Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Inventing a ca. 1600 Flemish Master based on a Bible verse...

Balclis, from Spain, sells on 25 Ocotber 2015 a "H. Danielsz, active in Flanders ca. 1600" Banquet of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, estimated at 3,000 Euro.

 Frederick van Valckenborch
Caspar van den Hoecke

The composition is well known, but doesn't depict the banquet of Solomon and Sheba, but the Feast of Belshazzar. Similar compositions are known from a number of artists from ca. 1590, including the inevitable Francken family, but also Frederick van Valckenborch and Caspar van der Hoecke.

The RKD also lists an identical composition, sadly by an anonymous artist, from a church in the Dutch town of Valkenburg. It is also dated ca. 1590. Apart from the cloudlike hand in the back (beneath the musicians), and some damage to the bottom left, it is extremely similar to the one for sale (down to the very dimensions: shown here again for easy comparison).

I can't see the RKD version in enough detail, but the one for sale can be zoomed in sufficiently far to find the signature by H. Danielsz. Hurrah, it is always nice to be able to attribute an anonymous painting to a name.

The problem is that no "H. Danielsz" is known in the literature at all. It's an easy mystery to solve though. It is not a signature, but a  Bible verse, Daniel 5.2: "While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them." The cloud hand writing "Mene tekel" on the wall appears in Daniel 5.5.

So, not a signed Solomon banquet by a hitherto unknown Danielsz, but an anonymous depiction of Daniel 5.2, the feast of Belshazzar. Any impact on the value? Probably not, I can't see this going for more than the estimate. But the story behind the attribution was too funny not to spend a blog post on it, and finding a copy in Spain of an anonymous work from the Netherlands is always interesting anyway.


  1. Good solution, congratulations!

  2. Congratulations for this interesting discovery. Unfortunately auction houses make mistakes too frequently. They don't like very much to pay for expertises. For the last few years I have been informing them in private of many errors and imprecisions in their castalogues. In all cases, they have been grateful. But I am not a connoisseur like you and I don't have a website.