Lot 5
  • 5

Attributed to Adriaen Thomasz. Key

40,000 - 60,000 USD
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  • Adriaen Thomasz. Key
  • The Virgin and Child
  • Black, red and white chalk with touches of blue-gray bodycolor, within partial black chalk and brown ink framing lines;
    bears numberings and inscriptions, versoNo(red chalk, top left), No 31 (black chalk, centre), Permens (brown ink, centre), Permitiano (black chalk, centre) and N229 (black chalk, lower left)


Jan Pietersz. Zoomer (1641-1724; L.1511);
Abraham Bredius (1855-1946)


Overall condition generally good, strong and fresh. Sheet is fixed to old backing/album sheet down left edge. The backing sheet (possibly 18th century) has numerous inscriptions in Dutch, mainly biographical information on Parmigianino. Lower left corner made up, and also a small tab at lower edge, towards right. Strip of paper, c 5.5 cm wide, fixed to back of sheet along bottom edge, and squares of the same paper attached to the reverse at centre right edge and top right corner. Some light creases, especially lower centre. Chalk a little rubbed, notably towards lower left, but otherwise good and fresh. One small brown spot, lower centre.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This large, impressive drawing may well have been made as a full-size modello for a small painting.  Despite the traditional attribution to Parmigianino, it must be by a northern artist.  Indeed, the facial types, forms of hands and other details are strongly reminiscent of certain paintings by Adriaen Thomasz. Key, notably the fine panel of The Holy Family, in the John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia.1

There are, however, no drawings that can be certainly attributed to Key; in fact, Koenraad Jonckheere included only one drawing in his catalogue raisonné of Key's works, a rather less ambitious and accomplished drawn copy, now in Antwerp, after an altarpiece by Michiel Coxcie.2  The attribution to Key of this splendid sheet must therefore remain tentative, but if it is indeed by him, it is clearly a cornerstone in his surviving oeuvre. In common with many of Key's accepted paintings, this drawing looks to a variety of sources of inspiration, in both Italy and the north.  Like Coxcie, Key seems to have taken a strong interest in the works of Raphael, but has overlain any stylistic influence from the Italian master with other elements derived from his own northern contemporaries, such as his master Willem Key, and Frans Floris.

Jan Pietersz. Zoomer, whose mark is found in the lower right corner of the drawing, was the leading art dealer in Holland in the later years of the 17th century and the first quarter of the 18th.  Many magnificent drawings and paintings passed through his hands, and the catalogue of the prints and drawings in his possession at the time of his death comprised 139 volumes of drawings (including seven devoted to Rembrandt, each containing around 60 drawings), 100 portfolios of loose prints, 149 books and bound volumes of prints and 14 portfolios of historical prints, as well as numerous autographs and books on art.3  This prodigious collection was destined for auction, but was instead sold en bloc to the London dealer Samuel Woodburn, who subsequently dispersed it.  

Much later, this splendid drawing belonged to another illustrious Dutch owner, the great Rembrandt scholar Abraham Bredius (1855-1946).

1. Inv. no. 430; K. Jonckheere, Adriaen Thomasz. Key (c.1545-c.1589). Portrait of a Calvinist Painter, Turnhout 2007, pp. 124-5, no. A104, reproduced p. 238 

2. Antwerp, Stedelijk Prentenkabinet, inv. no. A.II.5.inv.8; Ibid., p. 135, no. A124, reproduced p. 322

3. http://www.marquesdecollections.fr/detail.cfm/marque/7842/total/1