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Tag Archives: Dutch

Object of the Month: May 2024

The Flight from Sodom

Oil on canvas, c. 1630

Matthias Stomer

Dutch, c. 1600–after 1649

Very little is known about the artistic training of Dutch master Matthias Stomer. His works have similarities to Gerrit van Honthorst and Abraham Janssens, both in M&G’s collection. He spent some time in Rome being influenced by Caravaggio as did many of his contemporary fellow artists. He seems to have settled in Sicily and painted many biblical subjects. Though some think M&G’s The Flight from Sodom is derivative of a Rubens’ work of the same title at the Ringling in Sarasota, Florida, Stomer simply tells the “rest of the story.”

Genesis 19 reveals that the escape of Lot and his family from Sodom has two stages. First, God warns Lot of the impending destruction of Sodom for its immorality and wickedness and tells him to gather his family and escape the fate of the city. Unfortunately, his efforts are rebuffed by his sons-in-law. The delay means he is still in the city at daybreak. Then he is commanded, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain.” But in fear, Lot begs to escape to a “little” city nearby rather than the mountain of God’s dictum. God mercifully allows this change, saving Zoar from destruction for Lot’s sake.

Stomer paints the second part of the drama: Lot’s negotiating his escape into Zoar. Lot’s wife is near the back of the group, signifying her growing reluctance to leave. Her faraway gaze shows her preoccupation with the past. She will eventually look back and be turned into a pillar of salt as punishment. In the foreground the blond daughter carries a basket of gold household items and engages the audience with a direct gaze. Is she asking for sympathy? For approval of her father’s plan? She definitely challenges the viewer to contemplate the event. The other daughter, mostly hidden, carries a cloth bundle on her head. She gazes straight ahead, intent on escaping with her life.

Lot clutches his red robe to him. Is he facilitating his gait or visually showing his reluctance to leave by grasping the rich garment that indicates his prominence? His raised eyebrows indicate a question for the leading angel. His open left palm indicates that the question asked is reasonable, almost a “what about?” gesture. The lead angel looks astonished at the request, mirroring Lot’s hand position with one hand while pointing definitively forward with the other, as if to say, “You want to go there?” The second angel’s hand lies near his chin, like the professor’s “stroking his beard” as he considers a student’s idea. Lot suggests a change of plan, and the angels seem to have differing opinions on it.

It may be reading too much into the painting to see in the half-shaved little dog a lesson that Lot and his family are escaping by the “skin of their teeth.” However, the running dog has more sense than Lot who has dawdled at every turn of the story, even with his life at stake. Stomer’s background indicates that the family has taken all night to leave the city (Genesis 19:16 states that the angels had to “set him without the city”). The morning has come—the time when Lot finishes his “flight” since “the sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar” (19:23). Ironically, even Stomer doesn’t finish the story. Lot and his daughters eventually find Zoar inhospitable, and the evil that Lot dreaded “in the mountain” comes to pass.

Dr. Karen Rowe Jones, M&G board member

 

Special Note:

Scholars have discovered that Stomer used “Naples yellow,” a color created by combining antimony and lead. First mentioned in the late 17th century, Naples yellow appears in Stomer’s early work. Determining whether the blond daughter’s robe uses Naples yellow, might facilitate dating The Flight from Sodom within Stomer’s oeuvre.

Botticelli, Michela, Costanza Miliani, Eva Luna Ravan, Claudia Caliri, and Francesco Paolo Romano. 2024. “Naples Yellow Revisited: Insights into Trades and Use in 17th-Century Sicily from the Macro X-ray Fluorescence Scanning of Matthias Stomer’s ‘The Mocking of Christ’” Heritage 7, no. 3: 1188-1201. https://doi.org/10.3390/heritage7030057

 

Published 2024

 

Constantijn van Renesse (attr. to): Christ before Pilate

Few paintings exist by this Dutch master, and if this is his work, it is certainly one of his finest.

Object of the Month: November 2023

Cabinet on Stand

Walnut

English, late 17th century

 

This William and Mary Cabinet on Stand came into the Museum & Gallery’s collection in 1970, through the generosity of a prominent Asheville physician, musician, author, and collector of art and antiques, Dr. Charles S. Norburn.  Dr. Norburn served as a Navy surgeon in World War I, then in Navy hospitals in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  He was even appointed by the U.S. Surgeon General to serve as personal surgeon to President Warren Harding on a trip to Alaska. After leaving the Navy, Norburn returned to North Carolina in 1923 and established the cutting-edge Norburn Hospital Clinic in 1928. The Norburn Hospital’s second building, with 32 acres of property, stood on what is now part of the Mission Health campus, leaving a lasting legacy of care in Western North Carolina. His donation to M&G has left a lasting cultural legacy in the western Carolinas, as well.

Much from the period of William and Mary (1689-1702), including the furniture characteristic of that era, reflects the religious atmosphere of the day. While it would oversimplify the case to say that religion was the sole explanation for the furniture fashion of the day, most sources do note the significant influence religion had upon it. Indeed, there would not have been a “William and Mary” period, had it not been for the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, which deposed James II from the English throne and made him notable for being the last Roman Catholic monarch of England.

James II had succeeded his elder brother, Charles II in 1685, when Charles died without a legitimate heir. Early in his reign, Charles II had urged his younger brother to rear his daughters as Protestants, despite the fact that James and his wife were Catholic. Thus, when Charles II died, the throne passed to James II and established his elder daughter, Mary (b. 1662), as heir apparent. Mary had married her cousin, William of Orange, in 1677, when she was just 15, and moved to the Protestant Netherlands with her husband.

From the start, James II’s overt Catholicism alienated the majority in England. That dissatisfaction was amplified in 1688 with two crises—the birth of a son to James, (raising fears of a Roman Catholic dynasty), and very public conflicts with the king over religious tolerance.

Seven highly placed Englishmen (an Anglican bishop and six prominent politicians) wrote to William of Orange, inviting him to come set right the country’s grievances. William sailed to England in November of 1688 with a force of 20,000 men, making his way to London with very little opposition. James II fled to France in December of that year, and Parliament—now cemented as the ruling body in England—pronounced William III and Mary II joint rulers in April 1689.

The “William and Mary style” developed within this religious and cultural milieu. With them, William and Mary brought Dutch craftsmen to England, popularizing a style that had first been seen under Charles II (1660-1685) throughout England and its colonies. The finely inlaid cabinet style of this era had originated in France, but some of the most influential craftsmen were Huguenots. These weavers, painters, joiners and carvers fled to England from France in order to escape the religious persecution that arose after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). Their influence resulted in a more staid style than the flamboyance of Louis XIV’s court, while still exhibiting the highest craftsmanship and newest fabrication techniques.

The Museum & Gallery’s Cabinet on Stand evidences the traits distinctive to fine cabinetmaking in the William and Mary style. In place of the heavy, horizontal lines of domestic furniture, there was an emphasis on verticality, lifting cabinets on multiple, finely turned or barley-twisted legs. Indeed, the “high boy” and other specialized forms of domestic furniture owe their inception to William and Mary design.

Overall, there was a movement away from the excessive grandeur of the French court and the English Restoration period, but there was also intricacy and high design. Thin slices of highly figured woods (sometimes acacia, olive, or other exotic woods made possible by new East-West trade routes), ivory, and metal were affixed to flat surfaces like cabinet doors and sides, creating contrasting colors for geometric shapes, flowers, birds, and numerous other natural themes. Beneath these veneers, walnut superseded oak as the most frequently used wood species. Atop the veneers, surface treatments like lacquer and other fine polishes became vital to protect and highlight the designs.

In keeping with the above-mentioned traits of William and Mary cabinetmaking, M&G’s Cabinet on Stand features detailed walnut burl veneers and geometric maple inlay on three sides, over a yellow pine substrate.  An overhanging cornice rests at the very top, with two drawers and two flush, side-hinged doors beneath.  This top portion (the “cabinet” in the designation “cabinet-on-stand”) sits on a base containing two additional drawers and four sophisticated, tapering barley-twist front legs and three simpler turned rear legs. The barley-twist legs taper from being thinner at top and bottom to thick in the middle and demonstrate the cabinetmaker’s skill. A flat display platform sits at the very bottom, raised from the floor on turned bun feet.

Our cabinet is likely from the late 17th century or early 18th century (perhaps 1700-1725) and illustrates the departure from the continental style toward a more staid English and/or Protestant sensibility. It is a presentation cabinet that served for storage in some prominent place of a household, possibly holding linens in the 17th-century equivalent of a dining room. The top and base are flat for display and may have held Dutch majolica, other pottery, or even items from the Orient over the years, depending on the wealth of the owner.  This Cabinet on Stand is an important piece in the M&G collection for the history and artistry it brings to life.

 

Dr. Stephen B. Jones, volunteer

 

Sources:

David L’eglise, Village Antiques at Biltmore, Asheville, NC

Joseph Aronson, The Encyclopedia of Furniture

Judith Miller, Furniture

Judith Miller, Miller’s Antiques Encyclopedia

Encyclopaedia Britannica

MetMuseum.org

Tim Forrest, The Bulfinch Anatomy of Antique Furniture

Kay West, “Daughter publishes book by pioneering physician father decades after his death”

 

Picture Books of the Past: Unknown Dutch

Enjoy this series of segments highlighting Picture Books of the Past: Reading Old Master Paintings, a loan exhibition of 60+ works from the M&G collection. The exhibit has traveled to The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. and the Orlando Museum of Art in Florida.

As this compelling 17th-century work by an unknown painter illustrates, the Dutch were especially adept at still life painting. (Following your video viewing click HERE to access the additional information provided on the exhibition’s text panels.)

Rafael Govertsz. Camphuysen

Elijah Fed by the Ravens

Rafael Govertsz. Camphuysen

Below the image, click play to listen.

Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

Hunters in the Snow

Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

Below the image, click play to listen.

Whatsoever Things Are… Excellent: Mary Magdalene Turning from the World to Christ

 

Mary Magdalene is one of the most intriguing figures in Scripture, and her life story is as apropos today as it was when it was first recorded in Scripture.

 

Visit HERE for the next video to think on things that are Excellent.

Rembrandt van Rijn (school of): Head of Christ

In this moving work we see combined two of Rembrandt’s favorite subjects: portraiture and biblical history.

Gerrit van Honthorst

The Holy Family in the Carpenter Shop

Gerrit van Honthorst

Below the image, click play to listen.

 

David de Haen: The Mocking of Christ

The story behind the acquisition of a work is often as fascinating as the story within the frame.