Philips Wouwerman - The Horse Market
The Horse Market
Oil on panel. 31 x 38 cm.
Monogrammed lower left: Phl W (Phl conjoined).
With a collector's stamp numbered 051 to verso, and incised 6708 to the back of the frame.
“This is a beautiful little gem of the choicest quality”, were the enthusiastic words which John Smith used to describe this painting by Philips Wouvermann (Smith, 1829-35, p. 278). Smith would have known: He was one of the leading art dealers in London in the early 19th century and author of the monumental series of volumes “A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters”. He was also the previous owner of this work, the provenance of which is typical of so many of Wouwerman's paintings.
The work is known to have been in France at the end of the 18th century, in the possession of the Prince of Monaco. In the early 19th century it entered the London art market, which was experiencing a unique boom as a result of the French Revolution. At the successive auctions, it always fetched the highest prices; at the sale of the Edward William Lake collection, for example, it sold for the second highest price after a work by Nicolaes Berchem, which is now in the Musée du Louvre. This work is exemplary of Philips Wouwerman's continuing posthumous success: "He is a happy artist," wrote art historian Arnold Houbraken about Wouwerman and stated: "It is true that after his death his paintings fetched much higher prices than ever before in his life."
In the centre of the composition we see a white stallion being presented to a well-dressed customer. This central group is surrounded by other traders, buyers, and animals, and in the background we see stands and carriages that bear witness to the hustle and bustle of the market. Wouwerman demonstrates here the painterly qualities for which he was so appreciated: The subtle brilliance of the colouring, the elegant composition, and the fine rendering of the atmosphere.
Wouwerman primarily painted the horse market motif in his later works of the 1660s, and this painting also dates from around 1665. The artist developed two compositional variations on the theme: The first features a panoramic landscape in which a multitude of riders, horses, and figures can be seen and the viewer's gaze wanders across a wide plain (cf. London, Wallace Collection, inv. no. P65). The other, smaller variation shows figures and animals grouped around a single horse, as is the case with this painting. Wouwerman painted a comparable composition with a horse in the centre almost a decade earlier but with a tavern, instead of a market, forming the architectural backdrop (Montpellier, Musée Fabre, inv. no. 836-4-75).
Honoré-Camille-Lénor Grimaldi, Prince de Monaco und Duc de Valentinois. – His sale, Paris, 4.7.1803, lot 48 (for 725 francs). – Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Lebrun, Paris. –J. F. Tuffin, London. – His sale, Christie´s, London, 11.4.1818, lot 101 (for 131.5 pounds). – Thomas Vardon, London. – John Smith, London, 1826. – Sir Charles Bagot, Bt., London 1829. – His sale, Christie´s, London, 18.6.1836, lot 46 (for 172.4 pounds). – Edward William Lake, London. – His sale, Christie´s, London, 11.7.1845, lot 111 (for 304.10 pounds). – Sold to Nieuwenhuys. – Baron de Varange, Paris 1852. – Comte d´Yvon, Paris. – Auguste Courtin, Paris. – His sale, Paris, 29.3.1886. – Netherlandish private collection. – Robert Noortman Gallery, London 1979/1980. – Private collection. – Johnny van Haeften, London. – German private collection.
John Smith: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. London 1829-35, vol. 1, p. 278, no. 286; Supplement-Band, p. 174, no. 103. - Cornelis Hofstede de Groot: Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. Esslingen 1908, vol. 2, p. 314, no. 197. - Kurt J. Müllenmeister: Meer und Land im Licht des 17. Jahrhunderts. Bremen 1981, vol. 3, p. 105, illus. 541. - Ekkehard Mai (ed.): Das Kabinett des Sammlers. Gemälde vom XV. bis XVIII. Jahrhundert. Cologne 1993, p. 282-284, no. 112. – Birgit Schumacher: Philips Wouwerman: The Horse Painter of the Golden Age. Doornspijk 2006, vol. 1, p. 210-211, no. A106; vol. 2, illus. 100.