About Abraham Danielsz. Hondius
Rotterdam 1630/32 – 1691 London
Abraham Hondius specialised in hunting scenes :
- he painted a large amount of dogs hunting for birds
- he also painted a few hunting companies at rest.
He also produced a few history paintings with biblical subjects from the New Testament (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum and Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts).
His father, Daniel Abrahamsz. de Hondt or Hondius, was the official stone mason of the city of Rotterdam.
Abraham Hondius is said to have been a pupil of Cornelis Saftleven (1607/08 – 1681) and possibly of Pieter de Bloot (1601 – 1658). His early hunting and animal scenes are clearly influenced by Ludolf de Jongh (1616 – 1679), who had also been a pupil of Cornelis Saftleven.
Hondius is documented in his native Rotterdam between 1651 and 1659.
His earliest known paintings date from 1651.
Between 1659 and 1664 he was active in Amsterdam. Here Hondius was influenced by another specialist in hunting scenes, by German-born Juriaen Jacobsz. (1624 – 1685), who had been a pupil of Frans Snyders in Antwerp.
In 1665 Hondius moved back to Rotterdam, where he remained until 1670.
He spent the last twenty years of his life in London, between 1671 and 1691. Here he painted several views of the frozen river Thames, with people walking on the ice, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in the Museum of London.
Hondius was buried in the church of Saint Bride on Fleet Street in London.
According to some scholars Hondius might have spend some time in Italy, somewhere between 1653 and 1659. This theory is supported by a few remarkable paintings, such as the “Carnival Feast in Rome” of the Staatliche Museum in Schwerin, Germany.
Finally we should not forget to mention that probably the best known forgery of the 20th century, the famous Supper at Emmaus from the Boymans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, given to Johannes Vermeer, was painted by Han van Meegeren (1889 – 1947) in 1936 on top of an original canvas with a hunting scene by Abraham Hondius.
Abraham’s younger brother, Isaac (1646 – 1716), must also have been a painter. There seems to be only one signed ‘painting’ known by him, a calligraphic text flanked by two tulips.
About our painting
1. The “Flemish” inspired hunting scenes by Hondius, such as ours, clearly rank among his best, most sought after and most expensive paintings.
The question remains how and where Hondius picked up the influence of his Flemish examples, Jan Fyt and Frans Snyders:
- Through engravings which he might have seen in the studio of Cornelis Saftleven, who stayed in Antwerp for some time around 1632-4?
- Under the influence of Ludolf de Jongh?
- Was he inspired by Carl Ruthart, the German painter of hunting scenes who has sometimes, wrongly, been called his teacher?
- Via Juriaen Jacobsz. who lived in Amsterdam from 1658 until 1668, and who, as we already mentioned, was a pupil of Frans Snyders?
Except for Ruthart all three possibilities are very plausible. A combination of two or all three of them is also possible.
2. Hunting had always been a very prestigious sport, limited to nobility.
By the middle of the 17th century there is an increase in the Dutch Republic of paintings representing hunters on horseback. One may think here of other painters, such as Philips Wouwerman, Paulus Potter, Dirck Stoop, Jan Baptist Weenix, etc.
This was clearly due to a growing demand, probably not by aristocracy itself, but by the expanding top of the middle class. Holland was at its economic and financial top, the East and West Indies Companies for example generated huge amounts of money. These often extremely rich people were eager to surround themselves with the attributes of aristocracy. And although many of them were not allowed to hunt they could at last fantasize about it in the visual fiction of a painting.
This also explains the rather exotic nature of many of these hunting scenes, which are not set in the flatness of the Low Countries, but in a Southern, Italianate landscape, surrounded by hills, near a fountain.
3. In the early 1650s Hondius seems to have painted a series of hunting scenes, all strongly related to each other in style and composition and all more or less of the same dimensions. Amongst these is our painting.
The unsigned paintings of this group present a problem of attribution.
In my opinion strange attributions have in the past decades been made alternatively to Abraham Hondius, Ludolf de Jongh, Jacob Ochtervelt or Jan Baptist Weenix.
For example of “A hunting party at rest” exist two very similar versions :
- one signed and dated by Hondius was sold at Christie’s London, 8/12/88;
- another one, with an Ochtervelt “signature” was sold at Dorotheum Vienna, 4/10/00, as by Hondius with a fake Ochtervelt signature, while it had been published in 1979 by Susan Donahue Kuretsky in her monograph on Ochtervelt as a real Ochtervelt with a real Ochtervelt signature.
This Susan Donahue Kuretsky in her monograph on Ochtervelt puts me now in front of another dilemma. Her figure 7 on page 114 represents an almost identical composition as ours. But the photograph is in black and white, the author gives no information on support, dimensions, signature or whereabouts. She just states it is by Ludolf de Jongh.
In my humble opinion it stands much closer to our painter Abraham Hondius. I think one can distinguish the suppler touch of de Jongh from the more hard-surfaced style of Hondius. De Jongh’s dogs, foliage, facial types, all to me seem different from Hondius.
But the question remains: did he, Hondius, paint, again, two almost identical versions of a composition or is the other one indeed by Ludolf de Jongh? Let us not forget that de Jongh, being some fifteen years older than Hondius, could have strongly influenced our painter, possibly to a degree where Hondius, then in his early twenties, might have copied an original composition by de Jongh.
Just to prove you how confusing things can get: Madam Kuretsky publishes on page 112 two rather similar versions of “Granida and Daifilo”, both signed, one by Ochtervelt and one by de Jongh. Madam Kuretsky thinks that both compositions go back to a third, untraced painting or possibly a print …
Conclusion: seventeenth century paintings are beautiful, but when it gets complicated it gets tough.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because you love the subject and its treatment.
Because the boy laying in the right foreground and his dogs are superbly painted.