Oil on panel. Dutch school circa 1650.
Beneath the appearance of a charming rural genre scene, as so many were painted during the Dutch Golden Age, lies in reality a religious painting. The subject is Adam and Eve, who, having been expelled from paradise for their sin, are condemned to toil and pain, like the rest of mankind. While Adam works hard, Eve carries water with a yoke, surrounded by their flock. Behind them, Cain and Abel, the fruit of original sin, squabble over an improvised fire; the one who raises his arm at his brother is undoubtedly Cain, foreshadowing the coming fratricide. Yet such an ominous fate seems far away, given the peaceful atmosphere that emanates from this harmonious composition bathed in the soft light of the setting sun.
Our artist, Cornelis Saftleven, delivers a highly personal interpretation of a subject rarely represented in the history of art, bringing together several repertoires. Firstly, the still life, with the copper kitchen utensils in the foreground, faithfully depicted in a manner reminiscent of his Interior of a Cowshed (in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Then there's the world of rural life, with the animal figures that run through his entire oeuvre, and which can be seen in his paintings of livestock markets, such as the one depicting the outskirts of Rotterdam in 1659, now in the Rotterdam Museum. While the Italianate atmosphere of this painting is a feature common to the art of his Dutch contemporaries, such as Nicolaes Berchem or Karel Dujardin, the combination of genres in favor of a sacred subject is an original feature of Saftleven's work that is found several times in his corpus, both for the Old Testament (Tobias' Family and the Angel, Hermitage Museum) and for the Gospels (The Annunciation to the Shepherds, Rijskmuseum).
We have chosen to present this rare composition in a Dutch blackened wood frame with an upside-down profile.
Dimensions: 39 x 58.5 cm per panel
Biography: Cornelis Saftleven (Gorinchem, 1607 - Rotterdam, June 5, 1681) was the son of a Rotterdam history painter, with whom he and his brother Herman learned painting. Around 1634, they were active in Antwerp, where they met David Teniers le Jeune, with whom they collaborated. Back in Rotterdam, Cornelis became Dean of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1667. Praised by Houbraken for his rural paintings, he was indeed one of the forerunners of depictions of farm interiors. However, his contribution to Dutch painting goes beyond this framework alone, as evidenced by the novel blend summoned in our painting.
- BROWN, Christopher, HARWOOD, Laurie B., Inspired by Italy: Dutch Landscape Painting 1600-1700, London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2002.
- SCHOEMAKER, Laurens, "The flying start of Herman Saftleven's painting career: His early Utrecht years (1633-1643)", Oud Holland, 135 (2022), pp. 85-103.
- SCHULZ, Wolfgang, Cornelis Saftleven (1607-1681) : Leben und Werke, Berlin and New York, 1978.
- SUTTON, P. C., Masters of 17th-century Dutch Landscape Painting (cat. exp., Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, Boston Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1988), London, Herbert publishers, 1988.