View full screen - View 1 of Lot 34. A view along a town street with figures | 《城巷人物景觀》.

Jacobus Vrel

A view along a town street with figures | 《城巷人物景觀》

VAT reduced rate


200,000 to - 300,000 GBP

The Property of a Family

Jacobus Vrel

Jacobus Vrel

A view along a town street with figures | 《城巷人物景觀》

A view along a town street with figures | 《城巷人物景觀》


200,000 to - 300,000 GBP

Lot sold:



The Property of a Family

Jacobus Vrel

Active circa 1654 – circa 1662

 A view along a town street with figures

oil on oak panel

33.5 x 26.5 cm.; 13⅛ x 10⅜ in.



1614 - 1714年



33.5 x 26.5 公分;13⅛ x 10⅜ 英寸

The following condition report is provided by Henry Gentle who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's:

Jacobus Vrel

Street scene

Oil on panel, in a modern gilt wood frame in good condition

The oak support is well preserved, is evenly chamfered to the reverse and very slightly convex.

The paint layer is stable and secure and covered by a very degraded and discoloured varnish which is impenetrable to u-v light.

Many areas are in a good preserved condition, including most of the tiled roofs.

Slight augmentation to the sky is visible and strengthening to one or two of the roof tiles, upper right, is visible.

Further strengthening can be discerned through the pale brickwork and to the more vulnerable darker passages, such as the shadow under the awning and the windows.

Augmentation to the central walking figure with the basket and to the wall and shutters behind the couple, on the right is visible.

There has been some strengthening through the cobbles.

The restoration is excessive and insensitive in places.

Removal of the varnish will improve overall tonality and reveal chromatic values.

The painting presents well.

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.

Count Schaffgottsch, Warmbrunn, Silesia (possibly to be identified as Johann Nepomuk Gotthard, Count von Schaffgotsch-Semperfrei), circa 1800;

Possibly Count Lochocki, Nakel an der Netze (Naklo nad Notecia), formerly Pomerania, Northern Poland;

H. Müller, Nakel;

M. Müller, Weimar, 1935;

Anonymous sale, Geneva, Moos, 6 May 1950, lot 57, for CHF 1,800;

With C.E. Duits, London, by whom sold to De Boer in May 1951;

With P. de Boer, Amsterdam, 1951, by whom sold to Brod in October 1951;

Mr and Mrs Alfred Brod, London, 1952–53;

With Alfred Brod, London, 1956 and presumably earlier;

Sidney J. van der Bergh, Wassenaar, by 1959 until at least 1972;

Hans J. de Koster, Wassenaer;

By whom sold, London, Christie's, 30 November 1979, lot 69, for £50,000;

Heinz-Jürgen Krücken, Krefeld (by whom sent on consignment to Charles Roelofsz, Amsterdam, 1988, but returned);

Thence by descent.

E. Plietzsch, ‘Jacobus Vrel und Esaias Boursse’, in Zeitschrift für Kunst, 3, 1949, pp. 252–53, reproduced p. 252, fig. 132;

J. Bruyn, in Art and Style, Paris 1950, no. 17, reproduced;

H.W. Alings, ‘Een oud stadshoekje’, in Ons Amsterdam, September 1951, p. 222;

E. Plietzsch, Holländische und Flämische Maler des 17. Jahrhundert, Leipzig 1960, p. 81, reproduced pl. 135 (as private collection, London);

A.B de Vries (ed.), Verzameling Sidney J. van der Bergh, Wassenaer 1968, (unpaginated), no. 64, reproduced;

J. Postma, Jacobus Vrel, de vraag naar zijn herkomst en oeuvrecatalogus, Doctoral Diss., Leiden 1982, p. 80, no. A 13, p. 132, no. D 6;

E.A. Honig, ‘Looking in (to) Jacob Vrel’, in Yale Journal of Criticism, vol. II, no. 1, 1989, pp. 37–38, 43, 48, reproduced fig. 1;

E. Mai, ‘Wer war Jacobus Vrel. Hypothesen zum sogenannten "Vermeer der Armen"’, in Kölner Museumsbulletin, 4, 2003, pp. 61, 66–67, reproduced fig. 20;  

