Frans Hals, Portrait of Samuel Ampzing, circa 1630, oil on copper, 6 3/8 x 4 7/8 in., The Leiden Collection, New York.
RALEIGH, NC.- Sixty-six small paintings by many of the greatest masters from the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age are on view in Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries at the North Carolina Museum of Art. These small-scale works—most of which are fewer than 10 in. tall and wide—were an important part of many artists’ practices but have historically been overlooked by scholars and museum exhibitions. The NCMA gives them overdue attention with Small Treasures and its accompanying catalogue, which is the first publication to exclusively explore these small-scale works and includes full-size reproductions of each of the paintings in the exhibition. Small Treasures will be on view at the NCMA from October 11, 2014, through January 4, 2015.
Matthijs van den Bergh, An Allegory of Vanity, 1651, oil on oak panel, 8 1/8 x 6 1/4 in., North Carolina Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)
Curated by Dennis P. Weller, the NCMA’s curator of Northern European art and a specialist in 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art, Small Treasures shows the breadth of style and content that artists employed for these small works and the myriad purposes they served. Many Dutch and Flemish artists painted small-scale works in order to do focused studies on specific painting techniques and subjects. Frans Hals’s striking 6 1/2 x 5 in. Portrait of Samuel Ampzing, for example, was used as a study for a noted reproductive print. Often, Dutch and Flemish painters created small self-portraits they could use as “calling cards” with potential patrons. Artists whose self-portraits are featured in Small Treasures include Gerrit Dou (4 7/8 x 3 1/4 in.), Frans van Mieris (4 1/2 x 2 7/8 in.), and Jan Steen (9 1/4 x 7 1/2 in.). The majority of the works in Small Treasures are painted on panel or copper, materials with very little texture that allowed for minute details to be brought to life with incredibly small paintbrushes. The works in the exhibition range in size and shape, from Van Mieris’s tiny, oval-shaped self-portrait to a detailed, rectangular history scene by Peter Paul Rubens that measures 9 3/8 x 7 5/8 in.
Gerrit Dou, Self-Portrait, circa 1638–42, oil on panel, 4 7/8 x 3 1/4 in. (rounded top), The Kremer Collection.
Jan Steen, Self-Portrait with a Lute, oil on canvas, 9 1/4 x 7 1/2 in., The Leiden Collection, New York.
“These small paintings include amazing details that pull viewers in and reintroduce them to some of the most iconic names in Dutch and Flemish painting, » said Dennis P. Weller. « I’ve always been interested in these works, which were prevalent in artists’ practices but have been left out of much modern research and are much less frequently displayed than larger paintings from the same period. By bringing so many of them together, we will not only begin to rectify the absence of scholarship in this area; we will invite our audiences to experience a large exhibition that encourages intimate experiences with art in a way that little else can.”
Gerard ter Borch, Portrait of Adriaen Clant van Stedum, circa 1646–48, oil on copper, 5 1/2 x 3 15/16 in., Groninger Museum; Photograph: Marten de Leeuw.
“At the NCMA we are committed to advancing scholarship and providing compelling experiences for our visitors,” said Lawrence J. Wheeler, director of the North Carolina Museum of Art. “Small Treasures does both of these things: it allows our spectacular curatorial team to bring to light new research that deepens our understanding of one of the most beloved periods of art history and invites our visitors to have close looking experiences with masterpieces by artists whose names will excite them and whom they have yet to meet.”
Judith Leyster, Young Boy in Profile, circa 1630, oil on panel, Diam. 7 1/2 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. Thomas M. Evans, 2009.113.1
Additional highlights of the exhibition include:
Rembrandt van Rijn, Bearded Old Man (c. 1630), 7 1/4 x 6 11/16 in.—Recently accepted as an autograph work by Rembrandt, this painting is an example of a tronie (Dutch for character study). Painted only a year or two prior to the painter’s move from his hometown of Leiden to Amsterdam, this small panel exhibits Rembrandt’s deep reservoir of skills, as the expressive features of the old man are coarsely painted yet highly descriptive.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Bearded Old Man, circa 1630, oil on panel, 7 1/4 x 6 11/16 in., Private Collection.
Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat (c. 1665–66), 9 1/2 x 7 1/8 in. (pictured above)—This image of a girl wearing an exotic, red-feathered hat and cool blue brocade robe shows her looking out with an intimacy and expectancy unique to Vermeer’s oeuvre. This is the smallest work Vermeer is known to have painted.
Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat, circa 1665–66, oil on panel, 9 1/2 x 7 1/8 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.53
Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal (c. 1670–72), 9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.—Owing to advances in the technical examination of paintings, as well as better scholarship on Vermeer’s working process and knowledge of his late pictures, opinion regarding the authenticity of this work has undergone correction in recent years: Young Woman Seated at a Virginal is now fully accepted as a Vermeer.
Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, circa 1670–72, oil on canvas, 9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in., The Leiden Collection, New York
Adriaen Brouwer, Youth Making a Face (c. 1632–35), 5 3/8 x 4 1/8 in.—Portraying the bold antics of a youngster, Brouwer’s sparkling painting technique is on view here and shows developments from his earlier work, likely the result of spending time in Haarlem under the influence of Frans Hals.
Adriaen Brouwer, Youth Making a Face, circa 1632/35, oil on oak panel, 5 3/8 x 4 1/8 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund, 1994.46.1
Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Nicholas Rockox (1636), 6 in. diam. (round)—This rare grisaille oil sketch of one of Antwerp’s most important politicians and patrons shows van Dyck’s masterful ability to portray intimacy. The work is a comparatively recent addition to the oeuvre of Van Dyck, as it was only rediscovered at an auction in 1989.
Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Nicholas Rockox, 1636, oil on panel, Diam. 6 1/8 in., Private Collection, N.Y.
Seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painting advanced styles and techniques that left a lasting impact on the history of painting. Though such small works were commonly painted by the most notable artists from that era, previous scholarship devoted to Dutch and Flemish small portraiture has largely lagged behind studies devoted to other genres of the period. The research conducted in preparation for Small Treasures will play an important role in bringing to the surface the history and depth of these small works and an understanding of the important role they played for artists and patrons alike.
Gerrit Dou, Bust of a Man, circa 1642–45, oil on panel, 7 1/4 x 5 7/8 in., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., William A. Clark Collection, 26.81
Pieter Jacobsz. Duyfhuysen, Seated Boy Eating Porridge, circa 1655, oil on wood, 8 3/16 x 5 5/16 in., Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, Mass., Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Photograph: © 2014 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Frans Hals, Singing Girl, circa 1625–30, oil on panel, 7 1/8 x 7 1/4 in., Ivor Collection
Frans van Mieris the Elder, An Old Soldier Holding a Pipe, circa 1660, oil on wood panel, 7 1/2 x 6 1/4 in., Allentown Art Museum, Bequest of Mrs. Eugene L. Garbaty, 1986 (1986.44)
Unknown Dordrecht (?) painter,Portrait of Josina Cornelisdr. van Esch, 1632, oil on copper, 6 1/8 x 5 in., Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, D. Franken Bequest, Le Vésinet
Rembrandt van Rijn, A Portrait of a Rabbi, circa 1645, oil on panel, 8 3/4 x 7 1/3 in., The Leiden Collection, New York.
Godfried Schalcken, A Young Lady Playing with a Dog, circa 1690s, oil on panel, 7 3/4 x 6 1/4 in., Private Collection.
Joachim Wtewael, The Apulian Shepherd, circa 1595–1602, oil on copper, 6 1/8 x 8 1/2 in., Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection.
Cornelis van Poelenburch, The Finding of Moses, circa mid-17th century, oil on copper, 7 1/8 x 9 7/8 in., Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Museum purchase with funds provided by the European Society