Lot 25
  • 25

Frans van Mieris the Elder

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Frans van Mieris the Elder
  • a young woman in a red jacket feeding a parrot
  • formerly signed and dated: F van Mieris fect Anno 1663 (see fig. 1)
  • oil on oak panel


The collection of the Bavarian Electors, probably bought by Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria (1662-1726) at the beginning of the 18th century for his Gallery in Schloss Schleißheim, and certainly in the possession of his successor by 1748;
Thence by descent in the Bavarian Electoral and Royal Collection, and subsequently the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen until 1936, in the following locations:
Picture Gallery of Schloss Schleißheim, mentioned in the inventories of 1748 (the earliest existing inventory) and 1775 (no. 677);
Hofgartengalerie Munich, 1783, mentioned in the catalogue of the Hofgartengalerie, 1787, no. 628;
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 1836-1923;
Staatsgemäldesammlungen Speyer, 1923-1936;
Sold by exchange to D.A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam on 19th August 1936;
Mr. and Mrs. David Birnbaum, New York, by 1942 and until at least 1944 (the Birnbaums changed their name to Bingham in 1946;
Mrs Charles E. Dunlap, New York;
Her deceased sale, New York, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 3 December 1975, lot 304, for $155,000 to Edward Speelman for the present collection.


Picture Gallery of Schloss Schleißheim, 1748-1775;
Hofgartengalerie Munich, by 1783;
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 1836 - 1923;
Speyer, Museum, 1923-1936;
New York, Duveen, Paintings by Great Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, 1942, no 34, reproduced in the catalogue p. 126;
Montreal, Art Association, Five Centuries of Dutch Art, 1944, no. 85;
New York, Knoedler, Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, 1945, no. 9.


Inventories of Schloss Schleißheim, 1748 and 1775 (no. 677);
Die Bildergallerie in München, Muncih 1787, no. 628;
C. von Mannlich, Beschreibung der Churpfalzbaierischen Gemälde-Sammlungen, vol. II, Munich 1805, p. 266, no. 1087;
J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné..., vol. I, London 1829, p. 70, note to no. 29;
G. von Dillis, Verzeichnis der Gemaelde in der königlichen Pinakothek zu München, Munich 1838, p. 562, no. 188, Cabinet IX (reprinted in Böttger below);
G. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. II, London 1854, p. 8;
C. Blanc, Histoire des Peintres de Toutes les Ecoles. Ecole Hollandaise, vol. II, Paris 1863, p. 23, reproduced;
R. Marggraff, Katalog der älteren königlichen Pinakothek zu München, Munich 1872, p. 202, no. 1009 (417);
C. Lemcke, 'Frans van Mieris', in R. Dohme ed., Kunst und Künstler, Deutschlands und der Niederlände bis um die Mitte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, vol. II, Leipzig 1878, p. 23;
R. Gower, The Figure Painters of Holland, London 1880, pp. 113-114;
Katalog der Gemälde-Sammlung der Kgl. Älteren Pinakothek in München. Mit einer historischen Einleitung von Dr. Franz von Reber. München 1886, p. 88, no. 414 (1009) (also in 1888, 1891,1898, 1901, 1904, 1908, 1911, 1913);
J.D. Champlin and C.C. Perkins (eds.), Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, vol. III, New York 1887, p. 265l;
J.A. Crowe, The Handbook of Painting, The German, Flemish and Dutch Schools, based on the Handbook of Kugler, London 1889, p 409, no. 188;
F. von Reber, Katalog der Gemälde-Sammlung der Königlichen Älteteren Pinakothek, Munich 1908, p. 95, no. 414; 
A. von Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, vol. II, Vienna 1910, p. 165;
Katalog der Älteren Pinakothek zu München, Amtliche Ausgabe, München 1920, p. 96, no. 533 (414) (also in 1922, 1925, 1928);
Speyer Museum catalogue, 1927, p. 58, no. 533;
Bryan's Dictionary, vol. V, London 1927, p. 337;
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné..., vol. X, London 1928, p. 55, no. 213;
Katalog der Älteren Pinakothek zu München, 1928, no. 533;
W. Stechow, 'Frans van Mieris', in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler, vol. XXIV, Leipzig 1930, p. 540;
L. Hourticq, Hollande en Histoire Générale de l'Art, Paris 1932, p. 307;
W.R. Juynboll, 'Frans van Mieris', in Niewe Rotterdamse Courant, 14 April 1935, reproduced;
R.H Wilenski, Dutch Painting, New York 1955, p. 29;
N. Maclaren, National Gallery Catalogues. The Dutch School, London 1960, p. 249, as "the best and probably most original version of this design";
E. Plietzsch, Holländische und Flämische Maler des XVII. Jahrh., Leipzig 1960, p. 52;
P. Böttger, Die Alte Pinakothek in München. Mit einem Anhang: Abdruck des frühesten Gemäldeverzeichnisses der Pinakothek aus dem Jahre 1838 von Georg von Dillis. Nach den heutigen Inventarnummern identifiziert von Gisela Scheffler. Munich 1972, republishing von Dillis' inventory;
M. Hadler, 'Manet's Woman with a Parrot', in Metropolitan Museum of Art Journal, VII, 1973, p. 119, reproduced fig. 3;
F.W. Robinson, Gabriel Metsu, New York 1974, p. 49, fig 121a;
Advertisement in The Burlington Magazine, no. 117, 1975, vol. lvi, reproduced in colour;
Advertisement in the New York Times, 29 November 1975;
Advertisement in Apollo, November 1975;
O. Naumann, 'Frans van Mieris as a Draughtsman', Master Drawings, vol. 16, no. 1, 1978, pp. 25, 30, n. 22;
O. Naumann, Frans van Mieris the Elder, vol. I, Doornspijk 1981, pp. 64, 67-8, vol. II, pp. 64-9, no. I 54, reproduced plate I 54;
E.J. Sluijter, Leidse Fijnschilders, exhibition catalogue, Leiden 1988, pp. 66, 253-4, reproduced;
N. MacLaren, revised and expanded C. Brown, National Gallery Catalogues. The Dutch School 1600-1900, vol. I, London 1991, p. 262, reproduced fig. 60;
Q. Buvelot, Frans van Mieris 1635-1681, exhibition catalogue, (The Hague, Ashington) Zwolle 2006, p. 163, under no. 33, reproduced p. 165, reproduced fig. 33a.


