Possibly Henrik Nordmark (1895–1975), Djursholm, Sweden (?his collector's wax seal on the reverse);
With Speelman, London, 1972–73;
With Rob Noortman, London and Maastricht;
From whom acquired by Baron van Dedem on 8 September 1978 (according to Van Dedem's black book acquired from Noortman and P & D Colnaghi in joint ownership).
A.W. Wied, Lucas van Valckenborch (1534–1612). Das Gesamtwerk mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Freren 1999, pp. 44–45, 49, 170–71, cat. no. 70, reproduced;
P.C. Sutton, Dutch & Flemish Paintings, The Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, London 2002, pp. 248–49, no. 53, reproduced.
As Alexander Wied has observed, this panel is the primary version (‘Vorbild’) of a small group of five late landscape paintings which depict the same prospect, each with slight variations in the topography in their views. It is also the smallest as well as the earliest of the group. The four others are a Return from the Kermesse painted in the same year and now in a private collection,1 the signed Landscape with figures at a mineral spring (fig. 1) painted in 1596 and today in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig,2 the celebrated but undated Landscape with the Emperor Rudolph II taking the waters (fig. 2) in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna,3 and an unsigned Landscape with a watermill last recorded with P. de Boer in Amsterdam in 1938.4 In 1960 Heinz Friedrichs identified the view of the second of these as Bad Schwalbach im Aartal, with the view in both this and the Vienna version looking northwards up the valley of the river Aar towards Rotfeld, with the Adolfseck mountain in the distance.5 The site, now in Hesse but then part of the Duchy of Nassau, lies north-west of Mainz between the Rhine to the west and Frankfurt to the East, and originally contained no fewer than twenty springs. They came to public (and imperial) attention after being praised for their health-giving iron and mineral content by Dr Jacob Theodor Tabornaemontanus in his Neuw Wasserschatz of 1581. Friederichs suggested that the particular spring depicted in the Vienna and Braunschweig paintings was the Borner Brunnen, a spa still visited today. The distinctive group of oak trees seen here are present in all the versions, but the river valley landscape varies slightly from painting to painting. In the present panel, for example, the road and the rocky bluffs found on the far side of the river are omitted. In the foreground we see only a stream running under a stone bridge, with travellers carrying laden baskets upon their backs above and below. No courtly figures stroll beneath the trees, only two distant shepherds with their flock.
The proximity of Bad Schwalbach to Frankfurt would suggest that the composition evolved following Valckenborch’s move to the latter city in 1592/3, where his brother Marten had been living since 1586. By this date, Lucas had been working for the Emperor’s brother, the Archduke Matthias in Brussels for just under a decade. Valckenborch made trips with his patron to Linz, Vienna and Prague, and it may that the idea for the court-related variations on this topography grew out of such journeys. It is rather more fanciful to suppose, as Friedrichs does, that the Vienna panel was painted in gratitude to Herzog Julius of Braunschweig for allowing Valckenborch to take a health-cure at the springs. As Sutton observes, the variations in all of the related landscapes suggests that all the pictures in the group are imaginary rather than topographically accurate. Nevertheless the many similarities between this cabinet picture and the charming and slightly earlier Prospect of the city of Linz with a self-portrait of the artist that Valckenborch had made in 1593, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt,6 suggests Valckenborch was more than capable of incorporating such detail on this tiny scale.
1 Panel, 39 x 54 cm. Wied 1990 p. 179, no. 85.
2 Panel, 26.5 x 34.7 cm. Wied 1990, p. 180, no. 86.
3 Panel, 24.5 x 40 cm. Wied 1990, p. 170, no. 69, reproduced colour plate 19.
4 Panel, 25.5 x 37.5 cm. Wied 1990, p. 179, no. 84.
5 See H.F.F. Friedrichs, ‘Die ältesten Darstellungen des Aartales. Letzte Gemälde des Lucas van Valckenborch (1595)’, in Heimate-Jahrbuch des Untertaunuskreises Bad Schwalbach, 1960, pp. 96–100. See also H.F.F. Friedrichs, ‘Lucas van Valckenborch: Rudolph II. Bei einere Trinkur’, in Sonderdruck aus Neue Zeitschrift für ärtliche Fortbildung, vol. 49, no. 9, September 1960.
6 Wied 1990, p. 165, no. 63.
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