Lot 2805
  • 2805

Abraham Bloemaert

400,000 - 500,000 HKD
437,500 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Abraham Bloemaert
  • A double-sided study sheet:
    Recto: Studies of the Heads of an Old Man and a Young Boy
    Verso: Study of Drapery
  • paper
  • 162 by 161 mm (6 3/8 by 6 3/8 in)
red chalk, heightened with touches of white, on buff paper;
traces of framing lines in brown ink;
numbered in brown ink, 59, upper right, and 61 verso


Probably André Giroux, Paris.
Probably the posthumous vente Giroux, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 18th-19th April 1904, as part of lot 175 (‘Etudes de personnages, de paysages et d’animaux. Cent trente-six dessins, la plupart exécutés à la sanguine, un certain nombre avec d’autres croquis au verso’.
Adolphe(?) Verdé-Delisle.
Thence by descent in the Verdé-Delisle family until sale, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Claude Aguttes, 27th March 2012, lot 17.

Catalogue Note

This dynamic study sheet is a characteristic work by Abraham Bloemaert, one of the most distinctive and influential draughtsmen working in the Netherlands in the late 16th and the first half of the 17th century, whose artistic personality and technical brilliance formed more than one generation of outstanding Dutch draughtsmen.   Bloemaert was a gifted and prolific draughtsman, praised as such by his biographer Karel van Mander, who noted that the artist ‘has a clever way of drawing with a pen, and, by adding small amounts of watercolour, he produces unusual effects’. He produced numerous studies for paintings and engravings - some six hundred prints after his designs are known - as well as several landscape drawings and many sheets of studies of heads, hands and arms. Some of the latter were reproduced as engravings by his son Frederik and published in the 1650s as the Konstryk Tekenboek, a sort of model-book for students. The Tekenboek proved very popular and was reprinted several times, serving to perpetuate Bloemaert’s influence on later generations of artists. (Indeed, the 18th-century French artist François Boucher published a series of etchings after Bloemaert’s figure studies, known as the Livre d’etude d’après les desseins originaux de Blomart, which appeared in Paris in 1735.) The bulk of Bloemaert’s enormous corpus of drawings appear to have been retained by his descendants for over fifty years, and it is not until the first half of the 18th century that they began to be sold and dispersed.

Jaap Bolten has noted that ‘The artistic merit of Bloemaert’s drawings must mainly be sought in his talent for enticing the viewer to partake in the scene, which is usually achieved by the dignified, non-trivial subject matter, the alluring compositions and a handsome execution. The elements of Bloemaert’s disegno are few but convincing…He taught himself by observing nature and by studying the work of other artists. And by his indefatigable efforts he learned how to suggest the human body and mind in motion and movement, how to set the baroque stage for his saints and heroes.1 Sheets of studies such as the present sheet were an integral part of Bloemaert’s working method. While in some cases the different studies on such a sheet were simply exercises, at other times the artist seems to have been working towards a painting, with the drawing intended to prepare different parts of a single multifigural composition.

The head of an elderly man on the recto of the present sheet is closely related to a drawing2 in the so-called Cambridge Album, in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which represents Bloemaert’s studies for the Tekenboek. The model appears to be the same as that used by the artist for three drawings of Saint Luke the Evangelist of 16293, and is also found in the background of a painting of The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist of c.1630, in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig4. The same man also appears in two other drawings from the Cambridge Album and their respective plates from the Tekenboek5.

The study on the verso of this sheet can be compared stylistically with a number of similar studies of drapery by Bloemaert, such as a drawing in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York6 and another in a French private collection7.

This double-sided drawing was almost certainly part of a large group of 136 studies - mostly figure studies, and almost all drawn in red chalk - that were at one time in the collection of the French landscape painter André Giroux (1801-1879), and were dispersed at auction in 1904. Most of these drawings are numbered on the upper right corner of the sheet, which suggests that they may have formed part of an album, perhaps assembled by one of the artist’s sons. Jaap Bolten has suggested that the drawings from this album were not meant as preparatory studies for paintings but as a sort of model-book or sketchbook of motifs to be copied by Bloemaert’s students. 

1 Jaap Bolten, Abraham Bloemaert: The Drawings, Leiden, 2007, vol. I, p. 8.

2 Ibid., p. 393, no.1296, vol. II, p. 410, fig. 1296. The related print in the Tekenboek is illustrated in Marcel G. Roethlisberger, Abraham Bloemaert and His Sons: Paintings and Prints, Doornspijk, 1993, vol. I, p. 397, no. T20, vol. II, fig. T20.

3 Bolten, op.cit., vol. I, p. 103, no. 251, vol. II, p. 127, figs. 251a-c.

4 Roethlisberger, op.cit., vol. I, p. 315, no. 490, vol. II, fig. 672.

5 Bolten, op.cit., vol. I, pp. 382-383, nos. 1237 and 1241, vol. II, p. 402, figs. 1237 and 1241; Roethlisberger, op.cit., vol. I, p. 398, nos. T29 and T35, vol. II, figs. T29 and T35.

6 Bolten, op.cit., vol. I, p. 346, no.1076, vol. II, p. 377, fig. 1076.

7 Bolten, op.cit., vol. I, p. 306, no.923, vol. II, p. 355, fig.923.