About Jan Frans Soolmaker
Antwerp circa 1635 – 1665/1685 probably in Italy
Painter of Italianate landscapes and of genre scenes.
Soolmaker was a pupil of the further unknown painter Jan de Bruyn van Aelst in Antwerp in 1653/54. De Bruyn, who must have died in 1666 is documented in Antwerp in the period 1649 – 1666.
Seeing the strong influence of the Dutch painter Nicolaes Berchem (1621/22 – 1683) on Soolmaker, it is generally accepted that our painter did not finish his studies in Antwerp, but that he went to Haarlem, where he most probably became a pupil of this important and highly influential master.
Soolmaker worked in the Southern and in the Northern Netherlands, and probably in Italy.
December 1st 1665 he had his testament drawn up in Amsterdam because he wanted to make a long journey via Portugal to Italy. It is not known if he did leave for this trip. There is only one signed painting from after 1665, it bears the date of 1668 and it is an Italian landscape.
According to Madam Marijke de Kinkelder from the RKD at The Hague Soolmaker must have had a rather brief creative career, for Arnold Houbraken (1660 – 1719), the biographer of the painters from the Dutch Golden Age, did not hear about him and Italian sources do not mention him. She considers Soolmaker among the better imitators of Berchem’s Italianate style.
About our painting
Some of the best paintings by Jan Frans Soolmaker, reaching his highest prices, hold the main figures on the right hand side from our painting: a man and his son looking at a horseman who wants to mount a white horse. They clearly form his favourite subject and almost a second signature.
Soolmaker borrowed these figures from Philips Wouwerman (1619 – 1668), the most important horse painter from the 17th century in the Dutch Republic, who, just like Berchem, was also active in Haarlem. According to Madam de Kinkelder this Wouwerman-influence is not uncommon with many Antwerp painters from the second half of the 17th century. Whether this is an indication of an active period of our painter in Haarlem remains uncertain.
‘The outdoor riding school’ by Philips Wouwerman, a panel painting formerly in the John W. Gates collection in New York, present whereabouts unknown, was published by Birgit Schumacher in her 2006 monograph on the master, under catalogue number A15. Madam Schumacher dates this painting to the first half of the 1660s. It is from this painting that Soolmaker borrowed his key figures.
The Wouwerman painting was engraved by Dancker Danckertsz. (1634 – 1666) in Amsterdam. Madam Schumacher mentions another ‘free copy’ by Johannes Lingelbach (1622 – 1674), who was also an important figure and animal painter.
Soolmaker used the Wouwerman figures in the following paintings :
- a large, unsigned painting on canvas sold at Christie’s London, 6/07/07, sadly glued onto panel.
- another large painting on panel, still holding traces of a Soolmaker signature, sold at Dorotheum Vienna, 21/03/02.
- a small panel painting, sold at Christie’s London, South Ken, 2/11/05, fully signed, but rather weekly executed.
- a smaller, unsigned painting on panel, sold at Sotheby’s London, Olympia, 6/12/05. This composition stands closest to the Wouwerman Riding school painting.
The figures in the left hand side of our painting clearly show the influence of Nicolaes Berchem.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a well balanced composition, a classical 17th century Dutch Italianate landscape holding Soolmaker’s best known iconic figures set in a Campana landscape under the warm light of sunset.