Thursday, 5 April 2018

"Follower of Artgen van Leyden" is by or after Mechteld toe Boecop (update: no, it isn't...)

Mercier, from France, sells on 15 April 2018 a "Dutch School, late 16th century, follower of Artgen van Leyden" Adoration of the Magi (sic), estimated at 20,000 to 25,000 Euro.

I don't see much likeness with the works of Aertgen van Leyden, and it of course is an Adoration of the Shepherds (or a Nativity) and not an adoration of the magi, but the important question is who the work might then be by.

Looking for similar works at the always reliable RKD, I found the same composition by Mechteld toe Boecop (ca. 1520-1598), dated 1572.  This is an impressively large painting (198 by 172 cm), now in the City Museum of Kampen (Netherlands). The work for sale, while somewhat smaller, still is quite large at 154 by 123 cm. It seems unlikely that two artists would have created this large a work based on the same engraving, and I haven't found an engraving or other work that could form the basis for this, so it seems as if this is an original composition, with a copy or second version.

Mechteld toe Boecop is one of the first important Dutch female painters (excluding illuminators), and her works are very rare. Her 2 daughters also painted, but even less is known about them. The RKD lists three works by her, and three works attributed to her. 4 of these 6 are in museums (all in the Netherlands), two remain in private hands.

The work for sale has a markedly different style to the RKD version, but is much closer in many ways to other works attributed to Boecop. The "Last Supper" from the City Museum in Kampen gives me the impression that it may well be by the same artist as the work for sale.

Details of the work for sale show considerable skill, but this is coupled with less well executed parts. The work is dark and damaged, and may need a professional restoration to make its actual original state clear. I have added the same details from the known work, but I don't have a detailed image of that work sadly.

I have found an article at the Museum Kampen website though, which doesn't show the complete painting but a few details.

As it stands, it probably isn't an original Toe Boecop, but perhaps the work of one of her daughters or another follower? It certainly is very interesting and should probably be researched by an expert in Toe Boecop and her circle. If it is by her or one of her daughters, it would be a major find. Even if it isn't, it is the only copy of this particular work I know off.

The only work by her at auction was a drawing which was (as "attributed to" offered by Sotheby's Amsterdam in 2003, with an estimate of 8,000 to 12,000 Euro. It didn't sell. It then was offered at Saint-Cyr (Drouot) in 2005, as a genuine Toe Boecop, with an estimate of 800 to 1,200 Euro (ot just one tenth of the previous estimate!), and sold for a measly 600 Euro. Which seems like a real bargain, but was before the renewed interest in early female artists really boomed.

UPDATE: a reader alerts me to the website of Jean Moust (dealer in Old Master paintings), where the work was for sale for 28,000 Euro, described as "Unidentifeid Dutch Mannerist painter, ca. 1600".

UPDATE 2: The very helpful and friendly people from the City Museum of Kampen have answered my questions on Twitter, which made it clear that the Adoration (by Toecop, and the one here for sale) are copies after an original by Angelo Bronzino, known in the Netherlands through an engraving by Ghisi from 1554. This explains the same composition but the too dissimilar style. No Artgen van Leyden, no reason to estimate this so expensively. Still, it made me discover and discuss the works of Toe Boecop, who had a lot of talent (her copy after Bronzino is way better than the rather boring one for sale) and determination to make it as a female painter, and to let her daughters do the same. 

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