In the Eye of the Beholder: Northern Baroque Paintings from the Collection of Henry H. Weldon. Forward by Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann; catalogue by Nancy T. Minty [Exh. Cat.]. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1997. 159 pp, ISBN 0-911886-50-8.
Nancy T. Minty and Joaneath Spicer, An Eye for Detail: 17th-Century Dutch and Flemish Paintings from the Collection of Henry H. Weldon. With contributions by Sir Oliver Millar and Anke van Wagenberg-Ter Hoeven [Exh. Cat.]. Baltimore, MD: The Walters Art Gallery, 1999. 190 pp, ISBN 0-89494-059-7.
The recent showings of Henry and June (Jimmy) Weldon’s collection of mostly Northern Baroque paintings, at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1997 and at The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, in 1999, resulted in the publication of two separate catalogues. Much of the information contained within the two publications is identical, although they differ slightly in their focus and scope. The New Orleans catalogue includes a handful of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century works by non-Netherlandish artists, thereby offering a broader view of the Weldons’ holdings; while the Baltimore publication focuses exclusively (with one exception) on the Dutch and Flemish works that are the great strength of the collection. As their titles indicate, and as Haverkamp-Begemann’s Preface (1997) and Spicer’s Introduction (1999) emphasize, both exhibitions and their catalogues highlight the attentive sensibility which the Weldons have displayed in assembling this delightful group of cabinet pictures so well suited to a contemplative domestic environment.
Spicer’s introduction to the Baltimore catalogue is particularly useful for its insightful overview of the Weldons’ collection. For readers with access to one catalogue or the other, it would perhaps be useful to outline the major differences between them. Sixty-eight paintings are featured in the New Orleans catalogue, and sixty-three in the Baltimore publication. The former includes works that are not included in the latter (by Jan Lievens, a gift from the Weldons to the New Orleans Museum of Art, an anonymous sixteenth-century Antwerp artist, Jan Vermeyen, Cesare Dandini, Victoria Dubourg, Théodule-Augustin Ribot, Jehan Georges Vibert, and Antoine Watteau); the latter includes additional works by Bartolomeus Breenbergh, Meindert Hobbema, Jacob Marrel, David Teniers the Younger, Esaias van de Velde, and Simon de Vlieger. The majority of these additions are acquisitions made in the two intervening years. While the bulk of entries have been reprinted verbatim from the earlier catalogue, several works benefit from expanded entries in the 1999 catalogue (Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Abraham Calraet, Cornelis Saftleven, Hendrick van Steenwijk the Younger) or have been edited to reflect recent research. Nancy Minty’s consistently well-written entries are augmented by additional contributions from Sir Oliver Millar (on Anthony van Dyck) and, in the 1999 catalogue, by Joaneath Spicer and Anke van Wagenberg-Ter Hoeven.
Limited space precludes extensive commentary on individual entries, although a few notes come to mind: the dating of Van Dyck’s grisaille portrait of the painter Martin Ryckaert (cat. 1997, no. 18; cat. 1999, no. 17) seems overly specific; I am not convinced that it must predate the sitter’s death in 1631. Ostade’s charming Man with Pince-Nez, Reading Notices (cat. 1997, no. 36; cat. 1999, no. 35), featured on the cover of the Baltimore catalogue, surely has links to popular theatrical traditions. The attribution of the landscape and still life elements in the Landscape with Pan and Syrinx (cat. 1997, no. 43; cat. 1999, no. 42), a wonderful example of the fashion for collaborative paintings in seventeenth-century Flanders, to Jan Brueghel the Younger (rather than the Elder) is indeed correct.
Ultimately, one might question the necessity of two very spiffy publications devoted to the same private collection within such a short period of time, but even apart from its scholarly boon the Baltimore catalogue makes a valuable contribution in the superior quality of the colour reproductions and the vastly improved layout. The latter allows images (or a well-chosen detail) to be viewed in conjunction with the entry text, a subliminal convenience not to be underestimated. One final note: given the fact that this appealing group of paintings, so very expressive of a personal aesthetic, merited two such grand displays, some more information about the formation of the Weldons’ collection would have been welcome. Haverkamp-Begemann’s lucid end engaging introduction to the 1997 catalogue provides but a tantalizing glimpse of the collectors’ long-standing devotion to the field of Netherlandish art.
Marjorie E. Wieseman
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College