The Hornstein Donation in Montreal (5)

1. Cornelis van Poelenburgh (1595/1595-1667)
Lot and his Daughters, 16[3 ?]2
Oil on panel - 35.5 x 52 cm
Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Beaux-Arts de Montréal

6/11/13 - Acquisitions - Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts - We continue our series of articles highlighting the exceptional Hornstein donation in Montreal with three landscape paintings. In connection, we would like to point out also that construction on the future extension to the Musée des Beaux-Arts will soon begin. It is to welcome the collection of old masters which takes on an entirely new dimension thanks to this addition of 80 works.
The three paintings presented here were all produced by Dutch artists who sojourned in Italy for lengthy periods. The first is a characteristic work of Cornelis van Poelenburgh (ill. 1), recognizable notably due to the figures which are painted with a porcelain-like aspect and bright colors. The composition is particularly remarkable as the viewer sees the scene from inside a cave : the opening looks out over a landscape which gives the illusion of a painting within a painting, with striking contrasts in the use of light. It is a representation of Lot and his daughters at the moment when they intoxicate their father before taking advantage of him. Although Poelenburgh’s works are not rare (Montreal already owns one : Hajar and Ishmael Are Sent Back to the Desert), this is undoubtedly one of his masterpieces.

2. Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657)
Rebecca and Isaac Meet, 1630
oil on panel - 48.5 x 80 cm
Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Beaux-Arts de Montréal

3. Jan Asselijn (c. 1615-1652)
Figures in the Ruins at the Roman Forum, c. 1637
Oil on canvas - 70.5 x 31 cm
Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Beaux-Arts de Montréal

The second (ill. 2) is also a scene from the Old Testament (Rebecca and Isaac Meet) which takes place in a Roman landscape : the ruins in the background recall Diocletian’s Baths. The panel was however executed in Amsterdam in 1620 after the artist, Bartolomeus Breenbergh, had returned from Rome where he had spent ten years. Here again, we are in the presence of a work of the finest quality, in excellent condition and with a subtlety of color on a par with the greatest masters. This is the first painting by the artist to join the collections of a Canadian museum.
Finally, the third work (ill. 3), this time an oil on canvas, is by an artist of the following generation to the first two : Jan Asselijn. There is no mythological or religious pretext here. We have simply a few figures, no doubt goatherders watching their flock in the Roman Forum. In the spirit of a bambocciata, there exist several other known versions, similar to this composition, one of which resides at the Rijksmuseum and the other at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. Montreal did not hold any works by Asselijn before this.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 6 novembre 2013

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