Boy with two laden donkeys in the hills



Haarlem c. 1624 – after 1695 Haarlem

Boy with two laden donkeys in the hills

Black chalk, brush in gray ink; brown (iron-gall) ink framing lines.

195 x 322 mm (7-5/8 x 12-5/8 in).

WATERMARK: countermark MCMD,

similar to Heawood no. 2781 (dated 1675); Gaudriault 1995, no. 4210 (dated 1661- 1700). (R25)

CHAIN LINES: horizontal, 25 mm.
INSCRIPTIONS: signed and dated WROMEYN/ 1694 at upper left corner (black chalk); verso, at center B.4. (pencil); at lower left XVI (pen in light brown ink) and to the right Romeyn.W.van.1624- (pencil).
PROVENANCE: Sale, Amsterdam, Christie’s, 26 November 1984, lot 103, acquired at the sale.
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.

This beautiful sheet is by Willem Romeyn, another artist in this exhibition, like Michiel Carrée whose paintings are fairly routine repetitions of the Italianate Dutch tradition created by Nicolaes Berchem and his generation but whose drawings are strikingly  individual and original.  Executed in 1694, long after he had returned to Haarlem from Rome in 1651, this work combines the classical and the colloquial to create a world where nothing dramatic or spontaneous occurs.  These quiet peasants and their donkeys acquire a dignity and timelessness, bathed in the late afternoon light, with its long, transparent shadows.  Up until the late 18th century, paper was made by hand with wire screens; the tooth of the paper, that is, the design of the hills and valleys left by that screen, is prominent in this drawing and easily visible, and it changes the whole feeling of the work, somehow making it more delicate and even fragile.

Many of Romeyn’s finest drawings are dated in the 1690s, near the end of his life.  Related drawings are in the Courtauld Institute, London, the Städel Institut, Frankfurt, and formerly the Perman Collection, Stockholm, all three dated 1694.  Similar paintings, but with these elements rearranged and with new figures added, are in the Pinakothek, Munich, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans.