Here you have an excellent example of how painting is a game of illusion, of representing a third dimension. This painting, which was formerly attributed to Samuel van Hoogstraten, has lost this attribution without another name being proposed for it.
Van Hogstraten was an international artist, born in Holland in Dordrecht, who travelled and moved extensively through present-day Germany, Austria, Italy and England.
About the art of painting a “trompe l’oeil”
A “trompe l’oeil” is a convincing optical illusion, a game, a manipulative joke, a cheating device. Painting also: how can a painter represent in two dimensions the effect of depth, of a third dimension? How far would these painters go in playfully excelling in their art? How refined could culture get? Painters turned art into a game and a game into art.
These paintings were called “bedriegertjes” in Dutch, that is “a small imposter, a small crook”. Their aim was not only to deceive by perfectly imitating the objects, but also to be identified as painted fiction.
Plato wrote that “everything that deceives may be said to enchant”. In the world of arts this idea is almost self-evident: the artist transforms paint into his or her perception of the world. The very fact that this version of reality is subjective forms the essence of its attraction to the viewer.
In his “Naturalis Historia” (Natural History), the Roman author Pliny the Elder (23 AD – 79 AD) tells the story of a competition between the 5th century BC Greek painters Zeuxis of Heraclea and Parrhasius of Ephesus (who settled in Athens).
Zeuxis painted a bunch of grapes so real that birds flew down to peck at the painting. Confident of his success, Zeuxis asked Parrhasius to draw back the curtain covering his work, only to realise that the curtain itself was the painting, a painted illusion, and that Parrhasius had won the competition.
About Samuel van Hoogstraten
Bernard Renkens from the RKD, The Hague has attributed this painting in the past to Samuel van Hoogstraten in full. This attribution has recently been refuted by Ellis Dullaart, also from the RKD, The Hague.
Sadly for the moment there is no alternative attribution. But clearly our painter must have stood close to Samuel van Hoogstraten. The artistic production of this international artist is difficult to study, as van Hoogstraten regularly moved to another town or even to another country.
Dordrecht 1627 – 1678 Dordrecht
Very diverse painter of genre scenes, architectural scenes, portraits, still lifes, hunting scenes and Vanitas subjects.
He received his first training from his father, Dirk or Theodoor van Hoogstraten (Antwerp 1595/96 – 1640 Dordrecht) in Dordrecht. After his father’s death he went in 1641, aged 14, to Amsterdam where he studied under Rembrandt until 1644. Between 1647 and 1651 he is documented in Dordrecht.
In the Spring of 1651 he travelled over Utrecht, Arnhem, Cologne, Frankfurt, Augsburg and Regensburg to Vienna. Emperor Ferdinand III bought a still-life from him.
In 1652 he was in Rome, where he became a member of the
Schildersbent, a society of Dutch, Flemish, a few German and a single French painter, all of them active in Rome. Its members were called the ‘Bentvueghels’ (“group of birds”). Although created as a support for compatriots it soon became well known for its rather convivial meetings, in so far that in 1720 this joyful society was forbidden by papal decree for too many feasts had ended in the greatest disorder. Every member of the Schildersbent received a surname, a so-called “Bentname”. Van Hoogstraten was nicknamed ”Batavier”.
He returned to Vienna and was back in Dordrecht in 1655, where he rapidly found a bride, marrying already the next year.
In 1662 he left for a five-year stay in London, where he witnessed the Great Fire.
Then three years at The Hague before finally returning to his birthplace Dordrecht. This time he bought a house and stayed here until his death in 1678.
His best-known pupils were Arent de Gelder (before he went to study under Rembrandt) and Godfried Schalcken (before he went to study under Gerrit Dou).
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is such an original subject.