Probably Sir Francis Cook, 1st Bt., Visconde de Monserrate (1817-1901);
Sir Frederick Cook (1844-1920), Doughty House, Richmond, by 1913;
By descent to Sir Herbert Cook (1868-1939);
By descent to Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook (1907-1978), by whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 25 June 1958, lot 96, for £200 to C. Duits;
With Matthiesen, London, from whom purchased by the late owner in April 1963.
Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond. Belonging to Sir Frederick Cook, Bart. Visconde de Monserrate, editions 1903, 1907 & 1914, no. 54, (as in The Long Gallery);
J.O. Kronig, A Catalogue of the Paintings at Doughty House, Richmond, and elsewhere in the Collection of Sir Frederick Cook, edited by Herbert Cook, London 1914, vol. II, cat. no. 272, p. 49 (as hanging in the Long Gallery);
U. Thieme and F. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler..., vol. XXI, Leipzig 1927, p. 38;
M.W. Brockwell ed., Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook, bart., London 1932, cat. no. 272, p. 36 (as hanging on the Return Wall of the Long Gallery);
W. Stechow, "Nicolas Knüpfer's Venus at Richmond, Wanderings of a Motif", in Art in America, vol. 28, 1940, pp. 162-68;
J.I. Kuznetzov, "Nicolaus Knüpfer (Biographie, themes et sources de la création artistique, catalogue des oeuvres)", in Trudy Gosudarstvennogo Eritaza/ Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Ermitage, vol. 8, 1964, cat. no. 87, reproduced fig. 7;
R. Klessmann, in Deutsche Maler und Zeichner des 17. Jahrhunderts, exhibition catalogue, Berlin 1966, p. 44, under cat. no. 35;
J.I. Kuznetzov, "Nicolaus Knüpfer (1603?- 1655)", in Oud Holland, vol. 88, no. 3, 1974, p. 193, cat. no. 87, reproduced fig. 9;
J. Saxton, Nicolaus Knüpfer. An Original Artist, Doornspijk 2005, pp. 140-41, cat. no. 46, reproduced fig. 46.
Anonymous, 32 by 29.5 cm. and inscribed "Casta placent, ludud desidiose vale"; reproduced in J. Saxton, under Literature, fig. 46a;
By Jan van der Bruggen; reproduced in Saxton, op. cit., fig. 46c.
This sensual cabinet picture is one of the most intimate works produced by Nicolaes Knüpfer, an artist more usually associated with larger, multi-figured subjects from classical or biblical history. Knüpfer was one of the most original of Northern European painters of the 17th century, a fact which is probably due to the profusion of artists that influenced him, such as Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610), whose work he would have known in Utrecht through the engravings of Hendrick Goudt (1583-1648), and the group of painters known as the Pre-Rembrandtists, whose choice of little-known Old Testament subject matter clearly appealed to him. Stylistically the work of the so-called Dutch Mannerists had a profound effect on him, and of these his teacher Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) made the greatest impression. The inspiration behind the figure of Venus in this work may well lie in Bloemaert's depiction of Danaë or Psyche,1 or ultimately, as Jo Saxton has pointed out, in a portrayal of Venus by Parmigianino similar to a copy made by Lambert Sustris which is now in the Louvre.2
There is another signed panel by Knüpfer of this subject with which the present work may be closely compared, depicting Venus asleep with Cupid peering in from behind the curtain, with similar, meticulously rendered still life elements strewn across the carpeted foreground (fig. 1). As Rudiger Klessmann points out the figure of Venus in this latter is also surely borrowed from Bloemaert's Danaë.3 In both works Venus lies with her head towards the left end of a richly draped bed, her slippers on the carpet before her, and a doorway leading out of the room in the right background.
According to Herbert Cook (under Literature) there is a copy of this work in the Yousoupov collection in St Petersburg.
A note on the Provenance: This painting was once part of the famed Cook collection at Doughty House, Richmond, one of the greatest collections in England at the turn of the century. It is recorded at Doughty House in the first catalogue of the whole collection published in 1913 by Herbert Cook, son of Sir Frederick Cook, the incumbent baronet. The painting was almost certainly acquired, as with the vast majority of the collection at that date, by Frederick's father, Sir Francis Cook, who himself only began collecting pictures after 1868 when he purchased about twenty Old Masters from the collection of John Charles Robinson. Frederick only acquired one painting in his lifetime, not this one, and the picture is not one of the twenty acquired by Sir Francis from Robinson, with whom he had become acquainted in 1865 and who was to become his principal advisor; the painting must therefore have been acquired by Sir Francis between 1868 and 1901, there being no paintings in the Cook collection prior to that date.
We are grateful to John Somerville for his help in cataloguing this picture.
1. See M. Roethlisberger, Abraham Bloemaert and his Sons, vol. I, Doornspijk 1993, pp. 145-6 & 148-9, cat. nos. 102 & 106, reproduced vol. II, figs. 177 & 183.
2. See R.A. Peltzer, Lambert Sustris von Amsterdam, Vienna/Leipzig 1913, reproduced p. 31, fig. 2.
3. Klessman, under literature, p. 44.
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