This painting depicts the Gallery of Paintings of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in Brussels. The Archduke arrived in Brussels in 1647 as the newly appointed Governor General of the Spanish Netherlands. In 1651 he appointed David Teniers the Younger Court Painter, following the death of Jan van den Hoecke, and it seems that Teniers started to paint pictures of the Archduke's Gallery straight away, since the first two such works are dated that year.1
This painting is one of ten known Gallery Pictures by David Teniers the Younger associated with the collection of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, of which nine are on canvas and one is on copper.2 Like all the others, it almost certainly depicts a fictitious space, although the tall windows, essential for admitting light for the enjoyment of the collection, have been associated with the Archducal Coudenberg Palace in Brussels. The paintings shown in it however, most of which can be identified, formed part of the Archducal collection. The Archduke himself is seen in the centre, while the man to his left showing off the Il Bravo, then thought to be by Giorgione, has the features of Teniers himself. He occurs in most of the versions, showing different paintings in each. The figure to the Archduke's right, holding a print, occurs in most of the Gallery pictures, but has yet to be identified convincingly.
Prior to his appointment in 1647, the Archduke had no reputation as a collector. By the time he left Brussels in 1656, taking with him the bulk of his collection, which forms the core of the holdings of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, he had amassed a vast collection of paintings, sculpture and works of art, of which 617 paintings were works by Italian masters. Although nearby Antwerp was then the centre of the art market, this was an astonishing achievement. Over four hundred of the Italian paintings came from the collections of The Duke of Buckingham and The Marquess of Hamilton, and it was in pursuit of negotiations to acquire these that Teniers himself was in London in 1651.
The present picture is likely to be one of the later treatments of the subject. Like the first two dated works, it includes the genre-like element of two dogs disporting in the foreground. Two of the ten known Archduke Leopold Wilhelm Gallery pictures are of similar compositions and include the same paintings: the undated large Vienna canvas presumably following the equally large 1651 Petworth one.3 The others, including this one, are all independently composed and display different works (or when works are repeated they are differently hung), but in its L-shaped organisation of interior space, the present picture shows similarities with a smaller work formerly in Vienna (which however lacks a window).4
1. In the Egremont Collection, Petworth House (The National Trust) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; see Scarpa Sonnino under Literature, pp. 85-6, reproduced, and pp. 91-2, reproduced.
2. See Vegelin van Claerbergen under Literature, p. 65.
3. Idem, pp. 70-2, no. 2, reproduced, and pp. 16-17, fig. 5.
4. For the ex-Kunsthistorisches Museum canvas (it was subsequently restituted to the Rothschild family and sold) see Scarpa Sonnino, op. cit., pp.92-4, reproduced.
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