Lot 258
  • 258

Karel van Mander the Elder

60,000 - 80,000 USD
387,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Karel van Mander the Elder
  • The Repentance of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
  • Pen and brown ink and wash, over traces of black chalk, within brown ink framing lines, indented for transfer
  • 186 by 142 mm; 7¼ by 5 5/8  in


Sale, London, Sotheby's, 27 March 1974, lot 78;
Prof. R.-A. d'Hulst, Dilbeek


H. Miedema, Karel van Mander. The Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters, vol. II, Doornspijk 1995, cat. D30;
M. Leesberg, The New Hollstein, Karel van Mander, Rotterdam 1999, Appendix 2, pp. lxxxvii-lxxxviii, no. 4, reproduced, p. 19, under no. 25;
J.P. Filedt Kok & M. Leesberg, The New Hollstein, The de Gheyn Family, Part I, Rotterdam 2000, p. 47, under no. 22

Catalogue Note

A definitive example of late 16th-century Dutch Mannerist draughtsmanship, this beautifully preserved study of the repentant tax-collector Zacchaeus demonstrates all the compositional and iconographical originality and bravura technique that so characterise the drawings produced in the Dutch city of Haarlem at this time by Van Mander, Hendrick Goltzius, and the group of brilliant artists in their circle.  Thanks to the innovative genius of these masters, Haarlem was for some time an extraordinary centre of innovation, particularly in the graphic arts, but also in the field of paintings.

The print publishing industry was central to the city’s atmosphere of creative artistic dialogue, and many of the most exciting drawings to come out of Haarlem in the late 16th and early 17th century, including this one, were made as designs for prints.  In many cases, the leading artists collaborated on projects for series of prints, often depicting extremely obscure biblical or moralising subjects, in highly original ways.  This drawing is the design, in reverse, for the third print in a series of eight, all published by Jacques de Gheyn II and engraved by members of his workshop after designs by Van Mander, depicting Repentant Sinners of the Old and New Testaments.1  An impression of the print, which was probably executed by Zacharias Dolendo, is sold together with the drawing.2  That De Gheyn, himself one of the great draughtsmen of the period, would in this case have been the publisher, supervising the reproduction of designs by Van Mander, is entirely typical of the world of Haarlem Mannerism.  The drawings for three of the other prints in the series are known: Manasseh, for plate 2, was sold in 1992 and is now in a private collection3, while the drawings of St. Mary Magdalene (plate 4) and St Paul (plate 8) are in the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum respectively.4  Such a bringing together of a number of only loosely linked subjects into a series of images of the same format is something one encounters fairly frequently in Dutch Mannerist printmaking; see, for example, the wonderfully bizarre series of images of Illustrious Women of Antiquity, engraved by Zacharias Dolendo, after designs by De Gheyn.5  Although the present drawing is neither signed nor dated, the one in the British Museum is signed with the artist’s monogram, and the Manasseh is both monogrammed and dated 1596, providing a dating for the whole series. 

The Biblical story illustrated here appears only in the Gospel of Saint Luke (19:1-10).  Zacchaeus was the chief tax-collector of Jericho, and greatly despised by the Jews, as an agent of their Roman oppressors.  Jesus was passing through Jericho, and a crowd gathered to see him, but Zacchaeus was very short, so climbed a tree to be able to see over the people in front of him.  As Jesus passed, he stopped, looked up into the tree, and told Zacchaeus that he should come down and take him into his house, whereupon Zacchaeus immediately repented of his sins, pledging half his great wealth to charity. 

Karel van Mander was a figure of immense importance in Dutch art and literature of the period leading up to 1600.  A painter, draughtsman, poet and biographer, he travelled to Italy in 1573, where he met both Bartholomeus Spranger and Hans Speckaert, and brought their new and exciting mannerist style back to the Netherlands, pausing only for a stopover on the way at the Prague court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.  In 1583, he settled in Haarlem and showed Spranger’s drawings to Hendrick Goltzius, and thereby, as William W. Robinson so eloquently put it, he ‘precipitated the creation of the Haarlem mannerist style.’6  Thereafter, Van Mander and Goltzius, and also Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem and others, seem to have worked together in an informal academy that was effectively the heart of the city’s late 16th-century artistic and creative flowering. 

Though productive and successful as an artist, Van Mander’s name is undoubtedly best known today as the author of Het Schilder-boek (1604), a wide-ranging, four-part publication that included not only a fundamental series of biographies of earlier Netherlandish artists, but also the first major Northern European treatises on artistic theory and iconography.   

It is hard to imagine a drawing that embodies more totally all the strands, both stylistic and iconographic, of late 16th-century Haarlem mannerism.

1. Leesberg, op. cit., nos. 21-28; Filedt Kok & Leesberg, op. cit., nos. 15-22

2. Leesberg, op. cit., no. 25; Filedt Kok & Leesberg, op. cit., no. 19

3. Sale, London, Sotheby’s, 6 July 1992, lot 159

4. London, British Museum, inv. 1931,1005.1; Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, inv. P I 59

5. Filedt Kok & Leesberg, op. cit., Part II, nos. 332-9

6. The Age of Bruegel: Netherlandish Drawings in the Sixteenth Century, exh. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, and New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1986-7, p. 217