This charming painting depicts three elegantly dressed persons, seated outdoors near a sculpted fountain. The group consists of two young ladies and a man, who are making music. The lady at the left side of the composition wears an orange silk gown with a dark blue scarf. A richly embroidered white shoe peeks out from underneath the rim of her skirt. Her knotted brown hair - of which one lock curls down her neck and another over her left shoulder - is decorated with a string of pearls. In her lap rests a rectangular shaped book with sheet music. She gazes up to a man standing next to her. The man is dressed in blue and wears a purple velvet muffin cap, adorned with a white and a beige feather, tied with a ribbon. In his right hand he holds a flute. His attention is focussed on the young lady sitting in front of him. This lady wears a white silk gown, that elegantly runs down along with the curves of her legs. She has a light blue silk stole wrapped around her shoulders, over a yellow shawl that surrounds her décolletage. The lady’s neck is embellished with a string of pearls and her left ear features a teardrop-pearl earring. A string of her curled brown hair runs down over each of her shoulders. She has her face turned to the right, gazing upwards to the man with the flute. She is playing a cittern, that rests on her right knee. As customary of the period in which this painting was executed, the top of the pegbox of the cittern is decorated with a small carved head1. The company is situated outdoors, at the foot of a large sculpted fountain. This fountain shows remarkable similarities to the Triton Fountain (in Italian the Fontana del Tritone), a fountain located in the Piazza Barberini in Rome. It was designed by the well-known Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Naples, 1598 – Rome, 1680) and executed in 1642/43. At its centre rises a larger than life-size muscular Triton, a minor sea god of ancient Greco-Roman legend, depicted as a merman kneeling on the sum of four dolphin tailfins. His head is thrown back and his arms raise a conch to his lips from which water spurts2. In the background, on the right, several Classical buildings are depicted, with an Italianate mountainous landscape beyond.
Dr. Susanne Karau states that this scene does not depict an amorous company, as is usually the case with the musical groups painted by the Caravaggists. In those works the woman are generally dressed more frivolous, sometimes even with exposed breasts. Instead, Karau interprets this scene as an allegory of harmony: the establishment of an aesthetic unity through the combination of different elements. In the act of music-making, harmony is achieved through the use of simultaneous tones, notes, or chords, combining to a pleasing whole. Playing the cittern corresponds with this notion, since the different strings on the instrument – when played together – bring forth one harmonious sound. The same goes for the synchronization of song, flute and cittern. Interesting too, is the striking eye-contact between the three musicians, underlining their interdependence and cooperation. Furthermore, Karau points out that harmony is a typical Classical ideal, which is not only represented in the musicians, but is also repeated in the architecture of buildings in the background.
Artist’s biography 3
Jacob Toorenvliet was born in Leiden, as the eldest son of Abraham Toorenvliet (Leiden 1620 - 1692), a glass-painter and drawing instructor. He was baptised on July 1, 1640 in the Hooglandse Kerk in Leiden. It is commonly assumed that Abraham Toorenvliet, who was also the tutor of Frans van Mieris the Elder (Leiden, 1635 – 1681) and Matthijs Naiveu (Leiden, 1647 – Amsterdam, 1721), taught his son the basic principles of art4. Later on, Jacob Toorenvliet studied with Gerrit Dou (Leiden, 1613 - 1675), who was his father's brother-in-law5. His first signed self-portrait dates from 1655, when he was only 15 years old. His first signed and dated painting dates from 1659, when he probably had finished his education and started his Grand Tour through Europe.
Toorenvliet led a rather dynamic life and was active in quite a large number of different cities throughout his career, mainly in Italy and the Netherlands. After having visited Flanders, he went to Vienna in 16636, and in 1669 he was in Rome for a portrait commission by Carel Quina7, after which he returned to The Netherlands for a brief period8. In 1670 he travelled back to Rome. According to Houbraken, his companion on this trip was a painter from Enkhuizen called Nicolas Roosendaal (1636 - 1686)9. Even though they remained in Rome only for a short while, Toorenvliet became a member of the Bentvueghels (a society of mostly Dutch and Flemish artists active in Rome from about 1620 until 1720) with the bent-name ‘Jazon’10. Between 1670 and 1673 Toorenvliet lived in Venice. From this period dates a drawing signed ‘J Torenvliet Venetie f.‘. Houbraken records that Toorenvliet married a rich woman there. With his wife and child he went to Vienna again in 1673/74 and stayed there until the mid of 1679. In this period he mainly painted small-scaled genre-paintings on copper, mostly of half-figures and a few historical and allegorical paintings.
After the death of both his sons (in 1678 and 1679) and an outbreak of the plague, Toorenvliet returned to Leiden in 1679, where he met his second wife Susanna Verhulst. In the Spring of 1680 he and his wife moved to Amsterdam, where his daughter Lidia (1680) was born and Toorenvliet drew up his will on October 15, 1680. His pupil Jacob vander Sluys (Leiden, ca. 1660 – 1732), who started his lessons with Toorenvliet in Leiden, joined him in Amsterdam. In 1682, his son Abraham was born. Later on, Abraham Toorenvliet the Younger would become a student from his father Jacob.
