GERARD TER BORCH THE ELDER
Zwolle 1582/3 - 1662
THE MARRIAGE OF THE VIRGIN
signed and dated center right on the clerk's paper: Anno 161(3-5?) XII-3/ gerbert ter borch
oil on canvas
48½ by 67⅞ in.; 123 by 172.5 cm.
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 2 February 1907, lot 74 (as Dutch School), to Mayor.
While we know quite a lot about Gerard Ter Borch the Elder's life, and well over a hundred of his drawings survive (plus three etchings), very little is known about his activities as a painter, making this work a great rarity. In fact, this is one of only two paintings known by Ter Borch the Elder, and the earliest. The other work is a Sacrifice of Isaac dated 1618, formerly housed in the Stedelijk Museum Zwolle. Although several of his children were artists, most famously Gerard Ter Borch the Younger, Ter Borch the Elder instead succeeded his own father as as Licensemaster of Zwolle by 1628, a post he held for over forty years. He was assured a sufficiently good income from this post, and he seems to have abandoned his own artistic career.
This painting is evidently quite closely based on a drawing by Ter Borch the Elder of the same subject, signed and dated 1612, from the Ter Borch studio estate, now in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam (fig. 1). When Alison McNeil Kettering published Drawings from the Ter Borch Studio Estate in 1988, she was not sure if the drawing was made at the end of Ter Borch's seven year sojourn in Italy or after the his return to Zwolle in 1611, but speculated that it and two others in similar style, dated 1612 and 1613, may have been the first three surviving sheets that he drew in Zwolle. While the date on the present painting has been read as 1613 or 1615, it is much more likely to be 1613, given the drawing's date of 1612.