Hitherto unrecorded and unpublished this remarkable painting provides a rare addition to the known oeuvre of one of the most important Dutch classicist painters of the mid-17th century. A native of Alkmaar, Cesar van Everdingen was trained in Utrecht under Jan Gerritsz. van Bronckhorst before returning to his native city. A painter of portraits, histories and genre subjects, his finest work was however painted in The Hague. Here, thanks to the connections he had formed in Utrecht with the painter and architect Jacob van Campen (1595-1657) he was among the select group of painters invited to decorate the Great Hall or Oranjezaal in the Huis ten Bosch between 1647 and 1652. Following a programme devised by Constantijn Huygens and Van Campen, the Hall was painted for Amalia von Solms with paintings and murals celebrating the life of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange (1584-1647) who had recently died, and remains the most important artistic programme of its type in the Netherlands.1
Although the precise subject of this enigmatic painting is yet to be made clear, Paul Huys Janssens has pointed out its manifest affinities with the work Everdingen and others were doing in the Oranjezaal in these years. Very similar baskets to that held by the girl in this painting feature in his enormous Allegory of the birth of Frederick Hendrick on the west wall of the Oranjezaal, where they are borne aloft by putti.2 These clearly echo those painted on the north-west wall, which included objects brought back from Brazil and provide a celebration of Holland's colonial expansion in Brazil and West Africa at this date (fig.1).3 The expedition of Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679) to Brazil in 1637, and in particular the paintings brought back by the artists in his entourage Frans Post (c.1612-1680) and Albert Eeckhout (c.1610-1666) all greatly stimulated interest and pride in Dutch colonial expansion in this period. Such baskets were found not only in Brazil but also in West Africa, and a similar basket of fruit is depicted by Eeckhout in his Portrait of a native woman, painted in Brazil in 1641 and now in Copenhagen.4 It is quite possible that Everdingen's model - who is clearly Dutch and a working girl - has an allegorical or symbolical meaning along these lines, or simply reflects the new passion at home for colourful and decorative objects from the New World. Everdingen had made something of a speciality of allegorical female figures, typically shown at half-length such as in the present work, and good examples include the Allegory of Winter in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or the Young Girl at her toilet in Pommersfelden.5 In each of these, as in the present work, Everdingen displays to full effect his skill in the depiction of fabrics and details of the still-life elements. The former dates from after 1645 and the latter around 1650 and it is likely that this painting was executed at a similar date.
We are indebted to Paul Huys Janssens for endorsing the attribution to Everdingen following first-hand inspection of the original, and for suggesting a date of execution between 1645 and 1650.
1. See P. van der Ploeg and C. Vermeeren, Princely Patrons. The Collection of Frederick Henry of Orange and Amalia of Solms in The Hague, exhibition catalogue, The Hague, Mauritshuis, 1997-98, p. 49ff.
2. P. Huys Janssens, Caesar van Everdingen 1616/7 - 1678, Doornspijk 2002, p. 95, no. 37, plate 17, and in colour plate IV.
3.See, for example, T. Thomsen, Albert Eckhout, Copenhagen 1938, pp. 174-76, figs. 78, 79a-b and 80.
4. Thomsen, op. cit., 1938, fig.10.
5. Huys Janssen, op. cit., 2002, pp. 78-7, 117, nos. 21 and 56, reproduced.
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