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Abraham Storck

(1644–1708, Amsterdam)

View of the Castle Pfalz near Kaub on the Rhine. Pen and gray and brown ink with gray wash. 10 x 14.9 cm. Titled by the artist at the upper edge: de Pfalts/Caup.

The painter, draftsman, and etcher Abraham Storck (his real name was Sturckenburch) was the youngest and best-known member of an Amsterdam family of artists. Storck was a ­versatile and productive painter of seascapes and a member of the Amsterdam painters’ guild. The abundant output of his workshop during the last three decades of the seventeenth ­century reflects the huge demand for Dutch and Mediterranean seascapes, coastal landscapes, and harbor scenes during this period, resulting in the employment of many workshop ­assistants. The best of Storck’s richly detailed seascapes, –embellished with carefully chosen staffage figures, point to the influence of Willem van de Velde the Younger, while his ­depictions of sea battles and winter landscapes are clearly ­inspired by the work of Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraten. The ­powerful silhouettes of the large sailing ships are a compositional topos and are also reminiscent of the paintings of Storck’s contemporary Ludolf Backhuysen.

Abraham Storck’s drawn oeuvre is fairly large. Many of his sheets are not preparatory to paintings but stand as ­independent works of art. While his Dutch coastal scenes are often topographically precise, he frequently employed more standard compositional motifs in his Mediterranean seascapes. This would suggest that Storck had never actually been to Italy. He had, however, certainly visited Germany, as is indicated by his topographically accurate painted view of the city of Bonn (Stadtmuseum, Bonn). The present view of the Castle Pfalz, south of Bonn, seems to be the only surviving drawing from this journey to Germany. The artist shows the scene from a low perspective, probably from a boat. A very detailed freight ship is seen sailing in the foreground toward a bend in the river. Other barges and small boats are anchored in front of the castle. The medieval building is also shown in great detail, with the pointed towers and defence galleries of the six-pointed bastion. The ­fortress, erected in 1327, served since the beginning as a –customs stop on the Rhine, taking tolls from the wine and freight ships. The high central tower in Storck’s drawing still shows the medieval pointed roof and corner turrets instead of the later baroque cupola with lantern. In the background on the right can be seen an accurate topographical representation of the city of Kaub and the silhouette of the Gutenfels Fortress on the slopes of the hills. Landscape, sky, architecture, and ships are all minutely detailed with fine and precise lines. The skillfuly applied wash creates beautiful contrasts of light and shade.

Provenance: Collection Köster, C. G. Boerner, Leipzig, Catalogue 145, November 13th, 1924, no. 456; collection Strähnz, Leipzig (not recorded by Lugt); a German private collection.

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