Although such themed sets of images continued to be produced during the seventeenth century, their popularity does, however, seem to have waned somewhat at that time, only to undergo a great revival in Dutch art of the eighteenth century. Since the majority of drawings and watercolours from this period that represent the months of the year are rather complete and decorative, many such sets must have been separated over the years, but nonetheless a certain number have remained together, including the present drawings by Buys and also the second set of watercolours of the months, by Hendrik Meijer, which are lot 120 in the present sale. Other complete sets to have survived include those by Simon Fokke (1765), H.P. Schouten (1789) and Jacob Cats (1791), while at least nine drawings from a 1741 set by Buys' teacher, Cornelis Troost are also known.2
Buys drew a great deal of inspiration for his compositions of this type from the works of Troost, which is not, perhaps suprising, since following his initial training with Cornelis Pronck, he became Troost's pupil - the only one, in fact, that the older artist ever had apart from members of his own family. For the most part, Troost trained Buys to produce pastel portraits, although this was not a medium in which he subsequently was to work all that much. It was, perhaps, Troost's theatrical and genre subjects that attracted Buys most, and although the technique and colouring of these watercolours owes more to Buys' first teacher, Pronck, their conception, choice of subject-matter and compositions reflect very strongly Troost's interests in these areas.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Buys's depictions of the months is the fact that the artist has chosen to represent each month not by the type of rural or agricultural scene appropriate to the month in question that are typical of series of this sort, but instead with images of seasonal festivals or activities in town life. January, for example, is represented by the popular festival of Drie Koningen (Twelfth Night), exploiting to the full the possibilities for a picturesque and theatrical night scene. Likewise, whereas artists such as Schouten and Cats chose ice scenes for the representations of February in their cycles of the months, both Troost and Buys chose instead to depict Shrove Tuesday. September, November and December are also here all represented by fairs and festivals (Kermis, St. Martin's Day Bonfires, and Sinterklaas, respectively). Even when months are represented by agriculture-related subjects (July - Cherrytime, August - Fruitmarket) these subjects have been located in the outskirts of the town.
Highly original in their varied and imaginative compositions, and capturing so much of the liveliness of Dutch festivals and daily life, it is very fortunate that this fascinating and important series of drawings of the months has, unlike the set of drawings of the months by Troost, survived intact and complete.
The titles and subjects of the twelve compositions are as follows:
January: Drie Koningenavond ('Twelfth Night')
February: Vastenavond ('Shrove Tuesday')
March: Palmpasen ('Palm Sunday')
April: Aprilgrap ('April Fools' Day')
May: Verhuisdag ('Moving Day')
June: Pinksterbloem ('Whitsun flower or Cuckoo-flower')
July: Kersentijd ('Cherry Time')
August: Fruitmarkt ('Fruit Market')
September: Kermis ('Fair' or 'Festival')
October: Jachtsgeschenk ('Hunting Trophies')
November: Sint-Maartensvuren ('Saint Martin's Day Fire')
December: Sinterklaasavond ('Feast of Saint Nicholas')
1. Inv. nos. MB 2005/T2 a-l; sold, from the Koenigs Collection, New York, Sotheby's, 23 January 2001, lot 11
2. See Niemeijer, loc.cit.
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