oil on canvas
Anonymous sale, Amsterdam, Ploos van Amstel, Yver, 24 September 1777, lot 73, for 23 guilders to De Bon (as A. de Man, in the manner of P. de Hooch; according to the Hofstede de Groot files at the R.K.D.);
Anonymous sale, The Hague, 1780, for 480 guilders (as Johannes Vermeer);
J. van der Linden van Slingeland, Dordrecht;
His sale, Dordrecht, Yver, Delfos, 22 August 1785, lot 188, for 600 guilders to Vinne (as Pieter de Hooch);
Anonymous sale, Amsterdam, Juriaans, 28 August 1817, lot 32, for 510 guilders to Goll (as Nicolaes Koedijk);
J. Goll van Franckenstein, Amsterdam;
His sale, Amsterdam, Roos, 1 July 1833, lot 13, for 450 guilders to E.M. Engelberts (as the "Bankier" of Coedijk);
Thoré-Bürger, Paris (as Johannes Vermeer), acquired for him by an Englishman before 1866;
His sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 5 December 1892, lot 26, for 5,000 francs to F. Goldschmidt (as Nicolaes Koedijck);
J. Porgès, Paris, by 1903 till at least 1911;
With D.A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam, 1936;
From whom bought as a present to the grandfather of the present owner by the Board of his company;
Thence by descent.
Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle, Verzeichniss der in der Kunsthalle zu Düsseldorf ausgestellten Bilder von älteren Meistern, 1886;
Paris, Salle du Jeu de Paume, Jardin des Tuileries, Exposition des Grands et Petits Maîtres Hollandais du XVIIe siècle, 28 April - 10 July 1911, no. 85;
The Hague, Mauritshuis, Zo wijd de wereld strekt. Exhibition commemorating the 300th anniversary of Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen's death, 21 December 1979 - 1 March 1980, no. 198.
J. Smith, A catalogue raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch, Flemish and French painters, London, vol. IV, 1833, no. 8 (as Pieter de Hooch);
Thoré-Bürger, Van der Meer de Delft, Paris 1866, pp. 33, 72, no. 42 (summary of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, August - October 1866);
W. Bode, "Die Ausstellung alter Gemälde....in Düsseldorf und Brussel in Herbst 1886", in Repertorium fur Kunstwissenschaft, 1887, p. 36;
"Mouvements des arts", in La Chronique des Arts et de la Curiosité, 38, 1892, p. 287;
C. Hofstede de Groot, "Die Auction Thoré-Bürger", in Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, vol. 16, 1893, pp. 116-19, cat. no. 26;
A. Dayot, Grands et Petits Maîtres Hollandais du XVIIe siècle, Paris 1911, p. 135, no. 90, reproduced;
W. Martin, "Ausstellung altholländischer Bilder in Pariser Privatbesitz", in Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft, 1911, p. 502;
E. Plietzsch, Vermeer van Delft, Leipzig 1911, p. 137;
C. Brière-Misme, "Un émule de Vermeer et Pieter de Hooch, Cornélis de Man", Oud Holland 52 1935, part I and II, pp. 4-5, 106-7, reproduced fig. 19;
A.B. de Vries, Jan Vermeer, 1939, p. 63;
A.B. de Vries, Jan Vermeer van Delft, Basel 1945, p. 73, reproduced plate 25;
E. Plietzsch, Holländische und flämische Maler der 17. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig 1960, (2nd reprint 1972) pp. 72-73, reproduced fig. 115;
Zo wijd de wereld strekt, exhibition catalogue, The Hague 1979, p. 164, no. 198, reproduced;
O. Ydema, Carpets and their datings in Netherlandish Paintings 1540-1700, Zutphen 1991, p. 148, no. 286;
M.C.C. Kersten, Delft Masters, Vermeer's Contemporaries, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle/Delft 1996, pp. 195-6, reproduced fig. 192;
E.J. Sluijter, "Wedijver met de Gouden Eeuw: Abraham en Jacob van Strij en hun illustere voorgangers", in Ch. Dumas (ed.), In helder licht, Abraham en Jacob van Strij, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle 2000, p.119, reproduced fig. 174;
W. Liedtke, Vermeer and the Delft School, exhibition catalogue, New York 2001, p. 310, under no. 42;
F. S. Jowell, "Thoré-Bürger's Art Collection: 'a rather unusual gallery of bric-à-brac'", in Simiolus, 30, 2003, no. 1/2, p. 63;
M.E. Lambrechtsen, Cornelis de Man (1621-1706), Een selectie uit het oeuvre van een veelzijdige Delftse schilder, Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam 2005, unpublished dissertation, pp. 68-75, 78 and 118, cat. no. 19.
