Study of a man looking up
Property from a Private Collection
Leiden 1607 - 1674 Amsterdam
Study of a man looking up
oil on panel
panel: 18 ½ by 15 in.; 47 by 38 cm.
framed: 27 ½ by 24 ⅛ in.; 69.9 by 61.3 cm.
The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, firstname.lastname@example.org, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.
This work is on a panel made of three pieces of oak. There is one original join running vertically through the center immediately to the left of the ear, which shows no restorations or signs of movement. The other original join, which runs vertically through the background on the left, has cracked in the past.
There are a few retouches visible under ultraviolet light to the join on the left. There is one spot of retouching on the bridge of the nose which is slightly discolored. Weakness in the dark colors of the hair and beard may have old retouches that are not visible under ultraviolet light. If the varnish were freshened slightly, it could be hung in its current 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. 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.
This strongly-lit study of an elderly man is an early work by Jan Lievens, dated by Schnackenburg to circa 1624, when the artist must have been exposed to the first generation of Dutch Caravaggisti who were just then starting to return to the North from Rome. Over the last decade and a half, several early works by Jan Lievens have come to light, and his early oeuvre, and the dating of it, has been reassessed. The exhibition devoted to Lievens in 2009 under a team of distinguished scholars led by Arthur Wheelock was subtitled - with good reason - A Dutch Master Rediscovered, and cast much fresh light on various aspects of Lievens’ oeuvre, not least of which was his work at the outset of his career, in the mid-1620s.1
Schnackenburg observed that the purpose of the present work may also be understood as a more conventional, but finished, preparatory study for the protagonist in Lievens' Half Length Figure of a Man Looking Up, possibly a priest offering Sacrifice, as opposed to a fragment of a larger composition.2 Such an observation was put forth following technical analysis of the oak panel, verifying that the boards are of their original format and design.
Though Werner Sumowski had previously published the work as a reduced copy based only on black and white photos, he subsequently revised his opinion following first hand inspection, and considered it an original study by Lievens from circa 1625. He is quoted in the 1997 Tel Aviv exhibition as stating that the work is "very early, strongly naturalistic from around 1625, in which Lievens coms to terms with the Caravaggists of Utrecht".3
Lievens is credited with playing a central role in the creation of the genre of the autonomous tronie. Whilst his Flemish contemporaries, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, were producing head studies in preparation for of use in larger compositions, Lievens was creating paintings of heads and characters that were marketable pictures in their own right, often painted from life. Tronies, literally meaning 'head', 'face' or 'facial expression' in Dutch, are not portraits or part of any other established genre, but simply a means to master the art of characterization, as Lievens has done in this carefully observed head. Lievens’ tronies were enormously influential, and their impact spread throughout the Netherlands and today are best, or perhaps more usually, appreciated within the œuvre of Lievens’s childhood friend Rembrandt van Rijn.
1. A. K. Wheelock Jr. (ed.), Jan Lievens. A Dutch Master Rediscovered, exhibition catalogue, New Haven & London 2009.
2. Schnackenburg 2016, cat. no. 7, present whereabouts unknown.
3. Tel Aviv 1997, p. 35. A copy of Werner Sumowski's revised and updated certificate is available upon request.