2021/1

RKD BULLETIN

A reconstruction of The Five Senses by Karel van Mander III

Angela Jager

The RKD Explore database has recently been enhanced with paintings from a Danish private collection. This project makes hundreds of unknown paintings by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish masters accessible for further research. The digitisation is the result of my postdoctoral research at the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen in the period 2017-2019. Even though not all works found in Danish private collections are particularly exceptional, studying them may provide information about better known masterpieces. This article presents one such case: copies after an incomplete series of The Five Senses by Karel van Mander III (1609-1670), a Northern Netherlandish painter active at the Danish court.

The painter’s early years
Karel van Mander III was born in Delft, as the son of tapestry designer Karel van Mander II (c. 1579-1623) and grandson of the famous painter and author Karel van Mander I (1548-1606).1 Both of the parents of Van Mander III had professional relations in Denmark. From 1616 onwards his father received several commissions from the Danish king Christian IV (1577-1648) for tapestries (including a series of eighteen tapestries for Frederiksborg Palace) and he travelled to Denmark several times for this purpose.2 After Van Mander’s father died, his mother Cornelia Rooswijck (c. 1576-1653) moved with her family to Copenhagen around 1626, where she started a grocery shop.3 Van Mander, then seventeen years old, most likely accompanied her. In 1630, Christian IV engaged the young artist to paint his portrait. The commissions that followed indicate that the king was satisfied with the result.4

In 1635, Van Mander asked the Danish king for permission and financial support to undertake a multiple-year study trip.5 The first destination was the Dutch Republic, where he had family. Based on an etching by Albert Haelwegh (1620/1621-1673) after a lost painting by Van Mander, Juliette Roding concluded that the painter visited Amsterdam and must have seen Rembrandt’s Rape of Ganymede from 1635.6 I recently found evidence in the Amsterdam City Archives that Van Mander and his mother were indeed in Amsterdam in the summer of 1636. On 28 July 1636, they authorised Johannes du Prez, husband of Sara van Mander, to administer the inheritance of Janneke van Mander in Haarlem.7 Sara’s father was Adam van Mander, the young painter’s great uncle; Janneke was an aunt.8 On 21 September 1636, Karel van Mander III and his mother are mentioned once more in an Amsterdam document, this time as witnesses to the baptism of Jacob, the son of Sara and Johannes du Prez.9 It is not known how long Van Mander stayed in the Dutch Republic; in any case, he was in Italy on 18 July 1638. This can be deduced from a document of this date in which his mother, having returned to Copenhagen, accepted a payment on his behalf.10 The painter was back in Copenhagen by 10 June 1639, when he was fined 18 Danish rigsdaler for having stabbed a certain Mads Madsen in the street.11 There is no further information about the circumstances of this incident, but it does not seem to have adversely affected Van Mander’s career, since Christian IV appointed him as court painter in the same year.

An incomplete series
Van Mander painted The Five Senses in 1639. They are among the first paintings he made after his return to Denmark. It is not known for whom they were intended. While it seems likely that he made them for Christian IV to demonstrate how his painting skills had developed on the trip the king had financed, there is no evidence that the king ever owned the series.

The original series of five paintings is no longer complete. Until recently, only three of The Five Senses were known [1-3], and in this article I present a fourth. In each painting, Van Mander portrayed a sense by means of a half-length figure and an attribute. The signed and 1639-dated Sight depicts an old, grey-haired man with pince-nez glasses [1]. A medallion featuring a man in profile with headgear, presumably Christian IV, hangs on a chain around his neck. Hearing is personified by an old woman holding a recorder in her right hand [2]. In 2004 a third work that could be added to these two paintings appeared at a London auction: Taste, personified by a young man in a black velvet coat drinking from a silver tankard [3]. These three works reflect the painting technique and style Van Mander was able to study in Amsterdam.

