Our avian scene holds three domestic geese, three ducks and a small penduline tit.
Adriaen van Oolen was an excellent follower of Melchior d’Hondecoeter, the Dutch “Raphael of bird painters”. He actually borrowed the pose of the imposing goose from d’Hondecoeter.
This timeless, tranquil, Italianate landscape with its park-like appearance and golden, early-evening light is typical of Late Baroque Classicism.
About Adriaen van Oolen
Active in the second half of the 17th century.
Died in 1709 or shortly after.
Painter of animal scenes, especially of bird scenes.
He must have been a pupil of his father, Jacob van Oolen (1631/36 – 1694), of whom only one signed trompe l’oeil scene with dead birds is known (sold at Sotheby’s New York, 8/01/81).
Adriaen and his father Jacob, who had been active in Rotterdam, settled in Amsterdam some time after 1676.
Arnold Houbraken, himself a painter, published between 1718 and 1721 3 volumes of his reference work describing the lives of a large number of the Dutch painters of the previous (17th) century, called "De Grote Schouburgh der Nederlandsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen”. Sadly modern scholars have discovered many mistakes in Houbraken’s texts. When talking about a Jan van Aalen, who was according to him an able imitator of Melchior Melchior d’Hondecoeter, he must have meant our painter, Adriaen van Oolen. No trace and no data have been found about this Jan van Aalen in Amsterdam archives. Houbraken further stated that his works were of such high quality that the best connoisseurs could no tell them apart from those by d’Hondecoeter.
Although already mentioned as an erroneous spelling in the 1932 Thieme-Becker the name Jan van Oolen persisted well into the 20th century, when he was even described as our Adriaen’s brother.
Adriaen van Oolen must indeed be seen as a follower of the great bird and animal painter Melchior d’Hondecoeter (Utrecht 1636 – 1695 Amsterdam). d’Hondecoeter moved to Amsterdam around 1664 and remained there until his death in 1695. In the 19th century he was called the “Raphael of bird painters”. He had been a pupil of his father Gysbert d’Hondecoeter and of Jan Baptist Weenix.
About our painting
Van Oolen must have borrowed the pose of the imposing grey and white crested goose from Melchior d’Hondecoeter. I discovered two paintings by d’Hondecoeter, dating circa 1680, in which the same majestically painted goose plays a central role.
About the social background of our painting
During the 17th century Holland became a major economic and financial power in Europe and in the rest of the world. The Dutch East Indies Company, which as founded in 1602, was the first multinational, in fact the first transnational company in the world. Especially the trade in spices generated huge profits. Members of the expanding, new upper-middle class became incredibly rich, often much richer than nobility. The acquisition of country estates meant for them an elevation of their social status, as a sort of semi-nobility. These residences were richly decorated with paintings that reflected the pleasures of country life. Therefore these extremely rich people, who were not allowed to hunt as hunting remained the privilege of nobility, could at least fantasize about it in the visual fiction of their paintings. Hunting scenes and paintings of birds set in woods, suggestive of private hunting domains, served as a (false) proof of their change in status.
About Late Baroque Arcadian painting
In several European countries the Baroque period ended with a French inspired, Classical movement: the earlier, dramatic realism was replaced by an idealised, decorative vision of nature and of reality. This Arcadia stood for an unspoiled, harmonious, Mediterranean nature, uncorrupted by civilization. It was regarded as unattainable or as a lost. The ancient Greek province of Arcadia was known for its mountainous geography and sparse population.
Arcadia became an idealised phantasy dreamland in poetry. Best known are:
- the popular pastoral tragicomedy “il pastor fido” by Battista Guarini (1590);
- the translation in Dutch by Karel van Mander of the “Bucolics” of the Roman poet Virgil (1597);
- the famous play “Granida” by Pieter Cornelisz. Hooft (1605).
In France Claude le Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin are its best known Baroque painters, so-called ‘Classicists’. In Holland Utrecht was the centre of Arcadian painting.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is such a beautifully balanced, marvellously lit, yet dynamic bird encounter in the idealised dream world of Arcadia.