Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A fake Potter: history of a small album of prints

The Friesian Horse

In 1652, Paulus Potter (1625-1654) produced a series of five prints of horses in landscapes.[1] In 1974 Jan Verbeek suggested that these prints represent different seasons, namely spring, late spring, summer, autumn and winter, and that the demeanour and the condition of the animals correspond to the stages in human life.[2]

The Album

The album in our collection contains remarkable copies of the second and third states of this well-known series by Potter. It is highly likely that these etchings were made by Ignace-Joseph de Claussin (France, 1766-1844). De Claussin was an amateur engraver who travelled through England and the Netherlands. He etched an impressive number of copies – more than 200 – after the most famous Dutch masters in his collection: Rembrandt, Potter, Berchem, Du Jardin. From literature we know that he definitely copied Potter’s Vaches et taureaux.[3]

The Worn-out horse

The album is bound in blue paper, with an annotation on the front: “Vente de Rigal en 1817 (...)” and a note pasted in the doublure with a brief description of the volume in French. These prints are best seen in their original setting, in their frail but at the same time effective binding. The plates however do not follow the order proposed in 1974 by Jan Verbeek. Although he suggested that the prints should have been read as a progression, from the young and healthy horse to the worn-out and dead ones, the album is not in the order as proposed by Verbeek which is: 1) the healthy clean Friesian; 2) the Neighing horse; 3) the Cropped horse; 4) the Plough horse; and finally 5) the Worn-out horse. In the album however, the Worn-out horse is placed between the first two plates and the Cropped horse is located at the end. 

The Cropped horse

The symbolism of decay was not taken into consideration in this album. Instead, we think that the copyist arranged the prints according to the order of another album of originals by Potter that he might have seen previously. However, this remains speculation. 

The Neighing horse

The etchings are very sharp, so they might be from among the first pressed. Overall the plates are somewhat smaller than the originals, but they preserve the same direction and the copyist carefully transcribed the date and the signature of Potter on each plate. The etcher did his best to copy the originals faithfully, yet his skills did not allow him to obtain the same successful results of Potter. For example in the Neighing horse the head of the animal is very dark and flattened, especially in the neck area. Either the etcher etched too deeply in the plate and his scratches are too close to each other, or he did not know how to handle the mordant and its timing. Similarly, the landscapes in the background suffer de Claussin’s inexperience. Potter was able to create a thick atmosphere between the foreground with scant vegetation beside the horses and the villages in the distance, whereas in the plates by the French master the sense of a three-dimensional space is less perceivable, due to the sharpness of the contours of the houses in the background. 

The Plough horse

What is further interesting is that we know that the album was sold at the sale of the Count of Rigal in 1817 as a suite of copies.[4] In the sale catalogue these prints are praised for their similarity to the originals: it is noted that they preserve the same direction but are smaller in size. 

by Anna Bianco

Ref. nr. 60561

[1] Hollstein, F.W.H. Hollstein's Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, Ca. 1450-1700. Vol. XVII. Amsterdam: Van Gendt &, 1976. Print. Andries Pauli (Pauwels) - Johannes Rem. “Series of Horses” 9-13, pp. 216-218. 
[2] Verbeek, Jan. “Vroege staten van de etsen van Paulus Potter. 1625-1645”. Antiek vol. 10 (1974), pp. 854-861. In the same school of thought is the article by Alexandra Turnbull ‘The Horse in Landscape: Animals, Grooming, Labour and the City in the Seventeenth-Century Netherlands’ included in Shift: Queen’s Journal of Visual & Material Culture, no. 3 (2010), pp. 1-24, available online (link).
[3] Treydel, Renate. "Claussin, Ignace Joseph de" Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon. Berlin, Boston: K. G. Saur. 2015.
[4]Catalogue Raisonné Des Estampes Du Cabinet De M. Le Comte Rigal. Paris: Chez L'auteur, 1817. Print., lot 635, p. 288-289.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Two 'Vinkenbaan' manuscripts

The delightful past time of catching small birds

There are those dishes that everybody knows, but no one ever had. Perhaps the most famous one is the French delicacy of ortolan, a small bird that has to be eaten completely at once, including the head. It is also famous because eating the dish in the correct way requires wearing a blindfold. The consumption of this cute bird was forbidden by the EU in 1999. The ortolan is a small bird that resembles a finch and was difficult to catch, mostly with nets, which must have been a hectic endeavor. 
               In Holland the catching of small birds with nets was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, but nowadays it has completely disappeared, little known about and would be very much frowned upon. It was a must for every owner of a larger country house with some land, a ‘buiten’, to have a range where these small birds could be caught. These were called finch-ranges, ‘vinkenbanen’. There were especially many ranges in the dunes area, because this was a natural reserve without any buildings and therefore used by birds to travel along the coast. Because finching was almost exclusively possible in areas that were owned by a landowner, it was the perfect activity for the upper class. Therefore any records of attendees to a finch-range would make excellent cultural-historical information about the upper-class networks of Holland.

               This is exactly what is on offer at Antiquariaat Van der Steur: two very rare books in which the catchings and catchers at a number of finch-ranges are meticulously noted by hand by the owners of the ranges.

               The first book is a large register, bound in vellum, with about 200 written pages. In this Mr. Paulus Cornelis Hoynck van Papendrecht (Dordrecht 1793 - Rotterdam 1877) noted the amount of catches on his finch range at the Weilust estate (probably near Rotterdam), over the years 1840-1858. The manuscript starts with recordings of the number of caught finches per day (3000 to 6000 finches a year). But Hoynck also gives an account of the weather, wind, other caught birds, visitors, etc. Then follow notes on the contruction of the range. The celebrated architect Zocher had designed the Weilust estate, but when Hoynck asked him to do the finch range in 1839, Zocher recommended the expert Manus Lokerman to do the job, who was a fincher himself and his father too.

In the winter of 1839/40 Lokerman made a single 'druip' (open field) finch range, but this was not to the liking of Hoynck, who preferred to have a double range, by example of the famous double range of Jan Bondt (1766-1845) at the Jachtduin estate in Bloemendaal. Lokerman followed the wishes of his client.
The manuscript ends with lists of friends and acquaintances, who were given 25 to 50 finches per year as a gift, to take home as a pet or for consumption.
               The other book is a 19th century copy of a part of the manuscript of Cornelis van Lennep’s Fasti fringillares, a two volume manuscript book on the finching practice, also with numbers of caught birds (Van Lennep family archive 104-105). However, this copy has additional information up to 1850 with catch numbers of the ranges Jagtduin, Spaarnberg, Elswout, Watervliet, Huis te Bloemendaal, Manpad, Saksenburg, Roos en Beek, Duinlust, Boekenrode en Weilust.

               Together these books contain valuable information about the practice of finching, an activity that had a firm role in daily life and is completely faded away from memory. Moreover, it shows us who visited who and what amount of finches they were given by the host. There is really no comparison to this in our current times.

by Hugo Rijpma


Source: Matthey, Ignaz. Vincken moeten vincken locken, Vijf eeuwen vangst van zangvogels en kwartels in Holland. Hollandse Studiën 39. Verloren, Hilversum, 2002.