyard and garden of rectilinearly arranged trees.

It was long believed that van Delen collaborated with Dirck Hals (1591-1656) and Anthonie Palamedesz. (1601-1673), who were thought to have provided the figures in his architectural scenes. Indeed, those that appear in the present work were once attributed to Palamedesz. More recently, however, Bernard Vermet has proposed that in almost all instances they are the work of van Delen himself.

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