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an elderly woman, seated by a window at her spinning wheel, eating porridge
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About the item

Gerrit Dou, an elderly woman, seated by a window at her spinning wheel, eating porridge\nSigned lower right: GDov\nOil on panel\n20 1/4 by 16 1/8 in.; 51.5 by 41 cm.
US
NY, US
US

notes

Gerrit Dou, the founder of the Leiden school of fijnschilders, was initially trained as a glass engraver, and was a member of the glaziers' guild in Leiden from 1625 to 1627.  In February 1628, however, he entered Rembrandt's studio, and probably stayed there until Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631 or 1632, when he is assumed to have become an independent master in Leiden.

This is an early work by Gerrit Dou.  It is generally dated circa 1631-5, thus to around the time that Dou left Rembrandt's studio, or shortly thereafter.  Christopher Brown, who hailed it as "an outstanding example of Dou's early, independent style," favoured a slightly later span of plausible dating, to circa 1632-7, as did Wayne Franits.1

Ronni Baer compares this work on thematic and compositional grounds with the Old Woman Eating Apples in Berlin which she dates slightly earlier, but notes that it is more advanced in the rendering of materials and the depiction of space:  "the composition here is more balanced and the figure is handled with more assurance".2  Both works feature still life elements, some of which recur in both works, including the overturned pot and wicker basket.

As Otto Naumann observed, Dou frequently repeated motifs in his early paintings, and returned to them later on.3  He used the same type of room setting seen here, with a large arched window to the left, a spiral staircase beyond, and a lantern or candelabra hanging from a transverse beam near the picture plane, in a painting depicting a man writing at an easel in a private collection, datable circa 1631-2, and the same window occurs in other works of around this date.  Dou continued to use this basic compositional form throughout the rest of his career, at least until the late 1660s.  Dou has here used the same model as in several other early works, most notably the Old Woman dressed in a Fur Coat in Berlin, and Christopher Brown suggested she recurs in Rembrandt's Prophetess Hannah, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.4  She is the type traditionally identified as Rembrandt's mother.  Little seen until the Dutch Genre Painting exhibition in 1984, this picture was formerly thought to be a copy after a version in Schwerin (see fig. 1); that picture is now widely acknowledged to be a replica or copy and the present work the prime original.5  The Schwerin picture has some additions: a bowl and spoon at the woman's feet and an earthenware jar and a cat eating from a dish in the lower left corner; and the composition is cut off to the left so that only a small part of the window is visible.6  Its signature has been described as possibly added and untypical for Dou.7  Since the present work came to light the Schwerin picture has generally been considered to be a copy, some considering it a replica by Dou himself, although Gaskell in 1981 and Sumowski in 1983 continued to assert its primacy, the former giving the present work to Dou's pupil and nephew Domenicus van Tol, thus asserting its misattribution in the 1806 sale.8  Baer lists a further copy formerly with Schaeffer Galleries, New York, and subsequently sold New York, Sotheby's, 5 November 1986, lot 59 (see fig. 2; as Follower of Dou); this picture was first discussed in the literature by Naumann: in 1981, when he knew it only from a photograph; and then in 1984, when he gave it as a copy. 9  The present picture has often been confused in the past with one sold at Christie's in London from the collection of  Col. Fitzgibbon on 5th March 1836, lot 96, for 24 Guineas to Edwards  (`G. Dow. An Interior with an old woman with a spinning wheel, eating soup; with admirable effect of light; engraved').  While this cannot be the Schwerin replica, which has been there since between 1725 and 1752, it may perhaps be the Schaeffer Galleries copy sold in 1986, as Naumann suggested.10

1.  See under literature, 1991 & 2004.

2. See under literature, 1990.  The Berlin picture is no. 5 in her catalogue raisonné.

3.  See under literature, 1984.

4.  See under literature, 1991, reproduced figs 57 a & 57b.

5.  Inv. G 140; oil on panel, 51.7 x 41.5 cm.  The monogram GD immediately above the spigot on the end of the barrel was first doubted by C. Hofstede de Groot in 1907 (cited in Seelig, 2010), and described as unlikely to be an original signature by Dou, among others, Otto Naumann in 1981 & Christopher Brown in 1991.  Recent technical examination under microscope has revealed no indication that it is a later addition (Seelig, 2010).

6.  Jørgen Wadum (see literature, 2002) saw these as additional repoussoir devices typical of Dou himself, but Seelig (see literature, 2010) does not support this.

7.  According to Brown, idem.

8.  See under literature, 1981 & 1983.

9.  See under literature, 1990 & 1981 respectively.  The provenance of this picture is as follows:

With D. Katz, Dieren, 1938 (when exhibited in Amsterdam, Dutch & Flemish Paintings, 7 May-4 June, no. 22, as by Dou);

With Schaeffer Galleries, New York, 1939 (when exhibited, Seventeen Masterpieces of the Seventeenth Century, 3 February-15 March, no. 3, as by Dou);

F.D. Heastand, San Francisco;

By whom sold, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 12 December 1956, lot 45, as by Dou;

With Acquavella Gallery, New York;

Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 5 November 1986, lot 59 (as Follower of Gerrit Dou).

