Dirck van Delen

An architectural capriccio with elegant figures promenading and young men arguing over a game of skittles

Oil on panel: 23.9(h) x 39(w) in /

60.6(h) x 99.1(w) cm

Signed and dated lower right: D van delen. 1634

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BT 273

 

DIRCK VAN DELEN

Heusden 1604/5 – 1671 Arnemuiden

 

An architectural capriccio with elegant figures promenading and young men arguing over a game of skittles

 

Signed and dated lower right: D van delen. 1634

Oil on panel: 23 7/8 x 39 in / 60.6 x 99.1 cm

Frame size: 31 ½ x 46 ½ in / 80 x 118.1 cm

 

Provenance:

FW Klever, Cologne;

Heberle, Cologne, 19th January 1892, lot 2, as with figures by Anthonie Palamedesz.

Koller, Zurich, 12th-13th November 1982, lot 5034

David Koetser, Zurich;

where acquired circa 1983 by a private collector, USA

 

Literature:

TT Blade, The Paintings of Dirck van Delen, Ph.D. dissertation, 1976, p.234, no.61, fig. 73, ‘figures probably by Palamedes’, dated 1636

 

 

Dirck van Delen was one of the leading Dutch architectural painters of the seventeenth century, a genre that flourished as the nation’s prosperity led to the commissioning of buildings influenced by Classical and Italian Renaissance styles. Many Dutch architects and artists finished their education with a trip to Rome. This enthusiasm was reflected in the publication of architectural treatises and prints. An understanding of architecture was regarded as a polite accomplishment for a gentleman, regardless of whether the connoisseur was able to undertake his own architectural projects.

 

A citizen of Middelburg, whose guild he joined in 1639, van Delen lived and worked in the nearby town of Arnemuiden. As well as being financially successful as a painter, he served as master of the toll-house and sat almost continuously on the town council until his death, most of the time as Burgomaster. The inventory of his possessions after his death in 1671 shows that he was very well-read.

 

Van Delen’s earliest paintings tend to be interior scenes executed in dark earth tones. Around 1630 he began to paint palace exteriors using a brighter palette of pinks and bluish greens that was eminently suited to the lively, courtly atmosphere of these pictures. This Architectural capriccio is an outstanding example of van Delen’s work, large and complex. At the right, a complicated, shadowed staircase, faced with pink marble detailing and adorned with statues, gives amusing hints of the mansion’s life, the protagonists coming and going like the actors in a play. A couple pass behind a column, shruggingly setting off in different directions, as if intent on some intrigue. A sliver of light falls on a bedroom where a couple embrace on a bed, half-blocked by a man watching the door. More innocently, a hunter sets off for the chase and couples walk in a beautiful alley of tall trees, with the outline of another sunlit palace at the vanishing point. The open porch and black and white tiled floor are adapted from the works of Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527-1606?), the pioneering architectural painter, but are used with even greater virtuosity.

 

To the left is a moated manor house in Northern Renaissance style, the huge, regular windows ensuring interiors flooded with light. Although such houses did not need moats for defensive purposes, seventeenth century Dutch garden design often made a feature of the myriad waterways of the low-lying country. Water was a means of transport, a source of agricultural wealth and a symbol of Dutch ingenuity in reclaiming so much land from the sea. The courtier and polymath Constantijn Huygens owned a moated manor, Hofwijck in Voorburg, with gardens completed in 1640, shortly after the present painting was made.

 

Van Delen’s Architectural capriccio contains elements of the ‘merry company’ genre popularised by Willem Buytewech (1591-1624) and Dirck Hals (1591-1656) (younger brother of van Delen’s teacher, Frans Hals) in the 1620s, although van Delen’s merriment is more refined. It was long believed that van Delen collaborated with Dirck Hals and Anthonie Palamedesz. (1601-1673), who were thought to have provided the figures in his architectural scenes. More recently, however, Bernard Vermet has proposed that in almost all instances they are the work of van Delen himself. Vermet notes the ‘round faces with black, coal-like eyes, high eyebrows and small, slightly opened mouths’ that are characteristic of van Delen’s staffage – a style which is found abundantly in the present work. Details of the costumes are painted with extraordinary delicacy. The masterly group of young men at the left, arguing over a game of skittles (on the outcome of which no doubt many bets were riding) gives an energy to this area of the painting. It reflects the subtlety with which van Delen constructed every element of his composition.

DIRCK VAN DELEN

Heusden 1604/5 – 1671 Arnemuiden

 

 

Dirck van Delen was born in 1604 or 1605 in Heusden, where, in the second half of 1604, his father, referred to as Corstiaen Dircksse from The Hague, had married a local girl named Cornelia Jansdochter. Though small, Heusden was an important Dutch fortress as it was less than fifteen kilometres from ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which was still in Spanish hands. Dirck’s father might have had a military background, a supposition that seems to be supported by the fact that an armourer, by the name of Niclaes Janssen, acted as his guarantor when he was admitted as citizen of Breda on 21st May 1607. At the same time this puts a question mark over his profession, since an active soldier normally did not become an official town citizen. Another possibility is that Corstiaen, like his three sons, had some kind of artistic profession. Dirck became a painter and Adriaen a cabinetmaker (whose wooden porches inside Middelburg town hall were destroyed in May 1940), while Hendrick became a silversmith in Flushing.

 

Both Adriaen and Hendrick were born in Breda and in 1623/24 a child of Dirck’s parents was buried there. In 1625 however – the year Breda was recaptured by the Spaniards under Spinola – Dirck and his mother, by then probably a widow, were living in Middelburg. On 23rd August 1625 ‘Dirck Christiaenssen’ gave notice of his marriage to Maria van der Gracht, the daughter of the Burgomaster of the small nearby harbour town of Arnemuiden. The couple settled in Arnemuiden, where, on the 28th September 1625 ‘Dieric van Deelen’ made his confession in the church. This was the first time the family name Van Delen appears, apparently to stress his improved social status.

 

Dirck became master of the toll-house, supervising the import of salt, and from 1628 onwards he was almost continually a member of the town council, most of the time as Burgomaster. He was widowed three times and had at least one son, Peter, born in August 1626, but no children survived him. The inventory of his estate testifies that he was very well-read and well-to-do.

 

 

Old MasterDirck van Delen