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Details & Cataloguing

Old Master & British Paintings Day Sale

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Frans Boels
DIED 1594
AN EXTENSIVE LANDSCAPE WITH PEASANTS MERRYMAKING
signed and dated bottom centre:  F BŌLS 1591
gouache on vellum with gold highlights, mounted on panel
13.8 by 21.1 cm.; 5 1/2  by 8 1/4  in.
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Catalogue Note

No more than two dozen works, almost all of them small format paintings in gouache, are known by Frans Boels, who was the stepson and pupil of Hans Bol. The present, previously unrecorded picture must be counted as one of Boels’ finest accomplishments, on par with his master’s best work. More than seventy figures populate the scene: a rowdy group of peasants dancing to the tune of bagpipers in the lower right; a man relieving himself in the left foreground; an elegantly dressed party in front of the tower, their costumes flecked with nearly microscopic gold highlights; a figure leaning out the window over the river; riders racing up and down distant mountains. Goats butting heads, birds nesting on rooftops and countless other minute details reward close viewing.

Most of Frans Boels’ gouaches show Biblical or mythological scenes or hunting parties; the present picture is exceptional in his oeuvre as a secular portrayal of village life. The group of merrymaking peasants in the lower right is particularly significant, as it is one of the earliest depictions of a Brueghelian peasant scene in the Northern Netherlands. Boels emigrated from Antwerp to Amsterdam in 1584, along with Hans Bol, and the artists are credited with introducing the theme of peasant revelry into Dutch art. The subject would be taken up by artists such as Karel van Mander and David Vinckboons in the later 1590s and the first years of the 1600s before becoming a major genre of seventeenth-century Dutch painting.

Only one other signed work by Boels has appeared at auction in the last 30 years (New York, Sotheby’s, January 22, 2004, lot 3).

Old Master & British Paintings Day Sale

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London