About Henry Schouten
Batavia (Jakarta) circa 1857/1864 – 1927 Brussels
His first name is also spelt Henri.
Animal and landscape painter.
Schouten was strongly influenced by the realistic style of Alfred Verwee (Brussels 1838 – 1895 Brussels).
Henry’s brother, Paul (Paris 1860 – 1922 Brussels) was also an animal painter, specialised in poultry and in cattle. At some rare occasions both brothers worked together on a single painting.
About monkey tricks
“Singeries” or monkey tricks were a popular subject in Flemish painting during the 17th century and later in French (Rococo) painting during the 18th century.
Typical of the Flemish monkey scenes is their sense for satirical humour, often with a moralizing tendency, criticizing man’s (stupid) behaviour and his sense for social hierarchy. The best-known 17th century Flemish painters of “singeries” are David Teniers II, his brother Abraham Teniers and Ferdinand van Kessel.
Later in French painting these subjects got, typical of the Rococo period of course, a more decorative and less sharp meaning, often in combination with Chinese decors.
I should also mention in applied arts the famous porcelain monkey orchestras produced in Saxony, Germany, at the Meissen factory from around the middle of the 18th century onwards.
It is rather surprising to us that, long before Darwin, painters turned to monkeys imitating man’s basic behaviour. Since Antiquity monkeys were considered stupid animals who, with their eyes wide open, are merely copying human foolish behaviour, without actually understanding it.
It is striking how many Flemish, and later Belgian (Belgium as an independent country was created in 1830), painters turned to this subject.
The reason is of course historical: Flanders was since the Middle Ages one of the richest regions of Europe, but it had most of the time been in the hands of foreign powers. Mild forms of satire and sense for “surrealism” were and still are a second nature for our writers and artists.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it one of Schouten’s best paintings combining a daring angle of view with a nervous brush stroke.