View full screen - View 1 of Lot 125. GERRIT VAN HONTHORST  |  SHEPHERDESS HOLDING PLUMS.




- 80,000 USD

Property from Salomon Lilian Dutch Old Master Paintings, Geneva





- 80,000 USD

Lot sold:



Property from Salomon Lilian Dutch Old Master Paintings, Geneva


Utrecht 1590 - 1656


signed upper right: GHonthorst

oil on canvas

unframed: 30¾ x 25 in.; 78 x 63.5 cm.

framed: 37½ by 32 in.; 95.3 x 81.3 cm.

This picture has been recently cleaned, relined, and restored and should be hung in its current condition. To the naked eye the painting presents very well, with lovely pink coloration in the cheeks and rich coloration throughout. UV light reveals numerous scattered retouches to address small old losses. These are applied throughout the composition, and not to address one single major area of loss. They have been applied expertly, and no further restoration is needed. In a carved wooden frame.

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. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color 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. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

Possibly the work mentioned in the death inventory of Jan Artentsz van Naerden, Amsterdam, 11 December 1637, no. 45 (‘een harderintje van Hontos’);

Walton-on-Trent (Derbyshire), Catton Hall, collection Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, 3rd Baronet (1784-1841), by 1811;

Walton-on-Trent (Derbyshire), Catton Hall, collection Colonel George Henry Anson (d. 1957);

Thence by descent and by whom sold, Wiltshire, Woolley & Wallis, 11 September 2018, lot 219;

There acquired. 

An exhibition of treasures from Midland Homes, exh. cat. Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery 1938, p. 42, cat. no. 149 (‘Paulus Moreelse’);

E.K. Waterhouse, Works of art from Midland houses, exh. cat. Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery 1953, p. 22, cat. no. 89 ( ‘Dutch School’);

E.K. Waterhouse, ‘Some Notes on the Exhibition of ‘Works of Art from Midland Houses’ at Birmingham’, in: The Burlington Magazine 95 (1953), pp. 305-309, p. 306 (‘a Honthorst design’);

J.R. Judson, Gerrit van Honthorst : a discussion of his position in Dutch art, The Hague 1959, pp. 98 (note 3), 216, cat. no. 133;

B. Nicolson, ‘Gerrit van Honthorst : by J.R. Judson’ (review), in: The Burlington Magazine 102 (1960), pp. 80-81, p. 81, note 4 Braun, Gerard und Willem van Honthorst, dissertation Göttingen 1966, pp. 211-212, cat. no. 71 (‘unsigned’);

B. Nicolson, The international Caravaggesque movement : list of pictures by Caravaggio and his followers throughout Europe from 1590 to 1650, Oxford 1979, pp. 61, 225, fig. 144;

M. Kettering, The Dutch Arcadia : pastoral art and its audience in the Golden Age, Montclair 1983, pp. 33, 56-57, 60, fig. 33;

B. Nicolson, L. Vertova, Caravaggism in Europe, 3 vols., Florence 1990, I, p. 127, III, pl. 1299;

P. van den Brink, in: idem., Het gedroomde land : Pastorale schilderkunst in de Gouden Eeuw, exh. cat. Utrecht, Centraal Museum, Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Luxemburg, Musée Nationale d’Histoire et d’Art 1993-1994, pp. 168, 171, n. 13;

R.J. Judson, R.E.O. Ekkart, Gerrit van Honthorst 1592-1656, Doornspijk 1999, p.166, cat. no. 197.

Birmingham 1938 (see Literature), cat. no. 149, as (Paulus Moreelse);

Birmingham, 1953 (see Literature), cat. no. 89 (as Dutch School).

"Honthorst is the most optimistic of all the leading Dutch painters of the Golden Age. His subjects occupy a happy world of fun, not all of it innocent. As this comely young woman’s left nipple peeks out over the top of her bodice, she cradles a brace of fruit dangling from the fingers of her right hand, hinting at carnal pleasures to come. A shepherdess, her mind has clearly strayed from her flock."

