Philips de Marlier was apparently not a very nice, nor a very beautiful man, but he was an excellent painter. Having murdered a monk in Portugal, where he had worked for a few years, he fled to Mons and only returned to Antwerp in 1634.
Our painting dates from his early years (1634 – 1638) when he was strongly influenced in his choice of compositions and in his colour scheme by Jan Brueghel I. After 1638 he created a more personal style.
The figures have been painted by a contemporary, unidentified, Flemish staffage painter.
The plausible date of creation of our painting, circa 1634 – 1638, coincides with the Dutch Tulip mania (1634 – 1637) when prices of tulip bulbs rose incredibly fast and tremendously high until the bubble collapsed in February 1637.
About Philips de Marlier
Antwerp circa 1600 – 1667/68 Antwerp
Still life painter.
Pupil in Antwerp in 1617/18 of the further unknown Carel van Ferrrara (Antwerp circa 1585 – 1667 Antwerp).
Master in the Painter’s Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp from 1621/22.
In the period 1627 – 1634 de Marlier left Antwerp. According to Duverger (1971, P. 175 – 194) he is said to have killed a Dominican father while in Portugal. After this incident he fled to Mons, where he stayed with a Master Jorge.
He was back in Antwerp in 1634 and apparently never left the town again.
De Marlier was nicknamed “Dicke Lup”, that is “Fat Lip” and “Dicken Philips”, that is “Fat Philips”.
He seems to have had a bad reputation in Antwerp: his ideas about politics and religion were not really mainstream, nor was his knowledge of witchcraft; finally he did not have much respect for property or fame of others. Not the perfect son-in-law, but a good and hard working painter.
The still life painter Carstian Luyckx (1623 – after 1657) was his most important pupil (in 1640/41). Luyckx also studied under Frans Francken III in the year 1642/43.
About our painting
De Marlier’s career can be divided into two very distinct halfs: before and after circa 1638.
He started in a rather archaic style with compositions and a colour scheme that were strongly inspired by earlier Antwerp painters, from the first quarter of the 17th century, such as Jan Brueghel I and Osias Beert. Our painting is a perfect example of this production. He was actually so good at imitating their style that paintings by Marlier must go hidden under erroneous attributions to these painters. In this period he also worked together with Frans Francken II.
An interesting case is the painting sold at Dorotheum Vienna, 20/10/15 as by Jan Brueghel II, with a certificate by Klaus Ertz; 21/03/73 it was sold at Sotheby’s London as by Jan Brueghel I, while the website of the RKD The Hague has it as “attributed to Philips de Marlier” by Dr. Fred Meijer since 1999.
Very rapidly, around 1638, de Marlier changed to a more modern interpretation of his subjects.
From the early 1640s a lot of the flower garlands painted by de Marlier were apparently exported by the two main international dealers in Antwerp paintings.
- The company of Guillam I Forchondt (also known as Forchoudt), himself also a painter, exported a lot of artwork to Central Europe (especially to Vienna) and to a lesser extent to Spain (and Portugal).
- His main concurrent was Matthijs Musson who specialised in export to Holland, Paris and Spain.
De Marlier’s paintings seem to have been especially sought after in Portugal, a country where he lived for a few years at the very start of his career.
About tulips and the Dutch Tulip mania
Tulip bulbs were introduced from Turkey to Europe around the middle of the 16th century. The intensity of the colours of the tulip petals was unseen in Europe.
By the end of the 16th century the highly influential Flemish horticulturist Carolus Clusius discovered tulips could be cultivated in the botanic gardens of the university of Leiden. He also observed the flaming and feathering “broken” patterns of tulips. This was the start of its cultivation and of its popularity in Holland.
Tulip bulbs became a frenzied commodity. Between 1634 and 1637 the enthusiasm for the new flowers triggered a speculative frenzy now known as the tulip mania. Tulip bulbs became so expensive that they were treated as a form of currency, or rather, as futures. By 1636 the tulip bulb became the fourth leading export product of the Netherlands, after gin, herrings and cheese. In February 1637 prices suddenly collapsed: this was the first recorded speculative bubble, be it still limited to a fairly small group of people.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it reminds strongly of Jan Brueghel I: an incredibly rich, colourful and detailed garland of flowers and fruit, hiding a monkey and numerous lively birds. At the centre an unidentified artist has painted the Mother and Child with angels in an interesting landscape.
Because it holds many tulips, our painting dates from the same period as the Dutch Tulip mania.