Adriaen van de Velde, a son of the marine artist Willem van de Velde the Elder (circa 1611-1693) and a brother of Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707), was first taught by his father and soon became one of the most important landscape painters of the second half of the 17th Century. He is one of only a few seventeenth century landscape artists whose surviving graphic oeuvre includes figure studies. Van de Velde's graphic output was prodigious given his short life, with some figure studies and compositional sketches related to his paintings. William Robinson has counted about two hundred extant drawings by van de Velde of which approximately forty can be related to paintings or prints (exhib. cat., Seventeenth Century Dutch drawings from North American collections, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, and elsewhere, 1977, p. 85, under no. 80).
This earthy, naturalistic study of a female nude is a very fine and characteristic example of his figure drawings. It falls within a relatively rare tradition of northern artists drawing from live models that include Hendrick Goltzius's intimate and bracing studies at the turn of the century, as well as nude female models depicted by van de Velde's contemporaries Govert Flinck and Jacob Backer (see W. Robinson, Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Cambridge, 2002, pp. 72-3, no. 24; pp. 124-5, no. 49).
Van de Velde made studies of individual figures as well as compositional studies for paintings. While the present drawing does not appear to have been used in any of his paintings, a pair of studies related to his painting Vertumnus and Pomona of 1670 sheds some light as to where this type of drawing falls in van de Velde's oeuvre. Two drawings for Pomona, one a study of a seated female nude, the other of the same woman clothed in a virtually identical pose, demonstrate the artist's interest in the precise pose and modelling of form, as well as his interest in the volume and highlights created by the drapery (W. Robinson, 'Preparatory drawings by Adriaen van de Velde', Master Drawings, XVII, no. 1, 1979, nos. D-14, D-15, pls. 10, 11). Much as in the nude Pomona drawing, in the present sheet the artist has paid careful attention to light and shadow, using the reserve of the paper to create luminous highlights on the woman's clavicle, belly and thighs and using the white chalk only for the cloth wrapped around her middle.
The model -- with her distinctive features of upturned nose, slightly receding chin, and hair swept up in a bun with short tendrils hanging by her ears - appears to be the same one who is represented in several other drawings by van de Velde. Interestingly, she does not appear in any drawings by his pupils, suggesting that he drew these alone in his studio (W. Robinson, 'Some studies of nude models by Adriaen van de Velde', in Donum Amicorum: Essays in honor of Per Bjurström, Stockholm, 1993, pp. 59-61, figs. 7-11). In most cases he used red chalk with white heightening. The present sheet is one of his rarer examples using black and white chalk. Van de Velde also produced a greater number of nude figure drawings than did his contemporaries. Perhaps this has to do with his role as a sought-after staffage painter, and unrealized ambitions to become a history painter - a goal never achieved because of his untimely death at the age of 35.
Like most of van de Velde's drawings, this sheet is neither signed nor dated. However, Robinson notes the increasing importance of figures in the artist's paintings beginning around 1660 (Robinson, 1979, op. cit., p. 10), suggesting that he would have been creating more figure studies at this same moment.
Singular Vision, Haboldt & Co.'s Old Master Paintings and Drawings since 1983, Amsterdam, New York and Paris, 2012, p. 206.
Baron J. Vitta, Paris.
British Rail Pension Fund; Sotheby's, London, 2 July 1990, lot 116.
with Haboldt & Co., Paris.
About Adriaen van de Velde
In his landscapes, Adriaen van de Velde placed emphasis not only on the natural setting and the light, but to the animals and human figures that populated his scenes. While he was best known for his depictions of sparkling light and hazy mists, van de Velde loved painting cattle scenes, influenced by his admiration for Paulus Potter. In fact, he was so successful at rendering figures that he was frequently called upon by other artists like Jacob van Ruisadel and Meindert Hobbema to add them to their compositions. Van de Velde was adept at etching and drawing in addition to painting, and variously produced religious works, domestic scenes, and portraits. Both his father and elder brother, Willem van de Velde the Elder and Younger, were also landscape and maritime painters.
Dutch, 1636-1672, Amsterdam, Netherlands, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands