W. Ellens, De Steeg, 1966–1976;
Anonymous sale, Amsterdam, Christie’s, 2–3 December 1981, lot 69 (as E. de Witte, oil on panel, 46 x 35 cm., not illustrated);
Private collection, Washington, D.C;
Whence sold, New York, Sotheby's, 17 January 1985, lot 93, for $50,000, where acquired by Baron van Dedem.
Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Masterpieces of the Golden Age, 24 September – 10 November 1985, no. 60a.
P.C. Sutton, Dutch & Flemish Paintings, The Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, London 2002, pp. 276–79, cat. no. 60, reproduced p. 277;
B.G. Maillet, Intérieurs des églises, Les peintures architecturales des écoles du Nord 1580–1620, Wijnegem 2012, p. 488, cat. no. M-1866, reproduced.
De Witte is rightly acknowledged as one of the greatest architectural painters of the seventeenth century in Holland. His church interiors are famed for being imaginative recreations of reality; where the majesty and silence of these familiar hallowed spaces are distilled into painted canvas or panels. De Witte was not a slave to accurate representation of the architectural specifics of the interiors that he painted, many of his paintings are in fact constructed of a combination of real and entirely imaginary architectural motifs. His focus was on perspective, the expressive use of space, and the rich interplay of light and shade. In these interests, detectable already in his earliest works, De Witte paved the way for the celebrated genre painters Pieter de Hooch and Jan Vermeer; together these painters pioneered the defining qualities of the Delft School.
De Witte left Delft for Amsterdam in the mid-1650s and spent the rest of his life in that city. He was known to have been a highly cultivated but querulous man, and despite the success he experienced within his own life time, was often in debt. Arnold Houbraken, the painter and biographer of Dutch Golden Age painters, reported that De Witte drowned in a canal at age 72, having failed to hang himself from one of the bridges; the canals were mostly frozen and his body was only recovered eleven weeks later. The open grave in the foreground of this little panel assumes a particular poignancy in the year of the artist’s own death.
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