Petrus van Schendel was born in the small village of Terheyden as a son of Gijsbertus van Schendel and Geertruida Brox. After the death of his father, the family moved to Breda.
In 1822 van Schendel left his hometown to take lessons at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, which at that time was led by the history painter Mathijs van Bree (1773-1938). In 1829 he returned to live with his brother in Breda and in Amsterdam until he met Elizabeth Grasveld, who became his first wife. She bore him thirteen children. After her death in 1850 van Schendel would marry for a second and a third time and had two more children. Petrus van Schendel was a man of many talents for not only was he a celebrated painter, he also made name as an engineer and an inventor. Furthermore he developed a course about linear perspective for young artists. In 1861 he had these theories published in Breda. He died in Brussels in 1870.
Already in 1829, while van Schendel was still living in Breda, he was actively developing his career as a painter. An important contact at that time was Johannes Immerzeel, an art dealer from The Hague, with whom he frequently corresponded. As van Schendel was a productive artist, he sent regular shipments of paintings over to The Hague. And because van Schendel had to support a large family and was therefore in constant need of funds, he unfortunately was obliged to sell his paintings for a small sum. Often a mere third of the price he initially put on the work of art.
Although van Schendel was trained in Antwerp as a painter of history pieces, he became most famous for his so called 'nocturnes' or candle-, and moon-lit marketscenes. The arthistorian Christiaan Kramm (1797-1875) went so far in 1861 as to call him the inventor of the genre. But aready in the seventeenth century the nocturne was a popular subject with Dutch painters, of which Gerard Dou (1613-1675) is perhaps best known. Perhaps it would be better to say that van Schendel 'rediscovered' the genre. As he excelled in this style he gained national and international recognition improving his financial position considerably. At present his name has become almost synonymous with the subject.
Van Schendels 'nightmarkets' nowadays may seem somewhat dark but one has to keep in mind that in the early 19th century the cities actually were covered in darkness before and after sunset. There were not many streetlanterns yet and if there were, these were all candle-lit. Gaslight and electricity were still things of the future. The only lights that could be seen in the city at that time were the flickering candles and oil-lamps in the stands on a marketday.
In the mid-nineteenth century the nocturnes were in great demand with the (inter)national public. The genre concequently matured. Other renowned names of the genre were Johannes Rosierse (1818-1901) and Petrus Kiers (1807-1875). Of the latter artist an elegant picture of a beautiful young woman on her doorstep seeing off a nightly visitor, entitled 'Adieu-au revoir' (lot 6) is also included in this sale.
The present lot shows a typical nightmarket. On a large mahogany panel he painted a complex yet clear composition of a nightmarket with numerous figures and stalls lit by candles, oil-lamps, a street-lantern and a bleak moon. Van Schendel has succeeded very well in showing the various ways in which the different sorts of light are reflected by the warm smooth skin of young women and children, the soft furr and feathers of the hares and ducks displayed in the foreground and the blinking gold and silver of the jewelery worn by the woman in red, while the rooftops of the buildings in the background are bathed in a blue-greyish moonlight. To be able to do all this he used no less than eight lightsources.