Hendrick de Valk was a promising Dutch genre scene painter, who died already at the age of 35. He painted this scene at the age of 22. He was strongly influenced by his uncle Richard Brakenburgh and by Jan Steen.
About Hendrick de Valk
Leeuwarden 1674 – in or after 1709 probably in Leeuwarden
Genre and occasionally portrait painter.
Young Hendrick lost first his father, who was a court herald in Leeuwarden and in 1687, at the age of 13, also his mother. His uncle, the genre and portrait painter Richard Brakenburgh, was assigned as his guardian. Brakenburgh (Haarlem 1650 – 1702 Haarlem), who had lived in Leeuwarden since 1670, returned that same year (1687) to his native Haarlem and took de Valk, by then probably already his pupil, with him.
Leeuwarden was the capital of the northernmost province of the Dutch Republic. Haarlem, some 10 km West of Amsterdam, was a much more important town and artistic centre.
Our painter became a member of Haarlem’s Painter’s Guild in 1693. He must have remained in Haarlem until 1702, except for a trip to his native
Leeuwarden in 1699.
From 1702 until 1706 de Valk lived in Franeker, the small university town of Friesland: here he portrayed several of its professors. Three of his children were born and baptized in Franeker.
By 1709, at the birth of his son Hendrick, he lived back in Leeuwarden again. He must have died in Leeuwarden that same year or shortly after.
De Valk died at the age of 35 or maybe slightly older. That is why not that many paintings are known by him.
He was an interesting genre painter. He was clearly influenced by his uncle, Richard Brakenburgh, who in his turn was influenced by Jan Steen. Steen (1625/26 – 1679) worked in Haarlem between 1661 and 1670, which accidentally was the year that Brakenburgh arrived in Leeuwarden. Jan Steen ended his career in his native Leiden. It is thought that Brakenburgh might have worked in his studio.
All three - Steen, Brakenburgh and de Valk - painted joyful interior scenes in fresh colours with stunning details and lively figures. Time has had no grip on their artistic production: snapshots of 17th century leisure time and comic sources of delight. Such a depictions of lustful life and the implications of this tempestuous behaviour gave a moral message to the town population of the Dutch Republic.
About our painting
Our painting represents a popular comic theme of Dutch and of Flemish 17th century genre scene painters: an old seducer flirting with a young woman (a servant girl in a tavern or a maid at home), who is about to be caught by his wife.
The champions of these bawdy paintings with an old ladykiller were David Teniers II (Antwerp 1610 – 1690 Brussels) in Flanders and Jan Steen (Leiden 1625/26 – 1679 Leiden) in Holland. Respectable seventeenth century collectors, proud of their own good manners, must almost have felt like looking at a witty scene from a theatre play.
Eleven years ago I sold a similar composition of the same subject, in mirror view, by Hendrick de Valk. That painting, on a slightly smaller panel, had been in the private collection of John Paul Getty between 1959 and 1978 and subsequently at the JP Getty Museum in Los Angeles until 2007.
Against the wall, in both paintings, hangs a drawing of the Three Graces crowning each other. In Classical mythology these three beautiful daughters of Zeus presided over banquets and festivities to the delight of the guests. Aglaea stands for elegance, Euphrosyne for mirth and Thalia for youth.
I should also mention that the de Valk signature of my former Getty version, visible until 1914, had been erased, most probably to make the painting pass for a Jan Steen.
A funny detail in our current painting is the fact that the angry wife stands close to a pewter jug. It seems very probable that she will hit here husband with it. This very type of jug, with its baluster body and straight spout, is today known as a Jan Steen jug, for it regularly appears in his paintings.
Our painting is dated 1696. That means that de Valk painted it at the age of 22, while he was active in Haarlem, three years after he had joined the local Painter’s Guild.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because the joie de vivre spats from this funny composition.