In 1686 Toorenvliet is back in Leiden11 where he joined the Guild of Saint Luke at the age of 46, in which he held a number of senior offices between 1695 and 1712, among which dean in 170312. In addition, he cofounded the Leiden Drawing Academy in 1694 together with Willem van Mieris (Leiden, 1662 – 1747) and Carel de Moor (Leiden, 1655 - Leiden or Warmond, 1738). In 1717 Toorenvliets name is recorded in the archives of the University of Leiden as ‘informator pingendi‘. Jacob Toorenvliet died in Oegstgeest, where he was buried on January 25, 1719.
Date and place within the oeuvre
The works of Jacob Toorenvliet have their origin in the Leiden genre-paintings. Toorenvliet is often considered to be a member of the school of his teacher Gerrit Dou, known as the school of the Leiden ‘fijnschilders’, or ‘fine-painters’13. Some see him even as one of its last representatives after the deaths of both Dou in 1675 and Dou's other celebrated pupil Frans van Mieris the Elder in 168114. Even though his works display some characteristics of this school, he cannot be characterised as a typical fine-painter. Toorenvliet incorporates elements from other schools and artists in his work15, but combines these with his own inventions, resulting in a highly individual and unique style. In fact, this individuality and uniqueness make his work recognisable and distinctive from that of other masters.
The present work is indistinctly dated ’16.4’, making the third number hard to read. Nonetheless Karau is positive that the work dates from the 1680’s, which implies that Toorenvliet executed this work in 1684, either in Amsterdam or in Leiden16. This stage of his career is more difficult to chart, owing to the scarcity of dated works, but his oeuvre from these mature years is characterised by the more anecdotal nature of his subjects and his tendency to depict figures in full-length17. In addition, Toorenvliet painted several group portraits (or depictions of a large number of persons) in this period, that demonstrate a similar Classical style and features comparable Classical sculptures or architectural designs18. As a further argument in support of dating this work to 1684, Karau points to the fact that the painting is signed ‘JToornvliet’, instead of ‘JToorenvliet’. After 1680, Toorenvliet almost exclusively signed with ‘Toornvliet’. Moreover, the hairstyle of both ladies indicates an execution in the 1680’s. Their type of hairdo was known as ‘á la Hurluberlu’ and is typical for the last quarter of the seventeenth century19.
Karau points out that the present painting incorporates elements form earlier works by Toorenvliet. Although she is mirrored in the present painting, the pose of the lady at the left of the composition clearly resembles that of a female figure on a more sober genre-painting depicting a young girl selling vegetables, dated 167420 and displays clear Italian influences with regard to the soft facial characteristics. The lady to the right has a more robust figure and a typical Dutch ‘Van Mieris-face’. Her pose resembles – again reversed – that of a woman painted by Toorenvliet in 168021. In addition, the drapery of the silk gown is largely comparable, as is the richly embroidered slipper that also appears in this painting. Moreover, this painting features a comparable composition, with a landscape and Classical architecture in the background.
Toorenvliet has painted several music lessons22 or groups who are making music23 . Especially the Music Lesson in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is interesting in this regard, since not only the subject, but also the employed palette is very similar to the present painting.
The works of Jacob Toorenvliet are spread all over the world, many of which in – usually unknown – private collections. Nevertheless, his works are also represented in various museum collections, among which the Brukenthal Museum, Sibiu, Romania; the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California, United States of America; the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, United Kingdom ; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, United States of America; the Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, the Netherlands; the Harvard University Art Museums, Boston, United States; the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia; the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, Germany; the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Gemäldegalerie, Vienna, Austria; Musée du Louvre, Paris, France; the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Italy; the National Museum, Warsaw, Poland; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; the Stedelijk Museum 'De Lakenhal', Leiden, the Netherlands; the Szepmuveszeti Muzeum, Budapest, Hungary and the Watford Museum, Watford, United Kingdom.
Large concentrations of paintings can be found in the collection of the Count of Schönborn, Schloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden, Germany, encompassing seven paintings; the collection of the Archduke of Liechtenstein in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, holding nine works and The Leiden Gallery in New York, United States of America, that features ten works by Jacob Toorenvliet.
(1) From the 16th through the 18th century the cittern was a very popular instrument, one of the few metal-strung plectrum-plucked instruments from the period. The top of the pegbox was often decorated with a small carved head, perhaps not always of great artistic merit; references exist in Shakespeare's Love's Labour Lost and in other contemporary sources, insulting people by calling them 'cittern-heads'.
