THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
His deceased sale, Ghent, 17 March 1941, lot 108 (illustrated in the catalogue, plate VI), for 55,000 Belgian Francs;
Anonymous sale (`The Property of a Gentleman'), London, Christie's, 13 December 1985, lot 96, for £80,000;
With Heide Hübner, Würzburg;
From whom acquired by the late husband of the present owner by 1993.
K. Michiels, Een bijdrage tot de studie van de schilderijen van Gillis Mostaert (1528–1598), doctoral diss., Brussels 1997–98, no. 60;
E. Mai in E. Mai (ed.), Das Kabinett des Sammlers, Cologne 1993, pp. 52–54, no. 21, reproduced;
K. Michiels in E. Mai (ed.), Gillis Mostaert (1528–1598). Ein Antwerpener Maler zur Zeit der Bruegel-Dynastie, exh. cat., Wolfrathausen 2005, pp. 55, 144, cat. no. 60, reproduced fig. 8.
Mostaert was best known for his landscapes, of which this is an excellent example, and especially for his kermesses or village fairs. Van Mander singled out for praise his landscapes with small figures. Gillis ran a large and successful workshop in Antwerp and frequently collaborated with many of the city's leading painters such as Hendrick van Steenwijck the Elder, and, as has been suggested in the present work, Jacob Grimmer (1525–c. 1590). That these collaborations are more usually only signed by Mostaert indicates the relative status accorded to figure painters and landscapists. Although Reine de Bertier de Sauvigny did not list this painting among the many paintings that she suggested were collaborative works between between Gillis Mostaert and Jacob Grimmer in her 1991 catalogue raisonné of Jacob and Abel Grimmer,1 Kristof Michiels proposed that this work be seen as a cornerstone of such collaborations.2 It is in any case clear that the staffage and the landscape/townscape seem to be by two hands. Moreover the construction of the landscape, based on a long curve from left foreground to right of centre in the middle-ground to the left distance is exactly the compositional type that Jacob Grimmer used in other collaborative works, such as lot 119 in the present Day sale, and a landscape of circa 1570 in Munich.3 Comparable depictions of towns by Grimmer occur in collaborative works depicting Kermesses signed by Gillis Mostaert and dated 1579 and 1583, both in Prague.4
Early inventories show that Mostaert's work was much prized by contemporary collectors, among them François Perrenot de Granvelle (1559–1607) and the Archduke Ernest of Austria (1553–1595). The great Antwerp collector Philllip van Valckenisse (1554–1614) possessed over a hundred of his paintings after his death, probably the contents of most of his studio.
The man facing us in the foreground, swankily dressed in pink pantaloons and a green cloak cast over his shoulder, may well be a self-portrait of Mostaert, as Ekkehard Mai suggested.5 His physiognomy, with a high forehead crowned with a topknot of curly hair and slightly recessed eyes and obtrusive chin, does indeed resemble Hendrik Hondius' posthumous (1649) engraved portrait of him.6
1 R. de Bertigny de Sauvigny, Jacob et Abel Grimmer, Brussels 1991.
2 Michiels 2005, p. 55.
3 Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv. no. 12.501.; see Michiels 2005, p. 57, (and n. 76), reproduced fig. 9.
4 See Bertier de Sauvigny 1991, pp. 64, 68, nos XXIII, XXVI, reproduced pp. 67, 69, figs 12, 15.
5 Mai 1993, p. 54.
6 Mai 1993, p. 54, reproduced.
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