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Salomon Koninck

(1609–1656, Amsterdam)

Half-length Portrait of a Bearded Old Man, in Profile to the Right. Etching. 13.2 x 8.4 cm. 1638. Hollstein 1.

The painter, Salomon Koninck, was the son of a goldsmith from Antwerp. At the age of twelve his father apprenticed him to David Colijns, from whom he received his first drawing lessons. Koninck subsequently continued his training under François Venant and Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert, both of whom specialised in historical painting. He was admitted to theGuild of St. Luke in Amsterdam as early as 1630. Although not a pupil of Rembrandt, his art was greatly influenced by Rembrandt’s style of the 1630s. Koninck excelled in the depiction of character heads and biblical scenes, the characteristic features of which – in imitation of Rembrandt – are dramatic chiaroscuro effects and a penchant for exotic costumes. In these works Koninck often comes closer to the model he revered than Rembrandt’s own pupils at the time. The artist’s printed oeuvre is modest, comprising a mere six etchings which clearly reveal the influence of Rembrandt and Jan Lievens. 

The present portrait of a bearded old man fits seamlessly into a series of tronies that both masters etched in their early years. In artistic terms Koninck is certainly on a par with Rembrandt and Lievens here in his rendering of this expressive character head. He has used a differentiated and sophisticated technique to etch the old man’s gnarled face, wiry hair and long, flowing beard. Last but not least, the effective mise-en-page set against a neutral backdrop lends the portrait a considerable presence espite the small format. The old man radiates worldly wisdom and humility and he wears his age with dignity.

The etching is extremely rare. Hollstein records just a few impressions. Ours is of exquisite provenance, forming part of the collection of John Barnard (Lugt 1420, “La marque de John Barnard est de toutes les marques anglaises, la plus réverée ... Sa présence sur une feuille nous assure qu’un dessin plus caractéristique ou qu'une estampe en meilleure épreuve est pour ainsi dire introuvable”). A superb, richly varied impression with delicate plate tone and margins. Minor staining, otherwise in excellent, unrestored condition.

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