Maria Galen presents the life and work of Johann Boeckhorst (1603/05-1668), a native of Münster (Westphalia, Germany) in a richly illustrated, well researched catalogue raisonné of his paintings (85), oil sketches and drawings (77). The author painstakingly updated Boeckhorst’s oeuvre from the earlier publications by Helmut Lahrkamp (Westfalen, 1982 and 1985), Julius Held (Westfalen, 1985), the Boeckhorst exhibition catalogues in Münster in 1990, with contributions among others by Hans Vlieghe and Anne-Marie Logan (drawings), and the small exhibition in 1998, again in Münster, that included almost exclusively works in the local Stadtmuseum.
Galen takes issue with works added to Boeckhorst’s oeuvre in these publications that she disagrees with (pp. 359- 428, cat. nos. A1-A70 for the paintings; pp. 431-468, cat. AZ1-A45 for drawings, among them several attributions that I had suggested). A list follows of the 154 lost paintings, beginning with the biblical and religious scenes, mythological, allegorical and historical themes, portraits, tronies and landscapes, animals and other scenes (pp. 473-82) and close to 20 drawings (pp. 482-83).The catalogue concludes with a number of relevant sources (Cornelis de Bie, 1661) and documents, all in their original language, among them three testaments (1639, 1654, 1666) and the inventory of 20 April 1668 upon his death; a Bibliography and a list of the illustrations follows but sadly no index.
Johann Boeckhorst was the second oldest of twelve children; his family belonged to Münster’s highly respected citizens (Honoratioren). The spelling of his name varies from Boichorst and Bockhorst in Münster; to Boeckhorst (used in two of his testaments), Bronckhorst or van Boeckhorst in the Netherlands. Among artists he was known as “Lange Jan” (‘tall John’ due to his height).
Nothing much about his education and training is known until 1633-1634, when he joins the guild of St. Luke in Antwerp as ‘Jan Borckhorst’ (Bockhorst) and paid the same 26 guilders as Van Dyck for example. According to De Bie he was apprenticed under Jacob Jordaens (Het gulden Cabinet, 1661, p. 257). He is thought to have arrived in Antwerp around 1626. Rubens’s nephew Philip mentions Johannes Bronchorst among Rubens’s pupils which is somewhat puzzling since Rubens was absent often from Antwerp for diplomatic reasons during the late 1620s (p. 14). However, Boeckhorst collaborated on the Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi (1635) and apparently also on the Torre de la Parada commission (1637-38). He therefore worked as a painter on his own rather than as an apprentice (p. 14). For the Pompa Introitus he contributed architectural elements on the Arch of Isabella and the figures of Securitas and Salus publica (p. 15) with Gerard Seghers and Jan Borchgraef. Since he also collaborated with other artists associated with Rubens such as Frans Snyders and Jan Wildens he must have been in close contact with the Rubens studio. Unfortunately, his first large commission of c. 1635-36 from Lodewijk de Roomer, a rich merchant, for 26 paintings to decorate the St. Joseph’s chapel in the Antwerp convent of St. Augustine, dedicated in 1637 but closed 1683 under Emperor Josef II, is lost. (The paintings are listed on pp. 483-84 as by Wildens and Boeckhorst, painted for the Falcon monastery in Antwerp; destroyed in 1810). In 1637 Boeckhorst returned to Antwerp from a trip to Northern Italy, just in time to contribute to the Torre de la Parada commission. His painting, Hercules Fighting Cerberus, however is lost. During a second trip in 1639 he reached Rome where he may have joined the Bentveughels who called him ‘Doctor Faustus’. In separate essays the author discusses Boeckhorst as a painter and draftsman.
Maria Galen chose a mere twelve paintings that served as her documentation for Boeckhorst’s oeuvre, works that were either signed, mentioned in church records, or closely associated with the painter (p. 29). Apparently there only exist three signed and dated paintings (cats. 19 , 43 , 74 [1660?]) and five that are dated only from 1659-1666. Galen nevertheless was able to assign dates to every work. The works are arranged chronologically and divided into four sections: the early years in Antwerp from c. 1626 until 1640, the decades until 1650, until 1660, and ending with the years up to his death in 1668. Paintings and oil sketches, drawings and prints are treated separately.
