Anonymous sale, Brussels, Gallery Renaissance, 16 December 1941, lot 126, offered with a certificate of Dr. C. Hofstede de Groot;
Collection Warnants, Belgium (both the above as P. de Grebber);
Private collection, Antwerp.
H. Gerson, 'Rembrandt en de schilderkunst in Haarlem', in Miscellanea I.Q. van Regteren Altena, Amsterdam 1969, p. 139 (as Lievens);
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt Schüler, vol. III, Landau/Pfalz 1983 and after, p. 1798, no. 1246, reproduced p. 1885.
Jan Lievens experimented thoroughly with studies of light in his early years in Leiden, as did his contemporary and friend Rembrandt. This tronie of a young bearded man, possibly an apostle or philosopher, shows us two interesting aspects; the foreshortening of the face, nearly en profile and the clair obscure effect to the left hand. That Lievens showed great interest in the difficulty of foreshortening is revealed in the many surviving tronies by his hand. A beautiful example is a work presently in the Ronald Cook collection, London (see fig. 1). It shows an almost similar angle of the head, with the strange, but interesting, elongated effect of the face.
Lievens' preoccupation with the effects of light is showed in many of his early works, for example in the strong work of The card players, sold in these Rooms earlier this year1. The left hand of the sitter is lighted strongly to its back; the palm is in complete shade with only the tip of the thumb shining out. Hence it becomes a focus point on its own. Therefore one can almost see two narratives; the presentation of a sacred man or philosopher in disbelief (?) and a portrait of a hand.
Sumowski relates the execution of the present painting with the head of Isaac in a work at the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig.2 He considers both works to be executed in his Antwerp period, at the late 1630s.
A monographic exhibition on the artist, will be held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, The Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee and Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam, in 2008-2009.
1. Sale, Sotheby's Amsterdam, 8 May 2007, lot 77.
2. Jan Lievens, Abraham and Isaac in prayer, Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig, inv. no. 242.
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