George Gordon

The son of the textile and tapestry designer Herman Gerritsz van Honthorst and his wife Maria Wilhelmsdr van der Halm, Gerard van Honthorst grew up in an artistic milieu. While his brother Herman was trained as a sculptor, Gerard himself was apprenticed to Utrecht’s foremost painter Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651). In turn, Gerard taught his younger brother Willem. Around 1610-1615 Honthorst travelled to Rome, where he soon received numerous commissions of prominent art collectors such as the banker Vincenzo Giustiniani and Cardinal Scipione Borghese – both former patrons of Caravaggio (1571-1610). Although Honthorst’s early production leans strongly on the latter’s work and on that of Caravaggio’s most successful interpreter Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582-1622), Honthorst quickly developed his own trademark adaption of it, the Caravaggesque night scene. Honthorst’s masterful chiaroscuro, his understanding and rendering of artificial light and light effects soon brought him huge success, together with his nickname ‘Gherardo delle Notte’, Gerard of the Night. The most prominent among the Utrecht Caravaggists – the other two most important being Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-629) and Dirck van Baburen (1594/95-1624) – Honthorst became a member of the Guild of St Luke in 1622, serving several times as its dean in the later half of the 1620s. During these early Utrecht years he further perfected his artificially lit night scenes, resulting in a number of critically acclaimed masterpieces, both history and genre works. The mid 1620s saw Honthorst expanding his style, as he started working with bright colors and cool daylight. Also, the period saw the first of a string of commissions from the House of Orange. From April to December 1628/29 Honthorst was in England, where he painted several well received – and well paid – portraits of Charles I and his family. As his international reputation grew, Honthorst’s style took new directions as well. While gradually abandoning the Caravaggist style in favour of what Leonard Slatkes has called the ‘insipid but financially rewarding style of courtly portraiture’, Honthorst also started to produce large-scale allegorical works in huge decorative schemes. In 1637 Honthorst – due to his enormous success as a painter to the Court – decided to move to the governing city of The Hague, where he was involved in the decoration of the palaces of Honselaersdijk and Rijswijk, and later the famous Oranjezaal at Huis ten Bosch. In 1652 Honthorst – internationally regarded as one of the most important painters of his time – retired to Utrecht, a very wealthy man. 

Traditionally in Netherlandish art, shepherds and shepherdesses served as staffage in the representation of mythological or biblical stories. Sometimes they assumed a central role within the narrative, most notably in the case of Christ himself, who was sometimes represented as a shepherd, and in the often-depicted themes of the Annunciation to- and the Adoration of the shepherds. Likewise, shepherds were part of the iconography of land life, and the seasons. However, around 1600 a change took place, and quickly these rural inhabitants became themselves the subjects of a new pictorial genre. It was Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) in Haarlem, who around circa 1600 set the example by supplying the design for a print depicting an amorous shepherd’s couple with the arcadian names of Coridon and Sylvia (fig. 1) . Such pastoral iconography dealt not with the rough, laborious land life, but with a glorified harmonious idyll, far from the noisome city in ever-sunny Arcadia, an ideal, pastoral land of nature, inhabited by simple shepherds and shepherdesses concerned with issues of chastity, love and lovemaking. 

The lustful overtones in Honthorst’s painting are not to be missed: smiling sweetly the shepherdess offers her ripe plums to her craving shepherd. One comes across such sensually charged fruit symbolism in many contemporary pastoral poems, in which shepherds metaphorically offer shepherdesses fruit – plums, for instance – as a token of their love and desire. Elias Herckmans’ 1633 song ‘Pastorelle’ is a case in point, as it relates of shepherd Cordidon’s foolish love for the beautiful Alexin: 

‘Turn, Alexin, turn / See Coridon you adores / with much desired fruits / Blueberries galore / and yellow plums / Quinces huge / and Chesnuts rough and nude / Coridon to your fire, / Alexin has no desire / you are a just a knave / your mild gifts / she does not crave […] / Return in time / and other daughters you’ll find.’

More insinuation we find in Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido, where Dorinda refuses Sylvio’s offer of ‘two fair Queens Apples’, saying ‘for apples I want none, / I could give thee two fairer of my own, / and sweeter too.’

From Honthorst’s hand we know, in addition to the present work, a few more three-quarter length shepherdesses, including the brilliant Shepherdess Holding a Nest of Doves in the Centraal Museum, Utrecht (fig. 2). Here the shepherdess frees two little doves from their nest, yet another play on erotic innuendo. Despite it being signed and dated 1652, the painting – possibly the work mentioned as ‘a herdess with a white turtle dove in the hand’ (again without pendant) in the 1633 inventory of the King of Bohemia in Rhenen – is generally thought to have been executed around 1625, a suggested dating that fits the present work as well.