Possibly Vincent Donjeux;
Possibly his sale, Paris, Lebrun, Paillet, 29 April 1793, lot 187, for 601 francs to Solier;
Possibly Daniel Mansveld;
Possibly his sale, Amsterdam, Jacobus Vinkeles, 13 August 1806, lot 320, for 265 guilders;
Possibly Miss F.A. Bodley, Bournemouth;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 14 May 1930, lot 25, for
£ 105 to Asscher;
With D. Vaarties, Rotterdam;
Where bought by the grandfather of the present owners.
This recently discovered and hitherto unrecorded little panel perfectly illustrates not only Dou's sympathy for one of his favourite subjects, but also the meticulous technique that made his works of this type so famous in his own day and beyond.
The old man shown as a tronie here must have been a favourite model of the artist, since he appears in a number of his works. He is often portrayed as a solitary hermit or religious figure at prayer, a theme Dou explored throughout his career, from the mid-1630s right up to 1670. The figures, shown both full-length and half-length, are sometimes portrayed before crucifixes or holding rosaries and bibles, and sometimes kneeling in a landscape or a grotto, such as that sold New York, Christie's, 9 June 2010, lot 39. Others, such as the present panel, are more simply and sparely depicted. As with much of his early subject matter, Dou borrowed the subject from Rembrandt van Rijn, with whom he had begun his apprenticeship on 14 February 1628.1 This and other works in this vein may, for example, have been influenced by Rembrandt's print of Saint Jerome, of around 16352, which shows a similar figural type.
Dou's interest in these subjects seems to have been rekindled after circa 1660 and the present work probably also dates from late in his career. Both the style and execution of the head of the old man closely relate to the Hermit at Prayer in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. no. C128)3, signed and dated 1664, and to another Praying Hermit in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis (inv. no. 87.11)4, signed and dated 1670. Another Head of a bearded old man that is very closely comparable to this painting was sold New York, Sotheby's, 26 January 2006, lot 15, for $1.248.000 (oil on panel, 17.8 by 12.7 cm.). In both this and the present work, Dou has stripped the old man from all his accoutrements and iconographic references. He has placed the figure bust-length in the foreground of the picture plane against a plain background, with just a beam of light illuminating his face, thus emphasizing the old man's humble and reverential attitude. All these hermits must have been painted around the same time in light of their very similar handling. Compared to works in his earlier exquisitely detailed fijnschilder technique, they can be characterized by a somewhat more painterly handling of the brush. Nonetheless, Dou has here skilfully captured the different materials and textures. In particular, the cloak is painted thinly with looser, broader strokes, while the wrinkled texture of the forehead, the furrowed brows and the subtle strokes of the beard are more meticulously rendered.
Although the early history of this little panel is unknown, it is tempting to associate it with some references to similar works in old sale records (see under Provenance). In particular those sold Paris, 29 April 1973, lot 187, which was described as "un vieillard portant barbe er quelques masse de cheveux, dont une partie du crâne est dépourvue; il est vu en buste; tenant de la main gauche son manteau, dont il s'enveloppe: ce fin et précieux tableau est du très-beau faire de ce maître, dont on connoit la rareté des ouvrages. Hauteur 5 p. larg. 4 p"; and sold Amsterdam, 13 August 1806, lot 39, which is included in Hofstede de Groot under no. 320 and was descibed as "hoog 6, breed 5 duim, op Paneel.'t Afbeeldsel van een bejaard Man, met een witte baard en halfkaal hood met witte hairen, gekleed met een bruin Op- en Onderkleed en wit halsdoek, halverlyf met een hand; alleruitvoerigst, helder en delicaat van penceel behandeling."
1. R. Baer, Gerrit Dou 1613-1675, Zwolle 2000, exhibition catalogue, p. 29.
2. See K.G. Boon (ed.), Hollstein's Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts, Rembrandt van Rijn, vol. XIX, Amsterdam 1969, p. 98, no. B102.
3. See P.J.J. van Thiel (a.o.), Alle Schilderijen van het Rijksmuseum te Amsterdam, p. 197, cat. no. C128, reproduced.
4. R. Baer, op.cit., pp. 130-1, cat. no. 33, reproduced p. 131.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale