Property from the SØR Rusche Collection
Delft 1596 - 1674
KING HEROD ASKING THE SCRIBES WHERE JESUS WILL BE BORN
indistinctly signed lower left, on the base of the throne: L. Br[...]m[...]
oil on oak panel, with an unidentified collector's red wax seal on the reverse
unframed: 45 x 71 cm.; 17¾ x 28 in.
framed: 59.5 x 86 cm.; 23½ x 33¾ in.
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The panel is uncradled, flat and stable. The paint surface is clean, and the varnish is clear. Much of the impasto paint surface remains intact. Inspection under ultraviolet light reveals an uneven varnish underneath which retouching is visible along all four margins, probably due to frame abrasion, and very fine spot retouchings throughout the background. Some more recent retouchings are found in the curtain, centre left, in the background to the right of Herod, and scattered in the figures. These are all horizontal, along the wood grain. In overall good condition.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.
Baron León Janssen, Uccle, Belgium, by 1923;
His sale, Amsterdam, Frederik Muller, 26 April 1927, lot 7;
Dr. Cornelis Johannes Karel Van Aalst (1866–1939), Huis-te-Hoevelaken, Holland;
Thence by descent to his son, Dr. N.J. van Aalst;
His sale, London, Christie's, 1 April 1960, lot 12, for 200 Guineas to Engell;
With Dr. J. Schlichte Bergen, Amsterdam;
From whom acquired in 1986.
Delft, Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Leonaert Bramer 1596–1674, Ingenious Painter and Draughtsman in Rome and Delft, 9 September – 13 November 1994, no. 43;
Rotterdam, Kunsthal, Jezus in de Gouden Eeuw, 9 September 2000 – 7 January 2001, unnumbered;
Rotterdam, Kunsthal, At Home in the Golden Age, 9 February – 18 May 2008, no. 116.
The SØR Rusche Collection has been exhibited extensively over the last two decades. Please click here for further information.
W. Martin, Catalogue Collection Baron L. Janssen, Brussels 1923, cat. no. 7, reproduced;
H. Wichmann, Leonaert Bramer. Sein Leben und seine Kunst, Leipzig 1923, pp. 34 and 116–17, cat. no. 95, reproduced pl. XI;
J.W. von Moltke, Dutch and Flemish Old Masters in the Collection of Dr. C.J.K. van Aalst, Verona 1939, p. 82, reproduced fig. XIX;
J. ten Brink Goldsmith (ed.), Leonaert Bramer 1596–1674, Ingenious Painter and Draughtsman in Rome and Delft, exh. cat., Delft 1994, p. 162, cat. no. 43, reproduced;
A. Blankert et al., Jezus in de Gouden Eeuw, exh. cat., Zwolle and Rotterdam 2000, p. 68, reproduced in colour;
W. Pijbes, M. Aarts, M. J. Bok et al., At Home in the Golden Age, exh. cat., Zwolle 2008, p. 113, cat. no. 116, reproduced in colour;
H.-J. Raupp (ed.), Niederländische Malerei des. 17. Jahrhunderts der SØR Rusche-Sammlung, vol. 4, Historien und Allegorien, Münster/Hamburg/London 2010, pp. 70–73, cat. no. 5, reproduced in colour.
Leonaert Bramer was born in Delft and began travelling through Europe aged 18. He journeyed to France and down through Italy to reach Rome in 1619, where he lived until 1625. While there, Bramer was greatly influenced by the Caraveggesque painters and particularly Adam Elsheimer, a German artist also working in Rome. Bramer was inspired by Elsheimer’s night scenes and specialised in these himself, earning him the nickname ‘Leonardo delle Notti’.
This predilection for dark settings illuminated dramatically with candlelight is exemplified in the present work, where chiaroscuro adds significantly to the drama of the scene. The diminutive figures in cavernous surroundings are also typical of Bramer’s œuvre.
Bramer favoured mythological, historical and biblical subjects, as in the present painting, which has been interpreted both as a depiction of King Herod asking the Scribes where Jesus will be born (Mathew 2:3-5) and Saphan reading the book of Law aloud to Josiah (2 Kings 22:8-10), a scene that Bramer painted several times.
Dr. Cornelis Johannes Karel Van Aalst (see Provenance) was a banker and president-director of Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij NV. He owned a considerable and important collection of Dutch paintings, many of which were sold in 1960 (see Provenance), including Rembrandt's Juno, today in the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.1