As a discerning collector, generous benefactor, and perceptive scholar, Alfred Bader has made a lasting and significant contribution to the study of Netherlandish art. His autobiography Adventures of a Chemist Collector (London, 1995) presents his lively activities and personality. The present, beautiful volume presents 22 essays by scholars and museum professionals whose diverse insights into Dutch and Flemish art reflect the breadth of Dr. Bader’s own interests.
As befits Dr. Bader’s activities as a collector, Rembrandt and his associates have a central position in this publication. Yet the broader range of Bader’s concerns is reflected in essays on topics including Old Testament subjects and Italian art, such as Pierre de la Ruffinière du Prey’s discussion of Wenzel Hollar’s etchings of the Jerusalem Temple, Clovis Whitfield’s identification of the character in a Carracci portrait, Astrid T¸mpel’s evocation of Jerusalem, and Martha Wolff’s discussion of Kings David and Solomon in Antwerp Mannerist paintings. Two essays concern Jacob van Ruisdael: George Keyes on aspects of the artist’s landscapes and Seymour Slive on the artist’s work for Cornelis de Graeff and other patrons. Drawings, as newly discovered sheets, stages in the working process, and underdrawings, are the focus of essays by David McTavish on De Gheyn, William Robinson on Jan Muller, Axel Rüger on Van Bassen, and Marjorie Wieseman on Netscher. Arthur Wheelock explores the viewer’s experience of a painting with particular respect to the framing of Vermeer’s Woman holding a Balance. Rüdiger Klessmann surveys the wider reception of Elsheimer in the north. Jonathan Bikker considers the seven paintings by Annibale Carracci in the collection of Balthasar Coymans in Amsterdam. Gregory Martin publishes a Rustic Kitchen by Willem van Herp, an Antwerp painter who deserves to be better known. Jane Russell Corbett interprets a fascinating alchemical painting by Thomas Wyck.
Ronni Baer analyzes Dou’s Old Woman Cutting Bread, probably the artist’s earliest candlelit scene, which has been acquired recently by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. David De Witt thoughtfully considers the small oil on copper, Scholar by Candlelight, now attributed to Rembrandt (Bader collection) in terms of its authorship and style, and in the context of practice and themes by Rembrandt and Brouwer. Christopher Brown highlights the drawings by Rembrandt and paintings by his pupils in Oxford. Volker Manuth relates Van den Eeckhout’s Tobias, Anna, and the Goat of 1652 (Bader collection) to well-known precedents by Buytewech and Rembrandt, and considers the artist’s choice of dramatic moment, painterly expressiveness, and thematic interpretation. Christian Tümpel analyzes Aert de Gelder’s religious iconography in terms of the artist’s renderings of themes also treated by Rembrandt and known to both artists through print series, the Statenbijbel, and Flavius Josephus. Tümpel observes that, in contrast to Rembrandt, De Gelder “removes all uncertainties from his painting” with respect to identification of subject (p. 217). Walter Liedtke reopens the question of the identity of the main figure in Rembrandt’s Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art). The earliest notation (1654) refers to the painting as “Aristotle or Albertus Magnus.” By considering why the picture could have been considered to represent either of these philosophers, Liedtke enlarges the range of its associations to include the human senses, especially sight and touch. One omission in his otherwise extensive bibliography is Jaco Rutgers, “Rembrandts naam en faam in Italië in de zeventiende eeuw,” Kroniek van het Rembrandthuis 2003/1-2, pp. 3-21, which contains accurate transcriptions of the relevant documents (published elsewhere in other forms). I mention this for the sake of completeness, and because the Kroniek is an extremely useful and sometimes overlooked publication. Douglas Stewart examines the possible connections between Lievens, Van Dyck, Rubens, and Rembrandt during the 1620s; his suggestion, published in 1990 (“Before Rembrandt’s ‘Shadow’ fell … ,” The Hoogsteder Mercury, vol. 11, 1990, pp. 42-47) and reaffirmed here that Lievens may have apprenticed in Antwerp in 1620-21 was considered “too daring” in the exhibition catalogue Mystery of the Young Rembrandt, Kassel/Amsterdam, 2001-2002 (p. 107), but given the stylistic comparisons and circumstances, should be kept within the discourse. The possibility that Lievens was in Antwerp 1620-21 is bolstered by the two states of his portrait in Van Dyck’s Iconography: first without, and then with, his moustache; the two impressions taken together may indicate that Van Dyck first knew Lievens as a youth, and later reworked the plate to portray a more mature man.
This brief summary cannot encompass the many gems of nuanced interpretation, visual analysis, and solid reasoning presented in this stimulating collection of essays, a fitting and elegant tribute to one who has done so much to further the study of Netherlandish art.