Gerard de Lairesse (Liège 1640 – 1711 Amsterdam)
An Allegorical Representation of the Expansion of Amsterdam
Pen and brown ink and reddish-brown wash over black, within a drawn oval, 259 x 233 mm (10.2 x 9.2 inch); laid down onto an early mount with framing lines in grey wash
Bears early attribution on old mount, lower right Lairesse - , and numbering on verso, No. 114
- Henry Scipio Reitlinger (1882-1950) (Lugt 2274a)
- with Alister Mathews, Bournemouth
- Purchased from the latter in March 1956 by Ralph Holland (1917-2012), until 2013
Old Master Drawings, from the XVIth to the XIXth century, Newcastle upon Tyne (Hatton Gallery) 1960, no. 24
Originally from Liège, Gerard de Lairesse came to Amsterdam in 1667. Rembrandt was a major influence at first, but later he became interested in French Neoclassical art. He applied these new ideas to his work, mainly painting themes from Classical antiquity in a clear style. De Lairesse produced numerous wall hangings and ceiling paintings on canvas featuring deceptively realistic trompe-l'oeil scenes. After De Lairesse lost his sight around 1690, he concentrated on art theory. The blind artist gave lectures, which he published in two volumes: Grondlegginge der teekenkonst (1701), a treatise on the art of drawing, and Het groot schilderboeck (1707), a treatise on painting. Lairesse’s writings had considerable impact in the 18th century. De Lairesse was perhaps the most celebrated Dutch painter in the years following the death of Rembrandt in 1669.
As Norbert Middelkoop has kindly pointed out, this drawing is closely related in subject to the fine oil sketch by Lairesse depicting an Allegory of the Glory of Amsterdam, executed around 1685, and now in the Amsterdam Museum (formerly the Amsterdams Historisch Museum) (see fig.).1 Just as in the painting, we see here a seated female personification of Amsterdam, accompanied by the city's arms, presenting a map of the distinctive concentric rings of canals, while behind we see Jacob van Campen's famous Town Hall, with its statue of Hercules atop the pediment. The subject is also closely related to the iconography of images associated with the fourth major phase in the expansion of the city of Amsterdam, starting in the 1660s, which saw the construction of a swathe of new canals from the Leidsegracht all the way round to the River Amstel.
The painting, an unrealised design for a lunette intended for the Burgerzaal (Citizens' Hall) in the new Town Hall, is a much more extensive composition, in which these central motifs are surrounded by many other figures and elements, but the main group is closely comparable. Unfortunately the onset of blindness left Lairesse unable to execute the wall painting itself, which was ultimately completed by his pupils Jan Hoogsaat and Gerrit Rademaker in 1708. If the present drawing does indeed relate to the planning of this painting, it must have been executed at a very early stage in the process, when the artist was concentrating only on the central group. A fine study by Lairesse for the whole composition, much closer to the final work, was on the Paris art market in 1925 (see fig.).2 In its handling, the present drawing is, however, closer to some of the artist's more linear and sketchy drawings, such as the Portrait of Filips de Flines, in the Rijksmuseum (see last fig.), the Solomon and Queen of Sheba, in Edinburgh, or the fine, inscribed 1688 drawing of The Battle between Menelaeus and Paris, now in Berlin.3
1. Inv. SA 8214; A. Roy, Gérard de Lairesse 1640-1711, Paris 1992, pp. 323-25, no. P. 173.
2. Sale, Collection Mme V..., Paris, Drouot, 30 March 1925, lot 123 (as School of Rembrandt); Roy, op. cit., pp. 325-26, no. Cf.D. 158.
3. Roy, op. cit., nos. D. 24, D. 50, D. 168.