Private collection, Paris, since circa 1925;
Private collection, Canada;
With Robert Nortman, Maastricht, 1993, from whom acquired by a private collector;
By whom sold ('The Property of a Private Collector'), London, Sotheby's, 14 December 2000, lot 16, where acquired by the present owner.
Alsloot painted a series of views of the abbeys in the Forêt de Soignes near Brussels, presumably for the Archduke Albert to whom he was Court painter, as the inscription on the present work implies. He painted several versions of the winter view of Groenendael, all with differences. One of these is in Brussels, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique,1 and another is at Schloß Mosigkau near Dessau.2 There are further views of this site done in summer.
Groenendael was founded as a hermitage in 1304 by Duke John II of Brabant.3 In 1349 it was established as an Augustinian abbey, and soon after became a renowned seat of learning under the priorship of the noted mystic The Blessed Jan van Ruysbroeck. After a catastrophic fire it was rebuilt in 1435, and in the 16th century it was a favourite retreat of the Emperor Charles V, who with his family used it often (the lake before the Abbey is named after him). Since the surrounding woods also belonged to the Emperor he used Groenendael for hunting and the Abbey appears in Bernaert van Orley's drawing for a tapestry illustrating the Month of September in a cycle of The Hunts of the Emperor Maximillian.4 Mary of Hungary also spent a great deal of time there, and surviving lists of produce consumed and menus demonstrate that both monarchs feasted at Groenendael on a large scale.5 Groenendael was (and still remains) a popular site, and it was frequently represented in paintings, drawings and prints.6 Most representations, including two prints by Hollar after designs by Pieter van Avont, omit the building to the right of the main block of the Abbey, which did however exist. Parts of the present painting are topographically accurate, including the clump of bushes which appears to be an island in the pond before the Abbey; this was a heronry. The farm buildings to the right are not representational: here stood buildings including a tower very like the one that appears at the extreme right of the painting. Of the Abbey itself, only the cellar walls still stand (or at any rate stood in 1981; see M. Erkens, in Literature listed under footnote 3, 1998, p. 58, reproduced). The Archduchess Isabella had the woods to the left of the painting partly cleared so that an avenue of trees could be planted in 1629: it was replanted in 1786 and still exists today.
A drawing of Groenendael probably by Van Alsloot is in the Institut Néerlandais, Paris.7 Others are at Darmstadt, in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the Deiker collection, Braunfels.8
1 See Y. Thiery & M. Kervyn de Meerendre, Les Peintres Flamands de Paysage au XVIIe Siècle, Brussels 1987, p. 106, reproduced p.105.
2 See J. de Maere & Wabbes, Illustrated Dictionary of 17th Century Painters, Brussels 1984, vol. II, p. 23, reproduced.
3 For articles concerning the history and topography of Groenendael see M. Erkens, "Aspecten van het Dagelijkse Leven to Groenendael", in De Luister van Groenendael. Ruusbroec, 1998, pp. 55-76, and M. Erkens, "Groenendael. Oogappel van Keizer Karel", in Zonien. Geschiedkundig Tijdschrift voor Ijse en Laneland, vol. XXIV, no. 2, 2000, pp. 77-108.
4 Van Orley's drawing is in the Prentkabinet der Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden. Charles V was recorded as hunting at Groenendael in the spring of 1517, on 26th, 28th-30th March, adn again in 1514-17, 1520-22, 1531, 1544, 1548-50, and 1556.
5 A meal prepared on 7th July 1533 included the following fish: 4 groete snoeken en 48 lancerons of kleine snoeken, 6 grote karpers en 32 keuken karpers, 2 grote basems, 150 garnalen, 16 forellen, 17 pond steur, 2 ponen, etc. etc.
6 Groenendael is depicted, amongst others, in the following works: Ignatius van der Stock's painted map of 1661 of the Foret de Soignes (A.R.A., Brussels, Kaarten en Plannen, inv. 7.043); a drawing by a Flemish artist active during the first half of the 17th century (Amsterdam, Rijskprentenkabinet); Lucas Vorstermans II's hand coloured engraving of 1659 showing an aerial view (which unusually depicts the Abbey and its environs from the other side); Lucas van Uden's drawing (sold Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 22 November 1989, lot 41); and miniatures by Jan van Leeuwen showing monks engaged in various activities at Groenendael (Brussels, Koninklijk Bibliothek, Hs. II, 138, fol. 1-2). This information has kindly been provided by Michel Erkens.
7 See C. van Hasselt, Flemish Drawings of the Seventeenth Century, exhibition catalogue, Ghent 1972, pp. 4-5, no. 2, reproduced plate 25.
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