The two pictures in the National Gallery of Denmark are painted on oak panels measuring approximately 57 x 45 cm. The panel of Hearing bears a six-pointed star on the back, the brand of an unidentified Antwerp panel maker who was active from circa 1619 to 1650.12A possible brand on the panel of Sight is no longer visible because on its reverse is a piece of paper attached with the first and last verse of Cornelis de Bie’s poem (1627-1711) on Van Mander, published in Het gulden cabinet van de edel vry schilderconst (1662).13 I have not been able to study the oak panel of Taste. It is, however, likely that Van Mander executed the entire series on Antwerp panels. There was little to no local production of painting panels in Denmark. As with other art supplies, they were probably imported by the Danish court, which in turn supplied them to court-appointed painters.13 There is at least one other work in the royal collection with a brand by the same panel maker: Winter scene with skaters and sledges. This painting is, together with over fifty panels painted in Antwerp between 1615 and 1620, mounted in the wall panelling of the Winter Room at Rosenborg Castle.14 Winter scene, however, dates from the same period as Van Mander’s Five Senses.15 It was enlarged to fit the room’s wall panelling, but its original format was comparable to that of Van Mander’s Senses, and it may have been painted in Copenhagen.16

A complete series of copies
During the research and documentation project, I discovered a complete series of copies after Van Mander’s Five Senses in a Danish private collection. They are clearly painted by a different hand and are of lesser quality. These canvases are slightly larger than the oak panels, measuring 62.5 x 46.5 cm [4-8]. As a result of this find, it is now for the first time possible to reconstruct the series and form an impression of the two missing senses.

The copy of Van Mander’s Smell shows that this sense is depicted in a traditional allegorical manner, with a young woman smelling a flower, in this case a peony [7]. She wears flowers in her hair, and her opened shirt reveals her left breast. She could easily be mistaken for Flora or a personification of fertility. Because of this copy I was able to identify Van Mander’s original work, which was auctioned at Lempertz in 2015 with an attribution to the Antwerp painter Jan Boeckhorst (1604/1605-1668) [9]. Like the other originals, it was painted on an oak panel of the same size. The copy includes a black leather cord around the woman’s neck [7]. In the original, remnants of this cord are visible, particularly under her breasts, and the cord must have been painted over after the copy was created. Touch is depicted less traditionally [8]. A young man with moustache, dark curly hair and a bared shoulder thrusts an arrow into his chest and cries out in pain. The light in this painting as well as the man’s posture, clothing and appearance suggest – unlike the other four senses – that Van Mander was familiar with Utrecht Caravaggism. For instance, the figure in Touch is quite comparable to the man in Dirck van Baburen’s Lute player from around 1621-1622 [10]. Van Mander was able to come into contact with Utrecht painting in various ways. It is likely that just before or just after his journey he saw Gerard van Honthorst’s (1592-1656) Aethiopica series, which Christian IV had received at Kronborg Castle on 11 October 1635; note in particular the pale Theagenes with bleeding wound and his mouth opened in agony in The wounded Theagenes and the desperate Charicleia found on the beach by pirates.17 That Van Mander was familiar with this work is clear from his own Aethiopica series. Moreover, the facial features and clothing of Theagenes in Van Mander’s Chariclea nursing the wounded Theagenes in the midst of advancing Egyptian robbers are similar to those of the figure in Touch [11]. Finally, Van Mander may also have visited Utrecht during his study trip, specifically in 1637, when the engraver Simon de Passe (c. 1595-1647) was there, on appointment of the Danish court, to recruit painters for the decoration of Kronborg Castle.18

