Cluster of tall trees in an enclosed field by the dunes



Rotterdam 1609 – 1685 Utrecht 

Cluster of tall trees in an enclosed field by the dunes

Black chalk; traces of brown ink framing lines.

259 x 376 mm (10-1/8 x 14-3/4 in).


WATERMARK: bird within a circle (diameter 50 mm.),

identical to Heawood no. 175 (dated 1625). (R29)

CHAIN LINES: vertical, 26-29 mm.
INSCRIPTIONS: signed HSaft.leven (HS in monogram) at lower left (black chalk); verso at lower left No. 54/ Saftleven=ag3=1/ 746Stug. (pencil); at center right /815 (pencil)
PROVENANCE: Daan Cevat Gallery, London, 1963.

Frans C. Butôt,  St. Gilgen, Austria, his sale, Amsterdam, Sotheby’s, 16 November 1993, lot 55, acquired at the sale.

LITERATURE: Bol, Keyes and Butôt 1981, p. 142, no. 54.

Fechter 1989, p. 1768.

Schulz (in press), no. 338.

EXHIBITIONS: Robinson, Franklin W. and Peck, Sheldon. Fresh Woods and Pastures New: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Drawings from the Peck Collection. Chapel Hill/ Ithaca/ Worcester. 1999-2001. Published catalogue.

Herman Saftleven was the younger brother of Cornelis and collaborated with him on a number of paintings; Cornelis did a portrait of himself and Herman, making music, now in the Akademiegalerie, Vienna.  Herman was, in fact, more prolific than Cornelis and concentrated almost exclusively on landscapes.

This drawing is particularly important, for it shows the earliest stage of the artist’s development, c. 1627-30, that is when he is hardly twenty years old.  He is here deeply influenced by Willem Buytewech, especially his etchings of 1621, with their long supple tree trunks and clutches of tightly defined leaves.  The style of the drawing in general seems derived not only from Buytewech but also from the energetic calligraphy of Esaias van de Velde and the early Pieter Molyn and Jan van Goyen, as well as, perhaps, François Rijckhals and Jan van Brosterhuisen.

Of the dozen drawings by Herman from this period, one is dated, 1630, and this dates the whole group (Amsterdam, Sotheby’s, November 14, 1988, no. 34; London, Phillips, December 11, 1991, no. 140).  Several of Herman’s etchings probably can be dated to this period, including Hollstein nos. 20-24, and 38.

Like his brother, Herman was both energetic and original.  Years after making drawings of the effects of the Delft powder explosion in 1654, he made three series of drawings documenting the devastation caused by a hurricane in Utrecht in 1674.  He also turned his attention to very small drawings, often less than four inches wide, much in the manner of Allart van Everdingen.