Gerard Dou’s Pictures In The Market : Prices And Purchasers

WHEN we inquire how many of Gerard Dou’s pictures and drawings are now to be seen in his native country we find no more than 17, while Germany possesses 71, Great Britain 49, Russia 19, and France 20. Among the number are two of his most important works, the Evening Schooland the Young Mother, the most beautiful picture Dou ever painted, and so regarded even during his lifetime. Holland also possesses the masterpiece of his early years, the Portrait of Rembrandt’s Mother, belonging to Heer Hoekwater at the Hague, who for a year past has lent it to the Picture Gallery there. A few portraits painted between 1631 and 1650, a portrait of himself, and some genre pieces—among them much the finest of his Hermits in the Amsterdam Gallery [in the van der Hoop Collection, painted at his best time, enable us to study him satisfactorily in his own country. But most of his pictures, which formerly graced the finest collections in the Netherlands, are now in foreign galleries.

Many of Dou’s works were indeed painted for foreign patrons. We have seen that Christina of Sweden and Charles II. of England had pictures by him presented to them. And it is certain that many more went abroad while he was yet alive, or at any rate in the seventeenth century ; for Condé purchased a St. Jerome ascribed to Dou in 1678 for 300 livres, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany was anxious to acquire one, while Archduke Leopold of Austria already possessed two examples in 1661. But most of these works left the country with others in the eighteenth century, when whole collections were sold to foreign purchasers.

It is a wellknown fact that the gallery at Cassel was principally composed of the collection of Mevrouw de Reuver of Delft, who in.1736 sold to the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel for 40,000 gulden no less than sixty-four pictures, and this prince added these to a number of other works previously purchased for him in 1730. Many German sovereigns did the same at that time, and the Netherlands were literally ransacked by connoisseurs and dealers.

Not the Germans only, but French and Italian princes and English noblemen collected all they could find by way of Dutch art. We have only to look through the catalogues of the cabinets of the King of France and the Duke of Orleans, of Voyez d’Argenson, the Dukes de Praslin and de Choiseul, and many more, to see that they consisted largely of Dutch paintings. English collectors followed suit. The galleries of the Earl of Ellesmere (Bridgewater Collection), the Duke of Westminster (Grosvenor Collection), of Lord Ashburton and Lord Northbrook, and those at Stafford House, Lowther Castle, Belvoir Castle and many other mansions, are rich in Dutch pictures. In the eighteenth and early in the nineteenth centuries the English, like the Germans and French, employed dealers to secure them. The Duke of Rutland had commissioned two gentlemen to collect for him, and we read in a letter of August 22nd, 1785, written from Brussels by Sir Joshua Reynolds: “There are no pictures of Mieris either at Antwerp or Brussels. All the pictures in those two places which were worth bringing home I have bought—I mean of those which were on sale.” Only one piece had been too dear for him to secure it.’

Dou’s works shared the fate of those by other famous masters. The chief collectors in Holland in the eighteenth century owned at least one picture by Dou. The wealthy merchant Pieter de la Court van der Voort, of Leyden (to whom Houbraken dedicated the second part of his ” Groote Schouburgh” in 1719), had in his collection A Hermit, by Dou, about which everyone raved. Campo Weyerman, in his biographies of Dutch artists, gives an interesting description of it : ” The piece represents a hermit drawn to the feet, a painting so gloriously, so supernaturally, so inexpressibly well painted, that the brush of art can mount no higher. He is depicted praying, set on his knees ; we see such exemplary piety beaming in the hermit’s attitude that we can easily imagine the angelic living and stern discipline of this ancient recluse of the woods by earnestly gazing on the counterfeit. In the same picture the trunk of a tree is painted which is a match for any real trunk, and seems naturally covered with moss in many places where the bark has peeled off. The lantern in the foreground looks like real horn, and the thistles and the utensils are most truthfully drawn and painted.”

This picture, a work of the highest merit in the taste of the time, was sold in 1766 with the rest of the collection. It fetched 3,000 gulden, and remained in Holland till 1804, when it was sold for 16,000 francs to the Duchesse de Berry. It is now in the possession of Lord Ashburton.

The collections of van Schuylenburgh and of Da Costa, at the Hague, also included examples by Dou, and so at Amsterdam did every collection of note, to name only those of Braamcamp, Hasselaar, van Hoek, Six, Locquet and van der Marck. Jacob van Hoek had a large triptych by Dou, the largest work he ever executed. Houbraken, who had seen it, describes it, and it is known by Laquy’s copy. It was sold with the rest of van Hoek’s pictures, April 12th, 1719, for 6,000 gulden, and passed into the Braamcamp Collection. In 1771 it was purchased for the Empress Catherine of Russia, but unfortunately perished at sea on the voyage with several other famous pictures, among them Potter’s Herd of Cattle. Copies exist to show us what it was like.