Provenance of the series
Besides the complete series of copies in the Danish private collection there are several known copies of Sight and Taste, all of them painted on canvas.19 The fact that multiple copies after Van Mander’s Senses exist indicates that the series enjoyed some repute in Denmark. The provenance of the original series might provide insight into who made the copies. Van Mander’s original series was still complete between 1740 and 1766 and in the possession of the Danish painter Johann Salomon Wahl (1689-1765). The 1766 sales catalogue of Wahl’s estate lists the works under a single lot: ‘C.v. Mandern, De 5 Sandser i 5 Originalstykker, 36 rigsdaler 3 m’ [C.v.Mander, The 5 Senses in 5 original works, 36 rigsdaler 3 mark].20 The fact that the paintings are here described as being the original works indicates that several copies already existed at the time.21 The complete series of copies is mentioned in a 1790 inventory, drawn up by an ancestor of the current owner.22 This inventory specifies per painting whether it was purchased by the collector, and if so, for what price. The Five Senses were not bought by the collector, but had come into his possession through an inheritance or a gift. In this regard it should be noted that in the eighteenth century Wahl carried out a decorative programme in the ballroom of for this collector’s family estate. It is therefore tempting to assume that the series of copies originated in Wahl’s studio and were gifted by him to his client.

Thanks to the full series of copies in private ownership, it was possible to add the fourth picture, Smell, to the currently incomplete series of The Five Senses painted by Karel van Mander III in 1639. All that is now missing to complete the reconstruction of the series is the fifth work, Touch. Because of the copy we have a clear idea of what the original must look like, and with some luck it will soon surface.

1
Karel van Mander (III)
Sight: an old man with spectacles 1639 1639
panel 57.4 x 44.5 cm
Copenhagen, SMK – National Gallery of Denmark
Photograph museum

2
Karel van Mander (III)
Hearing: an old woman with a recorder 1639
panel 57.6 x 44.7 cm
Copenhagen, SMK – National Gallery of Denmark
Photograph museum

3
Karel van Mander (III)
Taste: a young man drinking from a silver tankard 1639
panel 56.8 x 46.3 cm
sale London (Christie’s), 7 July 2004
Photograph auction house

#

4
Copy of Karel van Mander (III), Sight: an old man with spectacles
canvas 6.5 x 46.5 cm
Denmark, private collection
Photograph Frida Gregersen

#

5
Copy of Karel van Mander (III)
Hearing: an old woman with a recorder
canvas 62.5 x 46.5 cm
Denmark, private collection
Photograph Frida Gregersen

#

6
Copy of Karel van Mander (III)
Taste: a young man drinking from a silver tankard
canvas 62.5 x 46.5 cm
Denmark, private collection
Photograph Frida Gregersen

#

7
Copy of Karel van Mander (III)
Smell: a young woman smelling a peony
canvas 62.5 x 46.5 cm
Denmark, private collection
Photograph Frida Gregersen

#

8
Copy of Karel van Mander (III)
Touch: a man thrusting an arrow into his chest
canvas 62.5 x 46.5 cm
Denmark, private collection
Photograph Frida Gregersen

9
Karel van Mander (III)
Smell: a young woman smelling a peony
panel 58 x 44.5 cm
sale Cologne (Lempertz), 14 November 2015
Photograph auction house

#

10
Dirck van Baburen
The lute player c. 1621-1622
canvas 82.5 x 66 cm
sale New York (Christie’s), 16 January 1992
Photograph collection RKD

11
Karel van Mander (III)
Chariclea nursing the wounded Theagenes in the midst of advancing Egyptian robbers 1640s
canvas 109 x 199 cm
Kassel (Hessen), Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe
Photograph museum


Notes

1 The most recent biography of Karel van Mander III is: J. Roding, ‘Karel van Mander III. Background, education, life,’ in: J. Roding, T. Lyngby, S. Pajung and J. Ørnbjerg, Karel van Mander. A dynasty of artists (Studies from the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg 3), Frederiksborg 2020, pp. 75-152; largely a translation of J. Roding, Karel van Mander III (Delft 1609 - Copenhagen 1670), hofschilder van Christiaan IV en Frederik III. Kunst, netwerken, verzamelingen, Hilversum 2014. Some of the biographical information was published previously by P. Eller, Kongelige portraetmalere i Danmark 1630-82. En undersögelse af kilderne til Karel van Manders og Abraham Wuchters’ virksomhed, Copenhagen 1971.