10.  See under literature, 1981, especially n2.  Both Gaskell and Naumann acknowledge Ellis Waterhouse's discovery of the 1806 provenance of the present work.

medium

Oil on panel

creator

Gerrit Gerard Dou

exhibited

Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Art Treasures of the Midlands, 1934, no. 135;

London, Leger Galleries, Fine Paintings by Old Masters, 1948, no. 2 (reproduced, in the catalogue, p. 2);

Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Art Gallery, Pictures from Shropshire Houses, 1951, no. 10;

London, David Carritt Ltd., Ten Paintings by Gerard Dou, 1980, no. 4;

Amsterdam, Waterman Gallery, Groningen, Groninger Museum, The Impact of a Genius: Rembrandt, His Pupils and Followers in the Seventeenth Century, 1983, no. 15;

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art (18 March – 13 May), Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, SMPK (8 June – 12 August), London, Royal Academy of Arts (7 September – 18 November), Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, 1984, no. 32;

Berlin, Altes Museum, 12 September-10 November 1991, Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, 4 December 1991-1 March 1992, London, The National Gallery, 26 March-24 May 1992, Rembrandt.  The Master & His Workshop, no. 57;

Tokyo, Chiba, Yamaguchi, Rembrandt, his teachers and pupils, 1992, no. 34.

dimensions

20 1/4 by 16 1/8 in.; 51.5 by 41 cm.

literature

W. Martin, Gerrit Dou: Des Meisters Gemälde, (Klassiker der Kunst), Stuttgart & Berlin 1913, p. 102 (known from a photograph, from which uncertain whether copy after or autograph repetition of the Schwerin picture);

A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, London 1918-21, vol. 3, p. 292 (as Dou);

I. Gaskell, `Gerrit Dou and trompe l'oeil,' letter in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 123, no. 936, March 1981, p. 164 (as by Domenicus van Tol, copying the Schwerin picture);

O. Naumann, `Gerrit Dou and Van Tol,' letter in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 123, no. 943, October 1981, pp. 617-18, reproduced fig. 42 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture a copy (but not by Van Tol), mentioning the Schaeffer Galleries picture but reserving judgement pending inspection in the original);

W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt Schuler, Landau/Pfalz 1983, vol. I, p. 529, under no. 264 (as a copy or replica of the Schwerin picture);

G. Jansen & W.L. van de Watering, in A. Blankert (et al), The Impact of a Genius: Rembrandt, His Pupils and Followers in the Seventeenth Century, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam 1983, p. 120, no. 15, reproduced in colour (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin painting as a copy by "an unskilled follower");

O. Naumann, in P. Sutton (ed.), Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia 1984, p. 183, no. 32, reproduced in colour plate 53; also p. 181, under no. 31 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as a replica by Van Tol, and listing a further copy with Schaeffer Galleries, New York);

R. Baer, The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), dissertation, New York 1990, unpaginated, no. 10 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as a replica); also under nos. 5 & 9;

C. B[rown], in C. Brown, J. Kelch, P.J.J. van Thiel, Rembrandt: the Master & his Workshop, exhibition catalogue, New Haven & London 1991, p. 306, no. 57, reproduced in colour (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as an autograph replica);

C. Brown, in Rembrandt, his teachers and pupils, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo 1992, pp. 102, 232, no. 34, reproduced (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as an autograph replica);

E.J. Sluijter, De lof der schilderkunst.  Over schilderijen van Gerrit Dou (1613-1642) en een van Philips Angel uit 1642, Hilversum 1993, pp. 47-8, reproduced p. 48, fig. 23 (as by Dou; the Schwerin picture not mentioned);

W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt Schuler, Landau/Pfalz 1983, vol. VI (1994), p. 3596, under no. I, Kat.-Nr.264 (without comment, citing previous literature and opinions for both the present and the Schwerin versions, but misrepresenting Naumann's 1981 view as ascribing the latter to Van Tol);

R. Baer, Gerrit Dou 1613-1675. Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt, exhibition catalogue, Washington 2000, p. 68, under no. 3 (as by Dou);

J. Wadum, `Dou doesn't paint, oh no, he juggles with his brush.  Gerrit Dou, a Rembrandtesque Fijnschilder', in Art Matters, I, 2002, p. 73 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as an autograph replica of circa 1637);

W. Franits, Dutch seventeenth–century genre painting.  Its stylistic and thematic evolution, New Haven & London 2004, p. 131, reproduced fig. 117 (as by Dou);

G. Seelig, Die holländische Genremalerei in Schwerin, Petersberg 2010, p. 82, under no. G 140, especially n62 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as a copy).

provenance

Crawford, Rotterdam;

His sale, London, Christie's, 26th April 1806, lot 10 (as by Domenicus van Tol), to Richard Payne Knight;

Thomas Andrew Payne Knight, Downton Castle, Ludlow, Shropshire;

Thence by descent to Denis Lennox;

By whom sold, London, Christie's, 4th May 1979, lot 107, when bought by the present owner.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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