Lot 9
  • 9

Hans van Wechlen

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Hans van Wechlen
  • Peasants merrymaking at a village kermesse
  • signed lower left: HANS VAN WECHLEN
  • oil on panel


Possibly the picture of a Boere Dans, in Olyverf, door Hans van Wachlen (A peasant dance, in oil paint, by Hans von Wechlen) sold Amsterdam, van der Schley, 18 October 1773, Kunstboek E, no. 100;

There probably acquired by Kraft Ernst, Graf Oettingen-Wallerstein (1748–1802), later Reichsfürst zu Oettingen-Oettingen und Oettingen-Wallerstein, Hohenhaltheim, and so probably the picture by 'die Mahlerey Hans von Mecheln' for whose frame payment is recorded in the Court Accounts for 1776;

Acquired by the father of the present owner from the above in 1971;

Thence by inheritance.


Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum; Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten; and Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, De Bruegel à Rubens. L'école de peinture anversoise 1550–1650, 4 September 1992 – 20 June 1993, no. 79.


C. Sterling, 'Cornelis van Dalem and Jan van Wechlen', in Studies in the History of Art dedicated to William E. Suida, 1959, pp. 277–88;

E. Brochhagen, 'Zu Hans van Wechlin und Cornelis van Dalem', in Munchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, vol. XIV, 1963, pp. 92–104, reproduced fig. 1;

H.G. Franz, Niederlandische Landschaftsmalerei in Zeitalter des Manierismus, Graz 1969, vol. I, p. 229, and vol. II, reproduced fig. 400;

A. Wied, in De Bruegel à Rubens. L'école de peinture anversoise 1550–1650, exh. cat., Cologne, Antwerp and Vienna, 1992, p. 182.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Hans van Wechlen. Peasants Merrymaking at a Village Kermesse. Signed at lower left. This painting is on a fairly fine panel from a single piece of oak, never thinned or cradled, with some broad later bevelling down the sides. A strip of canvas was added perhaps a century or so ago to support slight cracks in the upper sky. A few other brief cracks can be seen at the upper left edge, with one little patch of old worm damage where a sliver of wood has been inserted into the tiny worm eaten edge. However the panel has remained remarkably flat overall nevertheless. A narrow recent strip of wood has been added along the base. The calm historical background of the painting is reflected to a great extent in its unworn condition. However there have clearly been moments in the fairly distant past when flaking paint was overlooked. A quite wide loss can be seen in the top left corner of the sky, with scattered rather smaller lost flakes visible under ultra violet light across the central area of dancing peasants. This was secured and restored a century ago at least, with a few minor slightly more recent adjustments visible under UV, including small touches along the old cracks in the sky and around those at the upper left edge, with a few other retouches for instance in the roof on the right, and in the lowest line of clouds nearby where the fine overall craquelure is slightly muffled. The panel has remained secure and the old retouching remains largely unaltered. Any past flaking was fairly restricted, and elsewhere throughout the beautifully unworn paint is in exceptionally good condition. The distant landscape with the various cottages is especially fine as are the magnificent great cauldrons burning in the left foreground and in particular the figures seated with their backs in the immediate foreground, each detail delicately described. The back of the seated woman in red in the middle seems to have been slightly cleaned recently. 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

Although as yet little known today, Hans van Wechlen was a contemporary of Pieter Breugel the Elder and ranks among the earliest painters of genre scenes in the Netherlands. He was born around 1537, and is first mentioned in 1557 as Jan van Wechelen, Master of the apprentice hand de Boeys in the Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp. Hans van Wechlen seems to have worked primarily, if not entirely, in Antwerp. He collaborated with Cornelis van Dalem (1530–1573), contributing figures to his landscape paintings. Although few of his works survive today, with only half a dozen or so other signed works being recorded, he was greatly esteemed in the seventeenth century, and his pictures were to be found in Antwerp’s most prestigious collections. Cornelis van der Geest as well as Rubens each acquired one of the master’s paintings, while Pieter Stevens (an avid collector of Breugel) owned no less than ten. To judge from the entries in these early inventories, Van Wechelen also turned his hand to religious scenes, with a single portrait and allegorical piece also recorded.

This is one of three versions of this composition, and by common consent, the finest in quality and most likely prototype for the design. Another version on panel, signed with initials and of similar dimensions (38 x 52.6 cm.), was sold in these rooms, 1 April 1992, lot 57, and was later with Johnny van Haeften, London. This is broadly similar to the present panel, but includes the detail of two standing figures wearing black beside the cauldrons on the left of the picture. The third version, formerly in an English private collection was also signed HANS VAN WECHLIN but on canvas and larger (49.3 x 63.7 cm); this was sold in these rooms, 5 December 2007, lot 19. This differed from the present painting in the extension of the composition on both the left and right hand sides, and in numerous smaller details, notably the addition of a third tree in the left background. When it was published in 1963 Brochhagen suggested that the painting might be a collaborative work between Hans van Wechelen and the landscape painter Cornelis van Dalem (circa 1530–1573), who are thought to have worked together, but the signature and pictorial unity of the picture suggests that it is the work of only one hand.1 Suggesting a date for it is, however, more difficult. The question of whether or not Van Wechlen was directly influenced by the work of his contemporary, the great Pieter Breugel the Elder remains an open one. Some elements in the present work may be paralleled in that of Breugel, notably the poor family with their backs turned to the spectator, are reminiscent of the gypsies in Breugel's Preaching of Saint John the Baptist of 1566 now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest; this might suggest a date in the same decade, and recent dendrochronological analysis of the panel would confirm if not anticipate such as dating.2 But while Van Wechlen's work clearly belongs to the same tradition, his powers of observation and understated verisimilitude, lend this scene a particular charm. The large cauldrons in the left hand corner of the painting make a particular impression. As Alexander Wied has pointed out, the motif of the washing of the plates, seen in the second cauldron, is notable for its rarity.3

It seems probable that this painting was acquired by Prince Ernst Oettingen-Wallerstein in 1773. Although it would be highly unusual for an oil painting to be included in a Kunstboek sale (normally consisting of folios of individual prints and drawings), his court accounts from 1776 show a bill from the court sculptor Thomas Gesele dated March 24 1776 for a frame 'die Breite 2 sch: 3 Zl: die Hohe 1 sch. 10 Zl', for 'die Mahlerey des Hans von Mecheln'. ('width 2 ...and 3 ....: height 1 ... 10 ...for the Painter Hans von Mechelen').4

1. See, for example, the Road to Calvary attributed to both artists sold New York, Sotheby's, 11 January 1996, lot 78. Van Dalem was a gentleman amateur as a painter, but nevertheless ran an organised studio and included Bartholomaus Spranger among his pupils.

2. P. and F. Roberts-Jones, Pierre Bruegel L'Ancien, Paris 1997, pp. 251ff., reproduced fig. 284. Recent dendrochronological examination by Ian Tyers of the oak boards in the present panel suggests a likely felling date from circa 1546 onwards, and a likely usage date thereafter.

3. Wied 1992–93 p. 182.

4. See especially Brochhagen 1963, pp. 103–04, nos 11 and 35.