2 M. Skougaard, ‘Karel van Mander II’s Tapestries at Frederiksborg,’ in: J. Roding, T. Lyngby, S. Pajung and J. Ørnbjerg, Karel van Mander. A dynasty of artists (Studies from the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg 3), Frederiksborg 2020, pp. 39-73.

3 Roding 2020 (note 1), pp. 84-85.

4 Ibid., pp. 84-86.

5 Ibid., pp. 86-87.

6 Ibid., pp. 87-95.

7 Amsterdam, Stadsarchief Amsterdam (SAA), Archief van de Notarissen ter Standplaats Amsterdam (ONA), inv. no. 1045, fol. 83r-84v, 28 July 1636. Sara van Mander, daughter of Adam van Mander, and Johannes du Prez, embroiderer, posted the bans of marriage on 11 May 1629. SAA, Doop-, trouw- en begraafboeken Amsterdam (DTB), inv. no. 434, p. 156, 11 May 1629.

8 This can be concluded from a deed dated 6 November 1627 in which ‘Joost Joostensz, getrout hebbende Janneke Vermander […] wonende in Haarlem, […] als aengehylichte oom […] van ‘s vaders syde van de naergelaten weeskinderen van wylen Carel Vermander, in sijn leven tapitsier tot Delft […] mitsgaders Adam Vermander, outoom der voorsz. Weeskinderen […]’ [Joost Joostensz, having married Janneke Vermander […] living in Haarlem, […] as an uncle by marriage […] on father’s side of the surviving orphans of the late Carel Vermander, in his life tapestry maker in Delft […] as well as Adam Vermander, great-uncle of the aforementioned orphans]; published in: G.T. van Ysselsteyn, Geschiedenis der tapijtweverijen in de Noordelijke Nederlanden. Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis der kunstnijverheid II, Leiden 1936, pp. 205-206, no. 442.

9 SAA, DTB, inv. no. 130 (Waalse Kerk), p. 371, 21 September 1636.

10 Roding 2020 (note 1), p. 86.

11 Ibid.

12 J. Wadum, ‘The Antwerp Brand on Paintings on Panel,’ Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 11 (1988), pp. 179-195, esp. p. 188, fig. 18a-b.

13 Inscribed on the paper is: ‘Jst wonder dat het Rijck van t’strijtbaer Denemercken / Vindt groot behaghen in de hooch verheven wercken / Ghesproten uyt t’Pinceel van Manders kloeck ghemoedt / Die is van jonghs af in de Konsten op-ghevoedt. / Ter wijl sijn Vader was de gen’ die meest de krachten / Heeft van Pictuer ghekent en schier al de gheslachten / Daer Denemarck op roempt, besonder Coppenhaghen / Al waer men noyt en siet de oeffeningh vertraghen, / Die Mander in het Hof des Coninckx daer hanteert / En wort om sijne Const als eenen Prins gheert, Vide het gulden cabinet van de edele vrij schilder-const door Cornelis de Bie, notaris binnen Lijer, pag. 314 Ao 1661’. See: C. de Bie, Het gulden cabinet van de edel vry schilderconst, Antwerp 1662, pp. 314-315.

14 In her research on painting materials in the Danish archives at the time of Christian IV, Anne Haack Christensen found nothing relating to the local production or import of panels. Det Kongelige Farvekammer (The Royal Colour Chamber) had no other supports than paper in store. Painting canvas was manufactured in the Tugt- og Børnehus [prison and orphanage), and supplied to court painters, including to Van Mander for his portrait of Christian IV in 1630. Copper plates for paintings were also locally produced. A. Haack Christensen, Crafts & colours during the reign of Christian IV. Trade, availability and usage of painters’ materials 1610-1626, diss. The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation, Copenhagen 2017, pp. 231-233.

