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Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem (Haarlem 1620-1683 Amsterdam)
Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem (Haarlem 1620-1683 Amsterdam)

Design for a frontispiece: Allegory of Diligence and Improvidence

Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem (Haarlem 1620-1683 Amsterdam)
Design for a frontispiece: Allegory of Diligence and Improvidence
signed, inscribed and dated 'Wat baet het dus Naerstigh gesponnen/ als 't door sorgeloosheijt wort verslonnen/ Claes Pietersz. Berchem/ Anno 1656-', with inscription 'Bergham' (on the mount)
traces of black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash
5 ½ x 7 1/8 in. (14 x 18 cm.)
Jonathan Richardson, Sen. (1665-1745) (L. 2983), his mount with attribution 'Bergham' (recto) and shelfmark 'V. 50 [?]' (trimmed) (verso).
Peregrine Francis Adelbert Cust, 6th Baron Brownlow (1899-1978), Belton House, Lincolnshire.
with Nicolaas Beets (1878-1963), Amsterdam; from whom purchased by I.Q. van Regteren Altena on 28 May 1928 for 132.48 guilders (Inventory book: '458. t. C.P. Berchem titelblad').
A. Stefes, Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem (1620-1683): Die Zeichnungen, PhD thesis, Bern, 1997, no. II/85.
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Paris, Fondation Custodia, and Brussels, Bibliothèque Albert 1er, Le Cabinet d’un Amateur: Dessins flamands et hollandais des XVIe et XVIIe siècles d’une collection privée d’Amsterdam, 1976-77, no. 11, pl. 74 (catalogue by J. Giltaij).
Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, Nicolas Berchem: in the light of Italy, 2006-7, no. D57 (catalogue entry by A. Stefes).

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Lot Essay

Dated 1656, this drawing was executed at the height of Berchem’s success, both professionally and personally. Married with two children, and another soon to be born, he was also serving at this time as vinder or inspector of the Guild of Saint Luke in Haarlem, and was sufficiently well-off to buy a garden with summerhouse on the outskirts of the town in March 1656. According to Houbraken, Berchem was fond of moralistic proverbs and the present sheet is a delightful example of such a proverb translated into a design for a frontispiece, although no print is known to have been made after it. While the diligent woman on the left has carefully wound up her wool on her distaff, her idle companion has dozed off, while her little dog unravels all her earlier work. The inscription translates as 'What is the point of spinning with great diligence/ if the result is spoiled by improvidence?' The theme may reflect Berchem's own pride in his hard work and accomplishments.

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