Little is known about Boeckhorst’s beginning. The first signed painting, a Madonna and Child with Saint John (cat. 19) is dated 1646, i.e. twenty years after his arrival in Antwerp. Galen lists two paintings done in collaboration with Rubens (cats. 15, 16) where, after 1632, Boeckhorst supposedly changed the original Rubens tronie of c. 1613 into King David Playing the Harp (Frankfurt). The second Rubens tronie of c. 1616/17 Boeckhorst transformed c. 1640/41 into a bust-length Portrait of a Man with a Statuette (Princely German collection; see sale Christie’s, London, 2 July 2013, lot 30), as Vlieghe and Tieze established earlier. She also favors Oldenbourg’s (1922) interpretation that Wildens commissioned Boeckhorst to enlarge Rubens’s Rise of the Blessed, c. 1640/42 (cat. 17, Neuburg a.d. Donau) in order to form a pendant with the Fall of the Damned then in Wildens’s own collection, who actually may have commissioned this copy after Rubens in the first half of the 1640s (now Aachen; cat. 18).
After the late 1630s when Boeckhorst worked with Snyders on the Maid and Boy in the Pantry (cat. 4, Getty; cat. 5, Brussels) and Farmers on the Way to Market (cat. 7) the collaborations ended. In the early 1650s he created several designs for the Breviarium Romanum and nine border decorations for the Missale Romanum, all engraved by Cornelis Galle the Younger and published by the Plantin Press (cats. Z19-Z21). Four of the drawings are still preserved in Antwerp (1652-53; cats. Z22-Z31). The two designs for the Missale Carmelitanum (c. 1664) are known only from Galle’s engravings (cats. Z62-Z63).
Galen agrees with Vlieghe’s date of c. 1640-50 for the four Cardiff cartoons with scenes from the Life of Romulus (cats. A37-A40) and the two in Sarasota (cats. A41-A42; Van Tichelen/Vlieghe, 1990) but not their attribution to Boeckhorst; however, she offers no alternative artist. Galen does accept the attribution to Jan van den Hoecke of the Foolish Virgins in the Liechtenstein collection and of the series of Sibyls (cats. A2 and A4, pp. 361-64, published by Vlieghe in Westfalen, 1993, pp. 167-70, figs. 1, 2-11).
Since the publication of this catalogue ten more drawings have become known. The Musée Mont-de-Piété, Bergues, preserves eight preliminary drawings for the Apollo series of tapestries which can now be completely reconstructed (cats. Z65-Z74). The missing composition was Leto with Her Small Children Apollo and Artemis Converting Two Peasants into Frogs. Published by Maria Galen in De Heemskerck à Le Brun, exh. cat. Bergues, 2012, pp. 100-109, nos. 22.1-8, all illustrated. A drawing of Venus and Adonis in Stockholm that Jaffé first attributed to Boeckhorst (1978) and that resembles the designs for the Apollo series should be included here (inv. NMH 174/1963; Logan, Art Bulletin of Nationalmuseum Stockholm, vol. 15, 2008, p. 85, fig. 10). Finally, Boeckhorst’s compositional drawing of Maria Snyders with the Four Evangelists, related to her triptych of c. 1659 in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and recently on the New York art market, is now at the Teylers Stichting, Haarlem (inv. KT 2013.006).
In conclusion, information on two works can be updated: cleaning the Man with a Stick that Held attributed to Boeckhorst in 1985 revealed the signature of Pieter Soutman and the date 1640. The painting is now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington (cat. A66; inv. 2010.19.1). The drawing of Christ Presenting the Keys to St. Peter is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (cat. Z54; inv. 2000.108). In 2010, Jeremy Wood attributed the drawing after Titian’s Rape of Europa (Gardner Museum, Boston), often wrongly attributed to Van Dyck, to Jan Boeckhorst (see Italian Artists, II, Titian and North Italian Art (Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, XXVI), London, 2010, I, p. 178, cat. 122, copy 1, fig. 67).