Pigeons on a chimney with a nest of storks on a nearby church roof

cat28saf-tle

Cornelis SAFTLEVEN

Gorkum 1607 – 1681 Rotterdam

Pigeons on a chimney with a nest of storks on a nearby church roof

Black and red chalk, brush in gray; brown and black ink framing lines.

43 x 195 mm ( 5-5/8 x 7-5/8 in)

WATERMARK: fragment, crown [topping Arms of the Seven Provinces with lion], at lower center,

nearly identical to Churchill no. 109 (dated 1656). (R28)

CHAIN LINES: vertical, 17, 22-24 mm.
INSCRIPTIONS: none.
PROVENANCE: Sale, Notarishuis, Arnhem, 1970.

Hans van Leeuwen, Amerongen (L. 2799a), his sale, Amsterdam, Christie’s, 24 November 1992, lot 174, acquired at the sale.

LITERATURE: Schulz 1978, no. 392.
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.

One of the most striking aspects of 17th century Dutch draftsmanship is the fact that sometimes hundreds, and even thousands, of drawings by a single artist have survived.  Cornelis Saftleven is an example of this new phenomenon; his hundreds of paintings and drawings reflect an insatiable curiosity about virtually every aspect of the world around him, from wheelbarrows to carriages, all kinds of animals, witches, people of all ages, and even political events.

Birds were one of his many interests, and here we are given not only four pigeons on the chimney to the left, above a clay bird’s-pot, but also storks nesting on the church roof and a rooster weathervane on its steeple.  A replica of this composition exists, cut in two parts; the left part is now in the Prentenkabinet, Leiden, and the right is in the Fondation Custodia, Paris, both monogrammed and dated by the artist 1646.  (A copy of the whole drawing, formerly in the Hofstede de Groot collection and with Bernard Houthakker in 1965, sold at Swann Galleries, New York, 4 February 1999, lot 95.)

Cornelis was the son of an artist and the older brother of Herman, two of whose drawings are in this exhibition; there is also a Sara Saftleven, who apparently made watercolors of flowers.  With the exception of a possible sojourn in Antwerp in his twenties, Cornelis spent most of his life in Rotterdam, and it is difficult to discover his artistic sources.  He has something in common with the fresh, almost childlike delight of Anthonie van Borssum, the quirky, sharper-edged humor of Pieter Quast, and the endless curiosity of Jacques de Gheyn II, and he certainly knew the eccentric, brilliant etchings of Jacques Callot and the religious and genre paintings of David Teniers, which he could have seen in Antwerp.