Long regarded as one of De Man's masterpieces, this work reveals all of the painter's characteristics, and is rightly considered a cornerstone of his oeuvre. The subject matter, and the recurrence of similar motifs and stylistic elements are highly typical for the artist, who emerged from the Delft tradition of genre painting developed by his townsmen Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) and Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684).
Probably because it is, like most of De Man's paintings, unsigned, it has been misattributed to both Vermeer and De Hooch, as well as Isaack Koedijck in the past.1 It belonged to the man to whom we owe our appreciation of Vermeer as one of the greatest artists that ever lived, Thoré-Bürger, who acquired it as a Vermeer and published it as such (although it was sold in his posthumous sale as Koedijck). In any event however, it is Vermeer rather than De Hooch (or Koedijck) with whom this picture has such strong connections.
De Man started painting genre scenes in the 1660s, at a time when Vermeer was still active in Delft (De Hooch had left the city around 1661), and although he was clearly inspired by both of them, he was also able to break with their traditional genre subjects of depicting women in interiors, occupied with female chores, such as cleaning, reading and writing. De Man rarely painted the female figure busy with her household tasks; instead he focused on male activities, such as trading, exploring and science. The present theme of a scholar in his study is however directly derived from Vermeer's famous paintings of the Geographer at the Städelsches Kunstinstituut, Frankfurt-am-Main (see fig. 1), as well as its pendant, the Astronomer, in the Louvre, Paris (see fig. 2).
De Man's Geographer shows great similarities with Vermeer's Geographer in particular.2 Both works show a strikingly similar composition of a study, with a scholar leaning over a draped table, covered with a book, with light coming from a window to the left. Like Vermeer, De Man here reveals a great interest in the way light falls from the window to the left onto the plaster surface of the wall, revealing its unevennesses and blemishes, and in the way it illuminates and is reflected by the objects within the interior: the Italian walnut chair; the embroidered cushion; the rug and the carpet draped over the table; the basket near the window and the flask beyond; the rich red coat of the Geographer; and the tiles lining the fireplace. Vermeer is famous for - among many other things - the meticulous way in which he records domestic detail, so much so in fact that we must assume that he was himself very interested in them, and this picture by De Man gives us the same forcible impression.
While a comparison with Vermeer in this case is more than inevitable, it would do De Man a great injustice to call him a mere follower of his contemporary. Vermeer excelled in his depiction of light enabling him to give his interiors a sublime atmosphere that was not to be matched, but De Man reveals in this work a handling of light that shows in his own right a quality that is unique to him and which sets him apart in the history of genre painting. His scenes are very narrative and direct, and although their perspective settings sometimes strike us as curious, their overall charm and character give his work a distinct style. In this picture, he excels in the way he lets light flood the room without blanching surfaces. His delight in the depiction of different materials, such as the freshly waxed wood of the mantelpiece, the plaster, the cloth and the pillow on the bench, are beautifully executed and are a characteristic feature of his work. His usage of the same objects in his different paintings, like the chair and the mantelpiece, also tie his works together. In this work as in others he tends to set any figures and the objects in his interiors away from the picture plane, leaving empty space between us and them. Only the open window intrudes into this space in the present work. It is this very distinctive characteristic that sometimes gives us the sense of a distorted perspective, and it inevitably puts up that old canard about the use of the camera obscura, which can yield such distortions in perspective.
