JOHANN SPILBERG | PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG GIRL AS A HUNTRESS, WITH TWO HOUNDS IN A LANDSCAPE
150,000 to - 200,000 USD
Johann Peter Weyer (1794-1864), Chief Architect of Cologne, circa 1830-40;
Gottfied Ludolf Camphausen (1803-1890), Cologne, circa 1870;
Arthur Camphausen, Cologne (d. 1921);
His son in law Richard Moritz Ottmar von Poschinger-Camphausen (d.1942), Schloß Neu-Egling bei Murnau, by 1935;
Thence by descent to A. von Poschinger-Camphausen;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 9 March 1983, lot 73 (as Govaert Flinck);
Where acquired by Colnaghi, New York;
From whom acquired by Ira and Nancy Koger (as Govaert Flinck);
By whom offered ('The Property of the Woodcock-Koger Corporation) New York, Sotheby's, 28 January 1999, lot 228 (as Johannes Spilberg);
The Estate of Ira and Nacy Koger and the Woodcock-Koger Corporation;
By whom sold New York, Christie's, 19 April 2007, lot 82 (as Govaert Flinck) for $288,000;
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 28 January 2015, lot 29 (as by Govaert Flinck).
G. Parthey, Deutscher Bildersaal, Berlin 1863/64, vol. I, p. 442, cat. no. 33;
J.W. von Moltke, Govaert Flink, Amsterdam 1965, p. 152, cat. no. 412 (as Govaert Flinck).
Cologne, 1840, no. 164 (exhibition organised by Johann Peter Weyer according to an RKD file note);
Düsseldorf, Kunstpalast, Internationale Kunstausstellung, 1 May - 23 October 1904, no. 302 (as Govaert Flinck)
This elegant canvas is a very fine example of the portraits of children in pastoral dress which enjoyed considerable vogue in the mid-17th century in the Northern Netherlands. Its young sitter is shown in a landscape, and the theme of the hunt is indicated by the tassled spear and the presence of two hounds upon a leash. The elegant and elaborate dress, with its rich crimson velvet, gold brocade, and pearled and feathered headdress is expensive and indicates that she was from the aristocratic class. The painting has always been considered to be of a girl, an interpretation clearly supported by the presence of the jewels, and the obvious connotations of the theme of Diana the huntress might suggest that she too bore that name. Nevertheless the martial theme of the hunt was equally if not more appropriate for portraits of young boys, who would also have been depicted wearing dresses at this period, and the possibility that the sitter may be male should not perhaps be ruled out.
Spilberg, a native of Düsseldorf, was the son of a painter and was sent at an early age to Antwerp to be apprenticed to Rubens himself, but the great master died before his arrival. He then travelled to Amsterdam where, as Houbraken records, he studied under Rembrandt’s pupil Govaert Flinck (1615-1660) for a period of seven years "…making various fine pieces under his master’s guidance including histories and portraits...". Flinck was one of the most celebrated of Rembrandt’s pupils in Amsterdam and a highly successful painter there in his own right. Spilberg remains his only documented pupil, and unsurprisingly his work was greatly influenced by that of his master in terms of both style and subject matter, so much so that much confusion persists in distinguishing between their work. No doubt because of its evident quality, the present portrait, for example, has long been considered to be the work of Flinck himself and was published as such by Von Moltke in his catalogue of the latter’s work in 1965. Recent research, however, has begun to permit Spilberg’s artistic personality to emerge from the shadows cast by his teacher. The present work may be compared with one of a pair of signed oval portraits by Spilberg sold London Sotheby’s, 10 April 2003, lot 38a, which have been dated to the early 1640s, and in which a young woman appears in a similar pastoral costume, and with his Jael of 1644 in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. Spilberg’s most successful and ambitious portrait painting during his stay in Holland was his Militia Company of Burgomaster Jan van der Poll painted in 1650 and today in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Shortly after this he returned to his native Düsseldorf, where he evidently enjoyed considerable success as an independent portrait painter to the local aristocracy. He returned only once more to Amsterdam, and then only briefly, before returning again to Düsseldorf where he died.
We are grateful to Tom van de Molen for endorsing the attribution to Spilberg on the basis of photographs, and for suggesting a date of execution around 1640-45.