Emmanuel Noterman (1808 - 1863) specialised in paintings with monkey tricks: mild satirical scenes of monkeys foolishly copying human behaviour.
Flemish and after its creation in 1830 Belgian artists have always had a fair sense for surrealism; it is our second nature for dealing with whoever is in power.
About Emmanuel Noterman
Belgian painter and printmaker
Oudenaarde 1808 – 1863 Antwerp
Genre scene painter.
Son of a decorative painter.
Pupil at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent under Jean Baptiste Louis Maes (also known as Maes Canini, 1794 – 1856).
In Antwerp he also studied under Pierre or Petrus Kremer (1801 – 1888). A portrait drawn by Noterman of his master is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Master of Jan Stobbaerts (1838 – 1914) and of his youngest brother Zacharie Noterman (1820 – 1890). Zacharie was strongly influenced by his brother, even in the choice of his subjects (singeries). He settled in Paris.
Emmanuel Noterman initially started with portrait painting. After his move to Antwerp in 1835 he specialised in genre scenes, especially in so-called “singeries”: humorous scenes with dressed monkeys engaging in human activities. He also often made paintings with cats and dogs.
Besides Emmanuel and Zacharie Noterman there was a third 19th century Belgian painter, Vincent de Vos (Kortrijk 1829 – 1875 Kortrijk), who also specialised in animal scenes with monkeys and dogs.
I should also mention Jos Schippers (1868 – 1950) who continued painting these subjects well into the 20th century.
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 is a gentle, humoristic singerie: a naughty draughtsman is being caught by his schoolmaster.