Together with Hendrick Goltzius, the Antwerp painter, copper engraver and draughtsman Jacques de Gheyn is the most important Netherlandish draughtsman of the generation before Rembrandt. In addition to his many templates for engravings, he is famous in particular for the accuracy of his nature studies. On the back of this drawing the copper engraver Cornelis Ploos van Amstel, in whose widely illustrious collection the sheet was preserved during the eighteenth century, noted that de Gheyn had portrayed the painter and art writer Karel van Mander (1548-1606) on his deathbed. Van Mander, who was also known as the "Vasari of the North", created the earliest collection of biographies of Netherlandish artists in his 'Schilderboek'. Published in 1604, his art historiography remains a fundamental work to this day. The artist has recorded in two pen-and-ink views the gaunt facial features of the deceased man, making clear the situation with a pillow and a shroud tied at the neck. Somewhat in the manner of a copper engraving, the pen is used to model with parallel lines of different thickness, sensitively creating an impression of skin. A fine pattern of dots on the eyelids and lips in the left-hand study makes it look more like a corpse than the study on the right. The fact that the artist was concerned to record his subject as precisely as possible can be seen in the noticeable unevenness of the outer ears, which he has carefully observed in both views. The traditional belief that this is a deathbed portrait of Karel van Mander is not finally confirmed, but it is supported by the harp, which Jacques de Gheyn subsequently added to the two studies of the head. The instrument, whose realistic appearance is enhanced by the fine grey wash, has been placed in the same way that one would position a crux mortis on the breast of the deceased person. The harp is a reference to Van Mander's literary and poetic activities and could also allude to the collection of hymns he published in 1599 as 'De gulden harpe'.
Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.
The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.
Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:
The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.
Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.
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