15 J. Wadum, ‘Christian IV’s Winter Room and Studiolo,’ Gerson Digital: Denmark (Dutch and Flemish art in European perspective 1500-1900, Part II), The Hague (RKD) 2015, Chapter 4; J. Wadum, ‘A star of a panelmaker,’ in: WATS. Wadum Art Technological Studies, blog dated 22 December 2019 (accessed 25 March 2021).

16 Wadum 2015, Chapter 4.13; RKDimages, artwork no. 242177.

17 The painting originally measured 47 x 63 cm, but was enlarged to 51 x 63 cm to fit the panelling in the Winter Room: Wadum 2015, ibid.; RKDimages (note 16), ibid. The brand of the Antwerp guild in question was in use from 1638; Wadum dates the painting to circa 1640.

18 Gerard van Honthorst, The wounded Theagenes and the desperate Charicleia found on the beach by pirates, in or before 1635, canvas, dimensions unknown, Helsingør, Kronborg Castle.

19 This is also suggested in Roding 2020 (note 1), pp. 98-100. See also: H.D. Schepelern and U. Houkjaer, The Kronborg Series. King Christian IV and his pictures of Earl Danish History, Copenhagen 1988. Karel van Mander III and Simon de Passe were colleagues and collaborated in 1634 in their designs for the costumes and decorations for Christian IV’s nuptials. H. Gerson, with annotations by R. van Leeuwen, ‘Dispersal and after-effect of Dutch painting of the 17th century: Denmark. A translated, illustrated and annotated chapter from Horst Gerson’s Ausbreitung und Nachwirkung der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts (1942/1983),’ Gerson Digital: Denmark (Dutch and Flemish art in European perspective 1500-1900, Part II), The Hague (RKD) 2015,Chapter 2.6; M.R. Wade, Triumphus Nuptialis Danicus. German court culture and Denmark. The Great Wedding of 1634, Wiesbaden 1996.

20 Sight, inscribed at the lower right ‘18,’ canvas, 70 x 62 cm, sale Copenhagen (Bruun Rasmussen), 26 February 2013, lot 128; Hearing, canvas, 56.5 x 39.4 cm, sale London (Philips Auctioneers), 7 July 1998, lot 165 (attributed to Bloemaert); Taste inscribed at the lower right ‘L117’ and ‘20,’ canvas, 68.7 x 60.3 cm, Gavnø Castle (possibly part of the same series as Sight mentioned above. A 1790 sales catalogue lists two oval panels featuring Taste and Hearing by Van Mander, c. 50 x 37 cm, sale Copenhagen (Jean Francois Fistaine), 3 February 1790, lots 100 and 101.

21 Sale Copenhagen, 10 March 1766 [Lugt 1510], lot 16. Den Koniglige Malerisamling purchased the paintings of Sight and Hearing from the collection of Johan Christian Bodendick in 1810. The series was probably split up before 1787; at the auction of the collection of ‘Milan’ on 13 December of that year a pair of Sight and Hearing was sold (without an attribution to Van Mander). I am grateful to Jesper Svenningsen (National Gallery of Denmark) for bringing this source to my attention.

22 Karel van Mander’s estate also contained three pictures of the five senses on panel, ‘3 stucker aff de fem sandser, 3 stucker skilderi paa trae’ (3 pieces of the five senses, 3 paintings on panel). For the estate auction, see: J. Roding, ‘The “Kunst und Wunderkammer.” The library and collection of paintings of Karel van Mander III (c. 1610-1670) in Copenhagen,’ Tijdschrift voor Skandinavistiek 27 (2006), pp. 25-42.

23 The works are listed in the inventory as originals by Van Mander; such optimistic attributions are found throughout the inventory, see: A. Jager, ‘Quantity over quality? Dutch and Flemish paintings in a Danish private collection,’ in: A. Haack Christensen and A. Jager (ed.), Trading Paintings and Painter’s Materials, 1580-1700 (CATS Proceedings IV, 2018), London 2019, pp. 26-38.

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