Lot 120
  • 120


40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Maarten van Heemskerck
  • The Virgin and Child
  • bears date on the cartellino, upper left: ao 1532
  • oil on oak panel
  • 94 x 80.8 cm.; 37 x 31 7/8  in.


Probably with Hans Wendland, Paris, in 1937 and sent by him from Berlin to Fischer, Lucerne, in February 1943;
Confiscated from Hans Wendland, Geneva by the Office Suisse de Compensation, service de la liquidation des biens allemands from the le Coultre Warehouse Geneva, c. 1947;
Presumably cleared for return and given back to Wendland by the Office Suisse de Compensation at an unknown date after 1947;
From whom acquired by Heinz Kisters, Kreuzlingen, by 1963;
Anonymous sale, Lucerne, Galerie Fischer, 12–13 June 1970, lot 517, reproduced pl. 33, withdrawn (as Jan van Scorel, on oak panel, 96 x 82 cm.);  
Thence by descent to the present owner. 


Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Sammlung Heinz Kisters, Altdeutsche und Altniederländische Gemälde, 25 June – 15 September 1963, no. 85, reproduced plate 93 (as Jan van Scorel, on oak panel, 96 x 82 cm.).


R. Grosshans, Maerten van Heemskerck, Berlin 1980, pp. 55, 90–91, cat. no. 2, reproduced in black and white, fig. 2 (as Heemskerck).


The panel is cradled, flat and stable, and is formed of three vertical planks, along the joins of which small retouchings are visible from the front. The paint surface is relatively clean and the varnish is clear and even. There is some frame abrasion along the right-hand margin. There are small vertical splits in the lower left corner, the longest of which measures 15 cm., as well as an area of paint loss in the lower right corner and a small split, approx. 5 cm. long, in the upper left corner. Raking light reveals uneven parts of the paint surface where there is restoration to the background upper left and upper right. The darker areas of the Virgin's blue cloak also appear to have been restored. Inspection under ultraviolet light confirms the aforementioned retouchings and reveals a further vertical line of retouching through the Christ Child, measuring 24 cm., as well as a small fine line in his forehead. Further small spots and fine lines are scattered in the flesh tones of both figures, probably to disguise some areas of wear.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This Virgin and Child is among the earliest known works by Heemskerck, painted before or during his period of collaboration with Jan van Scorel (1495–1562), who lived in Haarlem between 1527 and 1530, and prior to his departure for Italy in 1532. In 1963 the painting was exhibited in Nuremberg as a work by Scorel and retained its misattribution until Rainald Grosshans recognised it as an early work by Heemskerck and published it as such in his monograph of 1980. According to Grosshans, in 1969 the not-quite-nonagenarian art dealer Hans Wendland confessed to the then-owner of the Virgin and Child that he had split it from a double-sided panel that originally bore a Man of Sorrows on the other side and sold both to him separately as the work of two different hands. The latter was sold at Sotheby's in 2017.1 The story is probably apocryphal, however, and it is unlikely that such a division took place, not least because of the lack of evidence that the two paintings once shared the same support. Moreover, the works differ considerably in style – one most likely painted before, and the other after, the artist's trip to Italy (1532–36). Wendland probably confused the pictures with another pair of the same subject.2 In Prof. Dr Ilya Veldman’s opinion, the Virgin and Child predates Heemskerck’s Italian trip and so is datable to 1532 or before. The date on the cartellino is probably a later addition, perhaps strengthening numerals originally inscribed on the work. Veldman considers the Man of Sorrows to have been painted a few years later, dating it to around 1538 (and not to the second half of the 1520s, as Grosshans argued).3 We are grateful to Prof. Dr Veldman for her comments. 

In this painting the Virgin’s solemn gaze, directed towards the grapes, alludes to Christ’s future sacrifice, while the unadorned setting heightens the figures’ physical presence, brought into sharp focus by details such as the vine’s tendrils that echo the Christ Child’s blond curls, the pleats of the Virgin’s chemise and the ribbons in her hair. Heemskerck’s unconventional treatment of the subject derives its meaning from the inventive still-life element of the bunch of grapes in the Virgin’s outstretched hand. The grapes, symbol of the eucharistic wine – the blood of Christ – are the counterpart to the body of Christ, boldly expressed in the Child’s muscular figure. 

Heemskerck’s imaginative variations on the subject of the Virgin and Child are a recurring theme in his work. Before leaving for Italy, the artist presented the Guild of Saint Luke with his now celebrated work Saint Luke painting the Virgin, completed on 23 May 1532, and housed today at the Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem (fig. 1).4 In that large picture Saint Luke is at work on an image that is a variation on the Virgin and Child under discussion, a painting that bears a marked resemblance in format and facial types to the Haarlem panel. Close comparisons may also be made with two other paintings by Heemskerck of Marian subjects. The first, with figures similarly posed but placed in a landscape setting, is The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, dated by Grosshans to about 1529–30, in which the graceful oval of the Virgin’s face, the arrangement of her braided hair and the muscular anatomy of the ruddy-cheeked Christ Child offer close analogies with this painting (Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC).5 The other comparable work is Virgin and Child in a landscape, dated 1530, last recorded in the Clavel collection in Basel.6 This arresting painting displays qualities common to all three.  

1 Oil on canvas, 91 x 77.3 cm.; Sotheby's, London, 6 December 2017, lot 33; see I.M. Veldman, Maarten van Heemskerck and Dutch humanism in the sixteenth century, Maarssen 1977, pp. 26–27, fig. 7; and Grosshans 1980, no. 1, fig. 1.
2 Recorded on a list of Wendland's works, 'Aufstellung der als Raubgut verdächtigen Vermoegenswerte von Dr. Wendland’. 
3 In the opinion of Prof. Dr. Veldman, the existing date on the Man of Sorrows (MDXXV) is unreliable because the inscription has undergone restoration, the lines of text are incomplete, and numerals are probably missing. The signature form supports this: the artist only signed his name ‘Heemskeric’ for a short period in about 1538. 
4 Oil on oak panel, 168 x 235 cm.; Grosshans 1980, pp. 109–10, no. 18, plate II, fig. 19.
5 Acc. no. 1961.9.36; oil on panel, 57.7 x 74.7 cm. Grosshans 1980, pp. 96–97, no. 8, fig. 8.
6 Oil on panel, 90 x 70 cm. Grosshans 1980, pp. 97–98, no. 9, fig. 9.