Lot 120
  • 120

CORNELIS TROOST | Theatre scene: A country courtroom

80,000 - 120,000 USD
100,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Cornelis Troost
  • Theatre scene: A country courtroom
  • Pastel and colored chalks, on vellum;signed in red pastel, lower centre: Troost / fec and inscribed, upper centre: Beslikte Swaantje / voor de puijterveense Regtbank


Possibly Madame E. Warneck, Paris,
her sale, Paris, Hotel Drouot, 10 May 1905, lot 117;
sale, London, 22 February 1924, lot 22 ('An interior, with prisoners being tried, pastel 16 x 21 inches');
with J. Goudstikker, Amsterdam, by 1928;
A.C.W. Baron Bentinck van Schoonheeten;
with Kunsthandel Hellingman Jonker, Amsterdam,
from whom acquired by the present owners in 2000


Munich, Schloss Rohoncz, 1930, no. 326;
Paris, Institut Néerlandais, Choix de la Collection Bentinck : en souvenir de l'ambassadeur des Pays-Bas, 1970, no. 51;
Boston, St. Botolph Club, A Selection of Dutch 18th Century Drawings and Watercolors from the Gordon Collection, 2003, no. 13


J.W. Niemeijer, Cornelis Troost 1696-1750, Assen 1973, p. 241, no. 288 T, reproduced

Catalogue Note

Of the three exceptional, large works by Troost in the collection, all very different in style and mood, this is the one that refers most directly to the artist’s close relationship with the theatre.  Troost was the child of a theatre family, and himself started out as an actor rather than a painter, so it is perhaps no surprise that the great majority of his works relate in one way or another to the theatre of the time.  But whereas in many cases the compositions only allude to theatrical subjects of the day, this drawing is a straightforward illustration of a scene from the popular play, ‘De beslikte swaantje en droge Fobert, of de Boeren Rechtbank,’ (‘Sullied Swaantje and Barren Fobert, or the Peasant Court’) by Abraham Alewyn, first performed in 1715.  The play describes how a pretty village girl (Swaantje), resident of the farming village of Puyterveen (‘Frog moor’), falls pregnant as a result of a love affair with a young gentleman, Squire Jan.  In an effort to cover up the liason, Swaantje accuses a feckless local lad, Fobert, of being the father of the child, and demands that he marry her.  Fobert’s father, a well-to-do peat farmer, will have none of it, so the dispute goes before the local court.  The drawing shows the moment when the useless lawyer Carel makes his case for Fobert and his father, who stand to the left.  To the right, surely not accidentally placed before the bed, we see Swaantje and Squire Jan and in the centre the seedy figure of the lawyer, Jacobus, who is representing her side of the argument.  Any hopes of this being a fair trial are not, though, encouraged by the fact that one of the aldermen judging the case is already fast asleep, his head resting on his folded arms.

Technically, the particular combination of coloured chalks and vellum support that we see here is extremely unusual in Troost’s work, but he was an immensely original artist who experimented with his media at every turn, and there are a number of other work in which he uses the chosen media in unprecedented ways. 

Troost frequently made variants of his most popular compositions, and this is no exception.  A large triptych, in the Amsterdam Museum, depicts more or less the same scene, though with numerous variations of detail.1  The triptych is dated 1727, and is one of the artist’s earliest representations of a theatrical subject.  Around a dozen other depictions of the same scene are known, all somewhat different in composition and details, and four of them are dated, between 1736 and 1744.2  The considerable number of versions that Troost made of this composition are testament to its wide and enduring appeal, and that of popular theatre in general in The Netherlands during the 18th century.

1.  Amsterdam Museum, inv. no. A 27928 1-3; see Niemeijer, op. cit., no. 289 S, and E. Buijsen and J.W. Niemeijer, Cornelis Troost and the Theatre of his Time, plays of the 18th century, exhib. cat., The Hague, Mauritshuis, 1993, pp. 40-41, no. 5
2.  J.W. Niemeijer, op. cit., 1973, nos. 289 T – 300 T