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Hendrik Gijsmans

(circa 1544 Mechelen – circa 1611/12 Frankenthal)

View of the Town of Huy. Pen and brown ink, framing line in pen and brown ink. 14.8 x 34.4 cm. Signed “Henrick Ghys: F.”; “Huy” inscribed in the artist’s own hand in the upper margin.

This very fine, meticulously executed pen-and-ink drawing shows a topographically precise view of the town of Huy seen from the south-west. Situated in the province of Liège in Wallonia, Huy was an important trading centre in the Middle Ages and owed its prosperity to wool processing. On a hill on the right we can see the citadel erected in the town, the silhouette of which is dominated by the church tower of a Gothic religious building, the Collégiale Notre-Dame de Huy.

Our drawing was made by a travelling artist from the Netherlands who has hitherto been listed under the notname “Anonymus Fabriczy”. This designation goes back to the Privatgelehrter, Cornelius von Fabriczy (1839–1910), who published the first definitive essay on the anonymous artist in 1893 (C. de Fabriczy, “Il libro di schizzi di un pittore olandese nel museo di Stuttgart”, in: Archivio storico dell’arte, VI, 1893, pp. 106–126). Some fifty drawings by the artist are kept in the so-called “Large Anthology” at the Kupferstichkabinett of the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. These are landscapes and topographically precise views of towns, all of which have been executed in pen and brown ink. The works, which document the successive stages of the journey undertaken by the master on his travels from the Netherlands to Italy, represent a major step forward in the development of landscape art after Pieter Bruegel the Elder. They may have been designed as preparatory drawings for a planned topographical compendium, an idea floated by Teréz Gerszi in 1965 (“Landschaftszeichnungen aus der Nachfolge Pieter Bruegels”, in: Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, VII, 1965, pp. 92–121). Although the artist’s travels took him via the Alps to Milan and Rome, he produced most of his drawings in France, especially in the valley of the Rhône south of Lyon. In 2013 the Musée du Louvre in Paris acquired a View of Saint-Vallier, which bears an identical signature (inv. no. RF 55292).

Stijn Alsteens deserves credit for having finally clarified the identity of this hitherto anonymous artist. Demonstrating the stylistic correspondence between the Paris drawing, the present new discovery and the Stuttgart album he convincingly attri­butes the group of works to Hendrik Gijsmans. The drawing in the Louvre has a dedication to Maréchal Damville and thus provides a terminus post quem, since Henry I de Montmorency, Governor of Languedoc, was appointed to this office in 1567. The Stuttgart album contains an almost identical second version of the View of Saint-Vallier, which was probably executed by Gijsmans before he made over the signed version to Henry de Montmorency. In Stuttgart there is another view of the town of Huy in a slightly larger, squarer format but with less detail. Only four other drawings with views of towns in the Netherlands – Antwerp, Huy, Brussels and Dendermonde – have sur­vived. They are now in the Stuttgart album.

A fundamental article by Stijn Alsteens on Hendrik Gijsmans is in preparation which also examines the present drawing. We are grateful to Stijn Alsteens, Dr. Hans-Martin Kaulbach and Lukas Nonner for the information they have provided for this catalogue entry.

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