- David Vinckboons
- An elegant party in an ornate palace garden
- oil on oak panel
Private collection, Europe, since at least the 1970s;
Thence by descent.
In the magnificent gardens of a country palace a group of young and fashionable figures have assembled for a banquet beneath the trees. Vinckboons' paintings of the fashionably attired at their leisure in such settings were to be of seminal importance in the development of this genre in Dutch painting in the first decades of the seventeenth century. These subjects seems to have grown out of the medieval theme of the Garden of Love and moralising traditions such as the story of the Prodigal Son. Vinckboons' treatment of the genre seems to have originated with the latter, for example, in a series of drawings in 1608, now preserved in the British Museum in London. In his choice of such subjects, Goossens suggests that Vinckboons may well have been influenced by the work of Hans Bol, whose drawing of the story of The Prodigal Son, now in the Albertina in Vienna shares, for example, the motif of the reclining man in the foreground.1 Vinckboons' first painting along these lines seems to be that of 1610, now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, in which many of the same basic characters are introduced, with the addition of some dancing figures.2 The present panel can be more closely compared, however, to a work of 1619 formerly with Malmadé in Cologne.3 Here the same figure group is employed, but within a narrower format, omitting the figures on the left of this painting as well as the waterside palace on the right.
Although such scenes plainly take indulgence as their theme and perhaps hint at moral overtones, it is not clear whether they were intended overtly as moral admonitions to their viewers. Briels suggest that the figures in this panel could also depict the Five Senses: the man on the left with the telepscope representing the sense of Sight, while the man and a woman playing the guitar represent that of Sound, the amorous couple behind them the sense of Touch, the man offering a flower to his lady the sense of Smell, and finally the reclining man in the foreground with his glass of wine the sense of Taste.4 The iconography of the panel would certainly have been understood by the contemporary viewer. The stag lying to the left of the banquet table may refer either to Prudence or to sensual desire. The monkey on the other side of the table would have been clearly interpreted as symbolic of lust and vice as well as foolishness. Both warnings attend the reclining young man, whose more noble attributes, books and swords, are lying discarded on the grass. The peacock pie could also be a reference to pride and lechery.
Whether or not such warnings were intended or heeded, Vinckboons' fêtes galantes were to be very influential, and the genre would become particularly popular in Haarlem from around 1615 onwards. Esias van de Velde, Willem Buytewech and Dirck Hals, were, for example, all directly influenced by Vinckboons' examples.
1. K. Goossens, David Vinckboons, Soest 1977, pp. 88–89, note 22.
2. Inv. no. A2109, exhibited, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Dawn of the Golden Age. Northern Netherlandish Art 1580–1620, 1993–94, no. 288.
3. Panel, 73 by 90.8 cm. Sold London, Christie's, 5 July 2007, lot 64, for £250,000.
4. Briels 1987, under Literature, p. 89.