(2) The Fontana del Tritone was commissioned by Bernini’s patron, Pope Urban VIII (Florence,1568 – Rome, 1644) and is located in the Piazza Barberini, near the entrance to the Palazzo Barberini (which now houses the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica) that Bernini helped to design and construct for the Barberini, Urban's family. In the centre of the fountain, the kneeling Triton is placed on a base of four dolphins - represented in their heraldic conventionalization - that entwine the papal tiara with crossed keys and the heraldic Barberini bees in their scaly tails.
(3) This biography is principally based on: Bisanz-Prakken, M. (2005). Rembrandt and His Time: Masterworks from the Albertina, Vienna. Hudson Hills, p. 138; Frimmel,Th. von (1907). Zu den Malern Toorenvliet. In: Blätter für Gemäldekunde, 4/2, pp. 41-42; Karau, S.H. (2006). Brüderliche Bande. Jacob Toorenvliet malt das Familienporträt seines Bruders Dirck. In: Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch. Band 67, S. 279 - 285; Karau, S.H. (2002). Leben und Werk des Leidener Malers Jacob Toorenvliet (1640–1719). (Dissertation) Berlin: FU Berlin; Sluijter, E.J. [et.al] (1988). Leidse fijnschilders: van Gerrit Dou tot Frans van Mieris de Jonge 1630-1760. Leiden: Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal, pp. 239-249; Willigen, A. van der & Meijer, F.G. (2003). A dictionary of Dutch and Flemish still-life painters working in oils. 1525-1725.Leiden: Primavera, p. 196
(4) Sluijter, 1988
(5) After the death of his fist wife in 1649, Abraham Toorenvliet married the widow of Jan Dou, the brother of Gerrit Dou and acted as guardian of Jan’s child together with Gerrit.
(6) Karau, 2002: This journey through Flanders and to Vienna is commonly accepted, although clear evidence of this does not exist.
(7) Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, inv.nr. SK-A-2254
(8) Bisanz-Prakken, 2005, p. 138
(9) Houbraken, A. (1718). De Groote Schouburgh der nederlantsche konstchilders en schilderessen. Amsterdam, Vol. I , pp. 164 – 167, p 166
(10) Houbraken, 1718, p 166; Sluijter, 1988
(11) Sluijter, 1988; Karau, 2002
(12) Wurzbach, A. von (1910). Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon auf Grund archivalischer Forschungen bearbeitet. Vienna: Halm und Goldmann, Vol. II, p. 716-717
(13) For further reading on the Leiden Fine Painters see: Rooij, K. de (1988). De Leidse fijnschilders. Leiden: Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal ; Sluijter, E.J. [et.a.l] (1988). Leidse fijnschilders: van Gerrit Dou tot Frans van Mieris de Jonge 1630-1760. Leiden: Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal; Hecht, P. (1989). De Hollandse fijnschilders: van Gerard Dou tot Adriaen van der Werff. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum
(14) Bisanz-Prakken, 2005, p. 138
(15) Many of Toorenvliet’s paintings from his ‘late Leiden period’ (after the second half of the 1680’s) resemble the works by Jan Steen, although he never duplicates. This period displays a mixture of elements from the works of both Frans en Willem van Mieris, Godfried Schalcken and - with regard to his portraits - of the works by Caspar Netscher.
(16) It is only certain that Toorenvliet lived in Amsterdam in 1682 and in Leiden in 1686; no records support his city of residence in 1684
(17) Sluijter, 1988, p. 245
(18) e.g. Karau, 2002, B 125: Groups portrait, collection of the The Old Town House, Capes Town, South Africa, inv.nr. 14/61, RKD.nr, 7724, which Karau dates around 1679/1680; Karau, 2002, A 109: Doppelporträt eines Knaben und eines jungen Mannes, dated 1692; The Pentecost Procession, private collection Como, Italy, RKD.nr. 62841, executed ca. 1680; Portrait of Dirck Toorenvliet and the Toorenvliet-Oudshoorn family, dated 1687, RKD.nr. 136533
(19) Kinderen-Besier, J.H. der (1950). Spelevaart der mode. De kledij onzer voorouders in de zeventiende eeuw. Amsterdam: Querido, p. 228
(20) Karau, 2002, A 40: Junge Gemüsehändlerin mit Brief, collection of the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Liège,Belgium, inv.nr. BA 390
(21) Karau, 2002, A 103: Junge Frau mit Kupplerin und kleinem Pagen, executed in 1680, with Alan Jacobs, London, Winter Catalogue 1972/73, Nr. 10, (with illustration)
(22) e.g. The music lesson, collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, inv. nr. SK-A-1978
(23) e.g. Karau, 2002, A 37: Musizierende Gesellschaft, dated 1672; Karau, 2002, B 96: Das Konzert, executed after 1700; A merry company on a terrace, collection of the Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia, inv.nr. 1394, RKD nr. 42929; Company making music, with Salomon Lillian, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, RKD.nr. 45413