"The following condition report has been provided by Sarah Walden, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is on a perfectly flat, fine oak panel, bevelled at the top, with narrow edging strips for the rebate of the frame. The extreme corners and the upper edge has one or two tiny recent retouchings, with some earlier, slightly wider superficial retouching also along the top edge, both visible to different degrees under ultra violet light. Other rather earlier surface retouching can be seen under UV in the dark upper right background. The surface of the varnish is slightly misty so that the full details of the background with its beautiful brocaded hanging and distant leaves at upper right are rather indistinct at the moment. There are also one or two little retouches to the tail feathers of the parrot and his under belly, and to the fringe on the brocade behind, also superficial, as well as a few minute retouchings to slight rubbing from the frame along the base edge. The finesse of the detail is beautifully preserved, from the light on the velvet drapery or the parrot's wooden perch to the gentle glazing in the expression of the lady's face and the fall of her hair. Her scarlet ribbon has lost a little flake but this is a minor imperfection and the condition virtually throughout is exceptionally fine. This report was not done under laboratory conditions."
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This is the prime version of one of Frans van Mieris' most famous compositions and is one of several masterpieces from the 1660s which define his fijnschilder technique, and on which his fame rests.  A well-to-do young woman, expensively attired in a red jacket trimmed with fur, is seated feeding an African Grey parrot which sits on a perch, having rested her needlework on her lap.  Although the background initially appears dark, it is largely formed of a rich dark blue damask bed hanging.

Although the signature and date are no longer visible, they are recorded in a reproduction in the Alte Pinakothek catalogue (see fig. 1).  The dating of this picture to 1663 is thus surely reliable.  Another version, unsigned and undated, painted on copper and of practically identical dimensions is in the National Gallery, London.1  It is usually considered to be a slightly inferior and slightly later version, but the attribution to Van Mieris has not been seriously doubted until very recently.  Of the many other painted copies (Naumann lists 26), none are thought to be autograph; nor are any of the drawn copies.2  Their sheer number demonstrate that this is, as Naumann has suggested, perhaps the most popular of all of Van Mieris' compositions.3

This picture and its composition had an immediate impact on Van Mieris's contemporaries.  It is clearly felt in Caspar Netscher's Young woman seated at a Spinning Wheel dated 1665, in which a similarly dressed young woman is depicted, and in Pieter Cornelisz. van Slingelandt's undated Girl Feeding a Parrot.4 

