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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem
THE DEPRAVITY OF MANKIND BEFORE THE FLOOD
JUMP TO LOT
15

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem
THE DEPRAVITY OF MANKIND BEFORE THE FLOOD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Masters Evening Sale

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London

Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem
HAARLEM 1562 - 1638
THE DEPRAVITY OF MANKIND BEFORE THE FLOOD

Provenance

Anonymous sale, Paris, Hotel Drouot, Libert & Castor, 26 June 1989, lot 49 (as attributed to Cornelis van Haarlem), where acquired by Adolphe Stein;

Thence by descent to the present owner.

Literature

P.J.J. van Thiel, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, Ghent 1999, p. 320, cat. no. 72, reproduced pl. 135.

Catalogue Note

This sun-dappled clearing, strewn with reclining nude men and women who drink and sing and pursue their amorous ends is Cornelis van Haarlem's setting for the depiction of the final moments of mankind before the great biblical deluge as told in Genesis; the Flood sent by God to cleanse the Earth of corruption and violence and return it to its pre-creation state. The impending Flood it alluded to by the glimpse we are given of Noah's completed ark in the distance, surveyed by ghostly figures silhouetted at the edge of the forest. Far from being a scene filled with ominous prophecy, however, Van Haarlem's representation of mankind's depravity is one of music, feasting and love-making – rendered in his usual pastel palette of peach flesh tones, pinks, sky blues, and verdant shades of green.

This scene was clearly one of which Van Haarlem was fond. Pieter van Thiel lists no less than eleven treatments of the scene by the master himself, and the multiple copies also known indicate the popularity of the scene among Van Haarlem's clientele. Van Thiel dates the present painting to 1597, and notes compositional similarities to Van Haarlem's two paintings both depicting The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the earlier dated 1592/93 and the second also dated to 1597.1 The earlier of these two is the canvas in the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, in which we see the nucleus of many of the ideas and motifs visible in the present painting: the group of women leaning into each other while singing, their profiles overlapping; the man sitting astride a rock, one arm raising a goblet of wine, the other draped over the shoulder of a nearly-nude woman at his side; and the distinctive powerful nude figure of Vulcan with his back to us, in the centre of the gathering, his left leg curled underneath him, his right knee at a right angle, his arms holding up a terracotta jar from which he drinks. This figure in turn is likely to be a derivation of a figure drinking from a conch shell in a lost canvas by Van Haarlem, his Golden Age of circa 1592, now known only through a copy by Abraham van der Houve.2

A copy after this composition painted on copper and of similar dimensions (24 x 27.5 cm.) is in the Mauritshuis and bears an indistinct signature 'M' or 'CH'.3 The Mauritshuis version was considered autograph until 1972, when Wolfgang Stechow published it as coming from the circle of Van Haarlem.4 Van Thiel later confirmed in writing to Adolph Stein that he too believed the Mauritshuis version to be a copy after the present work.  


1 Van Theil 1999, p. 355–57, cat. no. 159, reproduced fig. 87, and p. 353, cat. no. 155, reproduced fig. 134.

2 Now in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick; See Van Theil 1999, p. 411, cat. no. 302, reproduced fig. 86. 

3 Mauritshuis: The Royal cabinet of paintings illustrated general catalogue, The Hague 1977, p. 65, cat. no. 918.

4 W. Stechow, 'Usus laetitiaeque Modis', in Art Quarterly, 1972, vol. XXXV, p. 170, cat. no. 2, reproduced pl. 7.

Old Masters Evening Sale

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London