Loading the page ...
“The Painter Painting a Naked Woman, Observed by an Art Lover” (“het Schildertje”). Mezzotint after Arnold Houbraken. 28.5 x 17.4 cm. Nagler 32.
The painter and printmaker, Nicolaas Verkolje, was apprenticed to his father, Jan Verkolje (1650–1693). His paintings were greatly influenced by fine painters such as Gabriel Metsu, Gerard ter Borch and Adriaen van der Werff. From 1700 Verkolje lived and worked in Amsterdam, where he achieved prominence as a portraitist and painter of genre and historical scenes. His mezzotints were held in great esteem during his lifetime. He learned the art from his father, whom he later surpassed in terms of technical virtuosity and tonal sophistication. In his Künstler-Lexikon, published between 1835 and 1852, Nagler draws attention to the rarity of the present print, which was valued by a contemporary colleague, Rudolph Weigel, at seven thalers, a formidable sum in those days.
The composition is based on a painting by the Dutch painter and art writer, Arnold Houbraken, after whose works Verkolje made various mezzotints. The engraving is a telling illustration of Verkolje’s ingenuity in rendering the tonal values and abundance of refined detail in the original painting. The mezzotint technique proves to be the medium par excellence to ensure a vivid reproduction of the subtle play of light and shadow and the velvety chiaroscuro effect. The subject matter addressed by the painter, who is working in his studio after a nude female model, is imbued with an element of eroticism. Evidence of this is furnished by details such as the engraving affixed to the shutter showing a pair of lovers in an explicit pose and, hiding under the young woman’s petticoat, a little monkey on a chain, which in the 17th century was regarded as a symbol of lasciviousness. The presence of another man in the seclusion of the artist’s studio is a reference to the moral laxity which prevails here.
To judge by the lecherous gaze of this ‘art lover’ he is more interested in pleasures other than a sublime artistic experience. A superb, nuanced impression with thread margins. A tiny repair in the top left-hand corner, otherwise in perfect condition.