Hendrick Martensz Sorgh - A Market in a Harbour
Hendrick Martensz Sorgh
A Market in a Harbour
Oil on panel. 44 x 62.5 cm.
Signed and dated lower left (on the wheelbarrow): HM Sorgh 1655.
The depiction of market scenes has a long history in Dutch painting, dating back to the 16th century. In the works of Pieter Aertsen (1508-1575) and his nephew Joachim Beuckelaer (1533-1575), Biblical narratives and moral messages usually served as a pretext for the depiction of lively market scenes and opulent arrays of food and wares. Their works also formed an important contribution to the later development of the still life genre.
Hendrick Martensz. Sorgh picked up this same subject in the early 1650s in Rotterdam. He had a biographical connection to the motif since, like his father before him, he was also the owner of a shipping line ferrying goods between Rotterdam and Dordrecht. He was first documented as such in 1638 and appears to have continued this work alongside his artistic career until the end of his life. Sorgh's market still lifes “appear at the beginning of a renewal of interest in this motif, which was also a subject in the works of his contemporaries Gerard Dou, Adriaen van Ostade and Quirin van Brekelenkam throughout the 1660s“ (Stukenbrock, op. cit., p. 238).
The present work, dated 1655, is a characteristic and early market scene of Sorgh. In the foreground on the right, we see a trader sitting at her vegetable stall offering a plate probably of herbs to a lady in a red dress. This detailed group of figures is accompanied by a boy in a broad-brimmed hat carrying a basket of fish, a nobly dressed gentleman, a child, and an older fisherman. The artistically arranged wares on the vegetable stand, which include various types of cabbage, carrots and artichokes, provide Sorgh with ample opportunity to demonstrate his mastery of still life painting. The same applies to the shimmering silver scales of the fish being laid out by a merchant on the lower edge of the image. Further into the mid-ground we see a second market stall in front of an open arcade on the left edge of the picture, where a woman is offering fried eggs for sale. A special feature of this painting is the addition of a view over the numerous ships moored in the harbour, whose precisely reproduced masts and sails form a charming background for the market scene in the foreground.
A work which can be closely compared to the present canvas is a small depiction of a Dutch fish market painted one year prior to it currently housed in the Kassel Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (inv. no. GK 286). The piece also depicts a view of the harbour in the background, although with considerably fewer ships, and also shows the same stone arcade on the left. The two works also feature a similar figure of a fish merchant bent over his wares in the front edge of the painting. The fish market painting in Kassel is accompanied by a pendant image of a Dutch vegetable market (inv. no. GK 285). As in other comparable paintings by Sorgh, such as those in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (inv. no. 1818) or in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (inv. no. A 717), the pendant work only depicts vegetable stands. The present canvas is thought to be the only market scene by Sorgh in which he combines a vegetable stall with a depiction of fish.
Robert Napier (1791-1876), West Shandon, Dunbartonshire;
His deceased sale, Christie’s, London, 11 April 1877 (to Colnaghi);
With Colnaghi, London.
John Charles Robinson: Catalogue of the Works of Art forming the Collection of Robert Napier of 1821, Shandon 1865, no. 488;
Jan Kelch: Holländische Malerei aus Berliner Privatbesitz. Berlin 1984, exhib. cat., pp. 132-3, no. 65, reproduced;
Christiane Stukenbrock, in: Ekkehard Mai (ed.): Das Kabinett des Sammlers, Cologne 1993, pp. 236-238, no. 94, reproduced.
Holländische Malerei aus Berliner Privatbesitz, Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, 1984, no. 65.