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Vente Joseph Aved, Paris, 24 novembre 1766, lot 74 (Jupiter et la chèvre Amalthée, 34 par 32 pouces, adjugé 2,209 frs).
Vente van Parys, Bruxelles, 6 octobre 1853, lot 4 (La chèvre Amalthée, 91 x 85 cm., adjugé 410 frs), où probablement racheté par des membres de cette famille; par descendance aux propriétaires actuels.
FAMILLE NOBLE FRANCAISE
Post Lot Text
THE NURTURE OF JUPITER, OIL ON CANVAS, SIGNED, BY NICOLAES BERCHEM
In May 1642, Berchem was received in the Haarlem guild. He was then painting mostly idealized countryside's with shepherds or travelers. In the beginning of the 1650's, a probable trip to Italy was essential for him as it brought to his work the southern luminosity, more freedom, and a wider range of subjects. Allegory, mythology and genre scenes from then on would become more frequent in his oeuvre. During this period, his works became larger, brighter, under the influence of the immense decors and the Italian 'grand style'. The 1650's were pivotal in the career of the artist.
Deeply influenced by the great landscape painters of his time such as Van Goyen, Ruisdael, Jan Asselijn or Jan Both, he then found his own style. He moved from traditional horizontal compositions to vertical or square formats that were more 'decorative'. After 1655, Berchem painted numerous scenes representing ports, similar to his contemporary Jan Baptist Weenix, and was one of the pioneers of a refined aristocratic painting which corresponded with the taste of the rich Dutch middle class.
Berchem was back in Haarlem in 1653 and stayed there until 1660, when an economic crisis forced him to settle in the capital, the richest city in the country. He stayed in Amsterdam until 1670 and ended his life in his native city.
Nicolaes Berchem is one of the most important Dutch artists and the most influenced by the Italian style. He is without a doubt extremely versatile and was extremely productive: five hundred drawings, more than six hundred paintings and fifty etchings that carry his signature. For the most part, his work represents 'Italian' countryside's with shepherds and domestic animals. During the 17th and 18th centuries, a lot of engravings were realized after paintings by Berchem; and his work became at the same time very popular and sought-after by important collectors, especially in France. Crozat, Marigny, Louis XV and Louis XVI were ardent admirers of his work and the prices for his paintings went really high in the middle of the 18th century. It is likely that the sense of décor, the elegance of the mise en scène, the use of light to model volumes and spaces as well as the balanced and appealing palette found a particular echo in French art. Berchem found a welcoming reception in our country, which is illustrated by the comment of the painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry on him: "one of the paintings by this brilliant artist could be an entire class of practice." (J.B. Oudry, 'Discours sur la pratique de la peinture adressé à l'Académie', 2 décembre 1752). The collector and critic Dezallier d'Argenville affirms a few years later: "nothing is more sought-after today than the paintings of Nicolaes Berchem". In the catalogue of the exhibition Nicolaes Berchem in the light of Italy which took place in The Netherlands in 2006-2007, only a minority of chefs d'oeuvre of the artist whose provenance date back to the 18th century, were not documented in France.
The Nurture of Jupiter is a good example of this: the painting belonged to the painter Joseph Aved, famous portraitist under Louis XV and himself of Dutch origin as is revealed by his nickname 'The Batavian'. The painting was then included in 1766, in a sale after his death which featured several works by Chardin who was Aved's best friend. In this sale, there were also paintings by Rembrandt, Adriaen van Ostade or Gerrit Dou.
The present painting was also in another famous collection of French and Dutch paintings, that of the businessman Van Parys, whose sale took place in Brussels in 1853. The chef d'oeuvre of the session was probably the Portrait d'Hélène Fourment by Peter Paul Rubens, but the painting by Berchem was also quite important and had a long catalogue entry that deserves to be quoted entirely: 'Saturn, because of his treaty with Titan, his brother, was determined to kill all of his newborn male babies, and would devour them without pity to keep his promise; Cybele who was about to give birth retired to the island of Crete where she carefully hid her newborn son; she had him raised by two nymphs and recommended him to the Corybantes. To the left of this major composition is the goat Amaltea who is milking Jupiter lying on the ground on a blue drapery. To the right, his mother gazes at him with love. She is half lying near a group of nymphs and small children; in front of her are two goats and a kid. In the back, the Corybantes dance and make a lot of noise so that Saturn wouldn't hear the cries of the young god. The gondola which left Cybele on Crete can be seen in the background. To the right, putti in the clouds throw flowers, to the left putti attach a garland and pick up a drapery with large pleats. A big vase sculpted on a pedestal and various accessories rendered with a lot of finesse, decorate this colorful composition. Works of this master in this genre are rare and sough-after.'
The years 1660 seem to constitute the peak of the career of the artist. The Nurture of Jupiter is characteristic of this production and it is possible to date the work from the middle of that decade. The characters become bigger, predominant over the countryside. A special interest is taken to the grace of the feminine faces, the elegance of the bodies, and the beauty of the textiles. Berchem also puts emphasis in his compositions on a limited number of statues, urns, and columns in order to create an enchanting atmosphere, a décor on which the light falls.
The light, which glitters on the stones and reveals the shapes, has a major role, similar to a lightening bolt that would shine an opera stage. In the Nurture of Jupiter, a monumental urn, a bust of Priape and a baroque curtain seem elements of a theater stage. The urn is the same one as featured in the Joueur de Guitare, which was sold at Christie's in Paris in 2003 and constitutes to this day a record for the artist. (collection of the Baron Hottinguer, Christie's, Paris, 2 and 3rd December 2003, lot 723, sold 1 438 000 euros).
The palette is in itself typical of the artist with the three primary colors -yellow, red, blue- complementing each other. The signature, of a beautiful writing shows -if need be- the pride that Berchem took in completing this painting. Still today, the Nurture of Jupiter can be considered a chef-d'oeuvre of Nicolaes Berchem, one of the last still owned by a private collector.
We thank Mr. Pieter Biesboer for his help in the writing of this catalogue note.