B. Ebert, C. Tainturier and Q. Buvelot, Jacobus Vrel, Munich 2021, p. 207, no. 7, reproduced p. 159, no. 7.

Paris, Musée national de l'Orangerie des Tuileries, Le paysage hollandais au XVIIe siècle, 1950–51, no. 99;

Amsterdam, P. de Boer, Oude Schilderijen, 1951, no. 54, reproduced pl. 2;

London, Royal Academy, Dutch Paintings 1450–1750, Winter Exhibition 1952–53, no. 538;

London, Alfred Brod, Paintings by Old Masters, 1956, no. 40 (reproduced);

Laren, Singer Museum, Twee Nederlandse schilderijen verzamelingen, 1959, no. 85, reproduced fig. 46;

Delft, Stedelijk Museum het Prinsenhof, Meesterwerken uit Delft, 1962, no. 46;

Leiden, Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal, 17e eeuwse meesters uit Nederlandse privé-verzamelingen, 1965, no. 49;

Bucharest, 1972 (unnumbered);

Maastricht, Pictura, Charles Roelofsz, A collection of paintings: 1988, March 1988, no. 9, reproduced.

Few artists have proved so much of an enigma as Jacobus Vrel. His name is virtually all we know about him. Dated works are known from between 1654 and 1662, but we do not know when or where he was born, what or where his training was, where he lived and worked, and when or where he died.1 Around forty paintings by him are known, and these are almost evenly divided between street scenes such as this one and interiors, usually with a single female figure. The interiors are sparse, but from their architecture they appear to be high-ceilinged well-to-do town houses, possibly in The Netherlands, but equally plausibly from northern Germany.

His townscapes are if anything more enigmatic and mysterious. They are nearly all views down streets of brick-built houses some, as here, partly whitewashed, and often including shops, such as the one to the right here with the sign of a key, perhaps a locksmith. The roads are usually paved with boulders, sometimes aligned to direct the flow of rainwater: here they are aligned under the shelter over the doorway of the house to the right; with larger rocks to protect the corners of buildings from passing cartwheels: also seen here. They are typically peopled with townsfolk, often including, as here a woman in a red top and black skirt, and men in broad-brimmed hats.

Vrel always gives the viewer the sense that he is in the street, but as an observer, not a participant. It is perhaps this characteristic, also found in Vermeer’s street scenes, that have led some to assume that Vrel was also from Delft. There is however no evidence for this. Because his street scenes are so plausible, they appear to be readily identifiable, but they are not. While the architecture appears at first glance to be Dutch, Vrel’s urban architecture is more likely to be drawn from towns further east, across the German border and perhaps in Westphalia or Friesland, conceivably in Flanders, but certainly in the flat lands of north-western Europe where brick predominates as a building material (many include Capuchin monks, suggesting we are in Catholic lands, not post-Reformation Holland). Vrel usually curbs the viewer’s hopes of recognizing his surroundings (which in any event are probably imaginary, or at least capriccios) by closing off the view, sometimes with a closing building with an archway, but more often, as here, with a large building flanking a sharp curve of the street to the right – giving the impression that Vrel does not want us to see further because he does not want us guessing where we might be. It is tempting to think that Vrel was not merely an enigma, but a willful one.

So far attempts to place streets in Vrel’s townscapes in relation to one another in pursuit of topography have proved fruitless (it has for example been suggested – entirely incorrectly – that this is the Olofssteeg in Amsterdam) but in some paintings we appear to be looking down the same street but in opposing directions.2 His skies, visible above and between the buildings, are typically grey, but they are probably greyer now than when he painted them, due to the natural degradation of the blue pigment of smalt.

1 Elizabeth Honig’s monographic manuscript article was appropriately titled: E.A. Honig, Everything there is to know about… Jacob Vrel, Ms, RKD, The Hague, 25 March 1985. The sum of all current knowledge about Vrel is to be found in the recently published exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonné by Bernd Ebert, Cecile Tainturier and Quentin Buvelot (B. Ebert et al. 2021).

2 The identification was proposed by Ailings (Ailings 1951).