By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 6 April 1977, lot 6, for £11,500 to Holsten;
Acquired then or shortly after by the father of the present owner;
Thence by inheritance.
H. Weizsäcker, Adam Elsheimer, vol. II, Berlin 1952, pp. 8–9, no. 4, reproduced plate I, (as Elsheimer);
K. Bauch, in Kunstchronik, vol. XX, 1967, p. 59 (as possibly by Jan Brueghel);
J.G. van Gelder and I. Jost, 'Elsheimers unverteilter Nachlass II', Simiolus, vol. II/I, 1968, p. 4 (in the list of 'possible' Elsheimers);
M. Waddingham, 'Elsheimer Revised', The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXIV, 1972, p. 602 and n. 15 (remarks on stylistic similarities with Stalbemt);
K. Andrews, 'A Pseudo-Elsheimer Group: Adriaen van Stalbemt as Figure Painter', The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXV, May 1973, pp. 301, 305–06, reproduced fig. 47, (as Stalbemt).
This painting was long considered a work by Adam Elsheimer, and was included as such in Weizsäcker's 1952 monograph. Weizsäcker considered it to be an early work, and he linked it with other paintings thought by him to be early Elsheimers, which subsequently formed the core of Andrews' Stalbemt group. Kurt Bauch was the first to cast doubts, suggesting that it might be by Jan Brueghel the Elder (while the figures are not Brueghel-like, adhering to the Elsheimer tradition, the wooded setting is clearly influenced by him). With characteristic prescience, Malcolm Waddingham was the first to note similarities between the present picture and others in the group to be formally assembled by Keith Andrews with the work of Stalbemt. Andrews developed Waddingham's theme, assembled a group of five paintings including the present work, all but one of which had been associated with Elsheimer in the past, and proposed that they all be the work of Adriaen van Stalbemt. He found the clue that unlocked the formal connection with Stalbemt in the provenance of one of the group, a painting of Saint Paul and Barnabas at the Städel in Frankfurt, which was listed in the Lormier collection in The Hague in 1752 as by 'Stalbend'. It was still listed as Stalbemt in the Lormier sale in 1763, when bought by Coenrad van Heemskerck, but when he sold it two years later it was called Elsheimer, a name which it then retained for over 200 years. A signature, perhaps that of Stalbemt, had been erased at some point, probably during Van Heemskerck's ownership. Andrews compared the Städel painting with two signed works by Stalbemt both dated 1622, and another of 1619 in the Prado, a collaboration with Pieter Brueghel the Younger (who painted the landscape first, signing and dating it 1618). These works form a cohesive whole, and are clearly the work of Stalbemt, in the years around 1620. Andrews added additional stylistically cohesive works to the core group in his 1977 article, and observing that Stalbemt never went to Italy, wondered how Stalbemt became so clearly conversant with Elsheimer's paintings, and attempted to answer his question by suggesting that David Teniers the Elder may have been the stylistic intermediary. By the latter part of the second decade of the seventeenth century however, paintings by Elsheimer were percolating north, encouraged by Rubens and others, and it seems more likely that Stalbemt would have seen them in Antwerp at first hand. Finally, the Stalbemt group of Elsheimeresque paintings was further convincingly expanded by Ursula Härting, in 1981.2
The present painting, and another of the group in the Schönborn collection at Pommersfelden are on copper plates of the same dimensions, and clearly belong together, either as a pair or as part of a series, since the Pommersfelden painting depicts a closely related subject: The Israelites bringing offerings for the building of the Tabernacle.3
1. Waddingham thanks Marilyn Aronberg Lavin for this information and for suggesting that it was a later acquisition; Waddingham 1972, p. 602, n. 15.
2. See U. Härting, 'Adriaen van Stalbemt als Figurenmaler', Oud Holland, vol. 95, 1981, pp. 3–15.
3. See Andrews, 1977, pp. 301, 305–06, reproduced fig. 48.
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