Knabe im Atelier und Bücherstilleben, zwei frühe Gemälde von Jan Lievens und ihr Leidener Kontext: Rembrandt, Jan Davidz. de Heem, Pieter Codde

In: Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries
Bernhard Schnackenburg
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A painting entitled Le jeune Dessinateur (the young draughtsman), identified in 1932 by Hans Schneider as an early work by Jan Lievens and hung in the Louvre together with Rembrandt, should still, according to prevailing scholarly opinion, be attributed to the much younger Wallerent Vaillant on the basis of a reproduction engraving with his address. It was made after Vaillant and Michael Sweerts had come across the more than 30-year old Lievens painting in about 1660 which inspired them to make variants of their own in the style of their times - variants which Vaillant also published as engravings. This important consequence underlines the status of an unrecognised major work by the young Jan Lievens, a work which in terms of content and form has much to tell us about painting in Leiden around 1628. The curious iconography (the boy is not drawing, but studying drawings, in keeping with Schneider's understanding of the title, Knabe in Atelier (Boy in the Studio), is found only in Pieter Codde's work of that period. Codde owned many works by Leiden painters, prompting Abraham Bredius to suggest as early as 1888 that this Amsterdam painter worked in Leiden for a while. A studio prop in the form of a plaster cast of the infant Jesus from Michelangelo's Bruges Madonna casts a new light on Lievens' interest in the great exemplars of classical art, an interest which Constantijn Huygens failed to perceive when he visited the studio. Lievens had depicted the figure before, in oblique perspective ; it was evidently important for the training of his ability to render three-dimensionality. The group of studio plaster casts is related to a hitherto anonymous Leiden Still Life with Books dating from about 1628, in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. Discussed earlier in connection with Lievens, this still life is now assigned to Lievens himself, an attribution which is supported by additional arguments. The choice of motif and monochrome colouring has aspects in common with the Vanitas and still lifes with books painted by Jan Davidz. de Heem during the same period and endorsing, with new arguments, his connection with Lievens' and Rembrandt's circle. Lievens' Boy in the Studio, finally, is of significance for the interpretation of Rembrandt's Young Painter in the Studio in Boston, painted at the same time. The two pictures would appear to be linked by antithetical basic statements and art education.

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