Catherine held Dou’s work in high esteem, and the examples in the Hermitage were for the most part required by her.

Among those purchased by the Landgrave of Hesse-assel were two of Dou’s best portraits : Rembrandt’s father and Rembrandt’s Mother. kt Dresden the wellknown large Hermit was acquired in 1708, with several other pictures, from the Aealer Lemmers of Antwerp.

How steadily Dou’s pictures rose in value may be seen from the prices paid for his best known works at successive sales. The sums increased during the whole of the eighteenth century, and yet more at the beginning of the nineteenth. How much they were sought after may be seen from a letter written to the Duke of Rutland by his agent Fitzherbert, dated from Brussels, March 3rd, 1780. ” After many delays on the part of Verhulst’s executors,’ I am at last in possession of the Gerard Dou I mentioned to you. The price was 3,000 florins, about £300, a very great price considering the size of the picture, but a very small one if you take into the account the great request in which the capital works of this master are held both in Holland and here, and that Verhulst paid for it upwards of 1091. more than its present price, that, too, many years ago. I think it more of a bargain than the other” 2-namely, a Rubens.

And other instances show even more clearly the rise in prices.

The Penitent Magdalen, now at Hamburg (No. 129), sold for 170 gulden in 1735, and for 1,400 in 1833. The Hermit, in the van der Hoop Collection at Amsterdam, sold for 655 gulden in 1762, for 1,310 gulden in 1810, and for 3,469 gulden in 1836 ; the small Girl scouring a Pan, now in Buckingham Palace, rose from 1,550 to 1,750 and to 1,950 gulden.

Another interesting case is that of a little picture at Montpellier, which also affords an instance of a much-travelled work of art. We first hear of it in 1705 in a sale where it fetched 1,000 gulden ; in 1733 it sold for 2,060 gulden ; in 1736 Mevrouw de Reuver sold it to the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. When Cassel was besieged by the French in 1806, Comte Lagrange, appointed governor of Hesse by Napoleon, sent several pictures, and this among them, to Malmaison, where they became the property of the Empress Josephine. In 1836 it was bought by Valedan and found a home in the museum at Montpellier. The most startling rise in price, perhaps, is seen in the case of a picture of An Old Woman by Candle-light (No. 91), which sold in 1777 for 30 gulden, and in 1899, at the Schubart Sale at Munich, fetched 6,443 gulden ; and it is a small picture, 12 in. x 8 in.

When we consider the prices paid in the eighteenth century for the works of other great masters, we are constantly amazed at the value set on pictures by Dou, the Mieris family, van der Werff and Metsu. Westrheene, in his ” Jan Steen,” has given a résumé of the prices paid, in about 1800, for pictures by the Dutch masters, whence it appears that van der Werff fetched the highest sums, next to him Teniers, then Metsu, Frans Mieris and Gerard Dou. Rembrandt’s pictures were not worth more than two-thirds of the prices paid for Dou’s small works. A landscape by van Goyen was sold for no more than one gulden,’ in Leyden, in 1761, and Jan Steen’s Marriage at Cana, now in the Arenberg Gallery at Brussels, was in 1775 worth only 210 gulden, and such instances might be multiplied.

Italian pictures, even mere copies, fetched far higher prices than any by the Dutch masters, and of these it was always the minutely finished pieces by van der Werff that were most valued ; Dou’s, however, came not far behind, as one more example will prove, while showing the various fortunes of one of Dou’s best known works.

The Dropsical Woman (now in the Louvre) was exhibited in 1665, in the de Bye collection, and we next find it in that of Prince Eugene of Savoy. He had received it as a gift from the Elector Palatine, Charles Philip, who is said to have paid 30,000 gulden for it. The precious painting, still in its original condition with the case and door hung in the Belvedere at Vienna in the middle of the side wall of the ” Picture-room,” and was considered as one of the gems of this famous collection, whose owner was not only a great General but a man of consummate taste. After the death of Prince Eugene, this and the rest of his pictures went to Turin, and remained there till 1799, when Carlo Emanuel IV. presented it to the French General, Clausel. He gave it to the French nation, and it found its final resting-place in the Louvre.

Thus Dou’s pictures, like those of other great masters, have for the most part, after many wanderings, taken their place in great galleries, where for the present they are likely to remain. Some, however, are still changing hands and travelling further and further from their native land. There is one in New York and one in Cincinnati, and in 1879 there was, as Heer Moes tells us, one at Lima, in Peru ; while Dou’s native town can no longer boast of a single example. It still owned a few in the nineteenth century. In the Kleinenbergh collection there were, among others, a Portrait of Himself, which was lost to the town at the sale of the collection in 1841. The last remaining example, a Portrait, of Dou’s earliest period, was carried away about 1875.

Let us hope that the wish expressed so long ago as 1669, by the Burgomaster of Leyden, may ere long be fulfilled, and a picture by Dou acquired for his native town.