Like Vermeer's Geographer, this picture is surrounded by motifs that refer to the passion for exploring the known world, the upsurge in trade that resulted, and the exotic and luxurious goods that flooded back to Holland, such as the conch shell on the mantel of the chimney piece (originally painted the other way round, as a visible pentiment records). A constant theme in Dutch 17th-century art, this was given renewed impetus by an upsurge in interest in exploration and mapping in the 1660s.3 In Amsterdam and other Dutch cities large quantities of maps were being produced, and these were collected and displayed as well as being put to moiré practical use. In the background of Vermeer's Geographer is part of Willem Jansz. Bleau's map showing "all the sea coasts of Europe", while the background wall of Vermeer's Officer and Laughing Girl in The Frick Collection in New York is a map of the Dutch Netherlands (see fig. 3). Prominently displayed on the wall of the present picture by cornelis de Man is Claes Jansz. Visscher's map of 1648 charting the Mauritsstad and Recife, part of the Dutch colonies on the coast of Brazil (see fig. 3).4 The choice of this map might seem curious, given that the Dutch colonies in Brazil had been abandoned some years before, and the attentions of the West India Company turned elsewhere. De Man's choice of it may not have had any symbolic intent, and it should be noted that he has here considerably increased the size of the original to fit the available space, as did Jacob Duck who included Visscher's map of Recife from the same series very much enlarged in the background of a Guardroom Scene of 1655.5 Cartography was a particular interest of De Man, and he included maps and a globe in his Two geographers and a sailor, in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg (inv. no. 239), representing three men mapping out a route to explore the world (see fig. 4).6
The subject of both Vermeer's Geographer and Astronomer and De Man's Geographer is not however the maps, globes and shells which allude to exploration and trade, but rather the man himself. Vermeer's Geographer holds a pair of dividers while gazing intently out of the picture plane, and his seated Astronomer reaches out with open fingers towards his globe in a dramatic gesture that speaks of the thirst for knowledge, while De Man's scholar extends his hand into his desk, placing or replacing an object. Neither artist makes any attempt to demystify their scholarly pursuits; rather the opposite in fact, since all three scholars wear expensive and exotic highly coloured gowns, to emphasise their remove from the quotidian.7 It must be remembered that the scholar in his study was by the time of Vermeer and De Man a well established, traditional subject in Netherlandish art: what Vermeer and De Man did was to adapt rather than create. Unlike the quasi-comic exotically clad alchemists of Teniers for example, Vermeer's and De Man's Geographers are serious and modern men who embody the spirit of intellectual enquiry and questioning of norms that characterized their age.
Looking closely at the variety of attributions this picture has enjoyed in the past, one clearly sees how little-known and ill-defined many artists active in Delft in the 1660s to '80s, including De Man, remained in the eyes of those in subsequent centuries. It was only when the scholar Willem Bürger, (also known as Étienne-Joseph Théophile Thoré, or Thoré-Bürger) published his monograph on Vermeer in 1866, that more came to light regarding the Delft master and his contemporaries. An interesting fact is that Thoré-Bürger bought the present picture somewhere before 1866 (see Provenance) as a Vermeer and published it in his monograph on Vermeer as such (see Literature). However, it was sold in his deceased sale in 1892, as by Nicolaes Koedijck. Hofstede de Groot was the one who in 1903 correctly re-attributed several works previously ascribed to Koedijck to Cornelis De Man.8
1. The present picture was usually called 'Nicolaes' Koedijck, a common mistake. The artist intended is the one correctly known as Isaac Koedijck. Many works by De Man were confused with him in the past.
2. See A.K. Wheelock & B. Broos, in Johannes Vermeer, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle, 1995, pp. 170-75, no. 16, reproduced.
3. See K. Zandvliet, Mapping for Money, Maps, Plans and Topographic Paintings and their role in Dutch overseas expansion, Amsterdam 1998, p. 250.
4. See under Literature, The Hague, Mauritshuis, Zo wijd de wereld strekt, exhibition catalogue, p. 164. The original size of the map is 465 by 560 mm..
5. See N. Salomon, Jacob Duck and the Gentrification of Dutch Genre Painting, Doornspijk 1998, p. 156, no. 66, reproduced fig. 66.
6. This De Man is also unsigned; see T. Ketelsen et al, Die Sammlungen der Hamburger Kunsthalle, vol II, Die Niederländischen Gemälde 1500-1800, Hamburg 2001, pp. 162-3, no. 239, reproduced.
7. Real scholars were conventionally portrayed in similar exotic garb; see for example Jan Verkolje's 1686 mezzotint portrait of the famous scientist Anthony van Leeuwenhoek (Wheelock & Broos, op. cit., p. 172, fig. 1).
8. See C. Hofstede de Groot, "Die Koedijck-rätsel und ihre Lösung", in Jahrbuch der Königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, 24, 1903, pp. 39-46.
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