Here as in many of his paintings, Van Mieris has incorporated in the young woman depicted the physiognomy of his wife, Cunera de Cock, although this is in no sense a portrait of her.  The artist did this in many, perhaps most of his works in the 1660s, for example the "Teasing the Pet" in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, which also includes his own self-portrait.5

The pet parrot fed by the young woman is an African Grey (Psittacus erithacus), a species from the forests of West Africa often seen in Dutch 17th Century genre paintings, and thus presumably imported in quite significant numbers as exotic pets.  Although birds usually have erotic connotations in Dutch 17th Century genre paintings, based on the wordplay of vogelen, which means both to catch birds and to fornicate, this meaning is probably not intended here.  As Buvelot and others have suggested, the parrot has sometimes been interpreted as a symbol of eagerness to learn, since it can be tamed and taught to speak.6  In Jacob Cats' Houwelyck (`Marriage') from 1625, a woman who represents Leersucht (`eagerness to learn') is depicted with a parrot and an embroidery frame.  The latter element is here replaced by the embroidery which the young woman has just put down, which may represent an allusion to industry and virtue.  This, together with an eagerness to learn represented by the parrot, were considered desirable complementary qualities in a young wife, and it is this which may be the intended meaning, if any, of the painting.

A note on the Provenance:

This picture has a long and most distinguished history, having probably been acquired by the Bavarian Elector Maximilian II Emanuel (1662-1726) in the early 18th Century for his palace at Schleißheim, a few miles north-west of Munich (see fig. 2).  It was certainly at Schleißheim, by 1748, and remained in the possession of the Bavarian Electors and Princes, and finally their successor institution, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Picture Collections) until sold by exchange from the Alte Pinakothek in 1936.  Klauber's engraving in the same sense reproduces it in 1789 (see fig. 3), in which one can see that what lies behind is a bed enclosed by a curtain which is surmounted by a pelmet, where the signature used to be.  Bruckmann's photograph taken exactly 100 years later, in 1897 (see fig. 4) reveals little of the background.

It was in the Birnbaum collection in New York by 1942, and subsequently passed, with a Gabriel Metsu, to the collection of Charles Dunlap.7  Charles Edward Dunlap (1889 - 1966) was a prominent Philadelphian.  He acquired his taste in Old Masters – mainly French 18th Century – from his uncle, Edward Berwind, the coal-mining magnate, who built the French-style chateau, The Elms, on Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island.  Dunlap's collecting was also influenced by a family friend and collector, Forsyth Wickes.  Dunlap donated major French paintings and drawings to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard. On his death in 1966, the Van Mieris passed to his widow and was included in the sale of her Estate at Sotheby's in New York in 1975, where it was acquired by Edward Speelman for Harold Samuel.

The Harold Samuel Collection was the most distinguished private collection of Dutch and Flemish 17th Century paintings to be assembled in England since the war.  It was put together with Lord Samuel's Sussex estate at Wych Cross Place in mind, and it mostly consisted of intimate small-scale cabinet pictures, of which this is a prime example.  Most of his collection, and all of his best pictures such as this one, were acquired with the help and advice of Edward Speelman, whose own taste and discernment was crucial in the formation of the collection.  Upon Lord Samuel's death in 1987, the greater part of the collection was bequeathed to the Corporation of the City of London and is housed at the Mansion House.  An excellent catalogue of this bequest was written by Peter Sutton, to whose introduction this note is indebted.

1.  See Naumann, 1981, vol. II, pp. 65-6, no. II 54, reproduced plate II 54; and Maclaren & Brown, vol. 1, pp. 262-4, no. 840, reproduced vol. 2, plate 223.
2. See Naumann, 1981, vol. II, pp. 66-8, nos. a-z (painted copies), p. 69 (drawn copies) 
3.  Naumann, 1981, vol. I, p. 67.
4.  London, National Gallery, no. 845; whereabouts unknown; see Naumann, 1981, vol. I, pp. 676-8, reproduced figs. 68, 69, 
5.  See Buvelot, 2006, p,. 144, no. 25, reproduced.
6.  See Buvelot, 2006, on whose text the foregoing is heavily dependent.
7.  Both pictures were lent by the Birnbaums to Montreal in 1944
8.  P.C. Sutton, Dutch & Flemish Seventeenth-century paintings.  the Harold Samuel Collection, Cambridge 1992.

Ignatz Sebastian Klauber, 1789 (see fig. 3);
Johannes Burger;
N. Stixner (lithograph);
A.H. Payne;
J. Wölffle (lithograph).