David Teniers II (Antwerp 1610 - Brussels 1690)
Landscape with a Shepherd and a Shepherdess and their Flock along a Path
signed on the rock ‘D.TENIERS’ (lower centre)
oil on canvas
67.9 x 92.7 cm (26¾ x 36½ in)
Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918), Seamore Place, London;
thence by inheritance to Almina, Countess of Carnarvon (1877-1969);
by whom sold, London, Christie's, May 31, 1918, lot 156;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, November 16, 1973, lot 32;
with Cohen, London;
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, October 31, 1977, lot 129A;
Kunstalon Francke, Baden-Baden, 1979;
West German Private Collection;
Anonymous sale ("Property of a Private Collector"), New York, Sotheby's, January 17, 1985, lot 97 (unsold);
Anonymous sale, Munich, Neumeister Kunstauktionen, September 23, 1992, lot 556.
Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon (No. L80.15.1).
To be published in Dr. Margret Klinge's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist.
Landscape with a Shepherd and a Shepherdess and their Flock along a Path is the epitome of the charming pastoral genre for which David Teniers the Younger was renowned and which made him famous in the seventeenth century. Set within an extensive Arcadian landscape, this delightful genre scene shows a shepherd and shepherdess gathering together and moving their flock of cows, sheep and goats along the banks of a stream. The shepherdess, in the far-right foreground looks out of the picture plane directly at the viewer. Dressed in a red chemise with white under-shirt she clutches a metal jug, her hands kept warm beneath the folds of her blue skirt.
The shepherd is depicted waving his long staff to encourage the movement of his flock; Wearing breeches, a blue jacket and soft hat, his profile, like that of the shepherdess, is full of individual character. Crossing over a bridge, another shepherd can be seen playing a pipe - a popular instrument in rustic genre scenes in seventeenth century Dutch art - as a loyal dog scampers along behind him. The path over the bridge leads up towards a small farmhouse. The cylindrical tower is particularly distinctive, and several figures mill around outside talking amongst themselves.
Rising behind the farm buildings is a craggy rock formation with scattered trees sprouting from its rocky crevices. The stream effectively leads the viewer’s eye into the distant, verdant landscape. In the soft, powdery sky a flock of birds soar through the clouds, whilst in the far distance the snow-capped peaks of a mountain range can be faintly glimpsed. Teniers has skilfully framed his landscape by placing a tree close to the edge of the picture plane in the near left-foreground. This area of vegetation is cast in dark shadow thus allowing the viewer to immediately study the shepherd and shepherdess in the central foreground who, by contrast, are bathed in light.
The main features of the landscape - the bridge, the farm building on the hill and rocky outcrop - dominate the right-hand side of the composition, while the left-hand side is reserved for the sprawling landscape. However, it is the central shepherding activity which balances the composition and harmonises the aesthetics of the figures and the landscape as a whole.
Dr. Margaret Klinge has dated Landscape with a Shepherd and a Shepherdess and their Flock along a Path to c.1650 and the 1640s and 1650s are often considered to be the period during which Teniers produced his finest works. Throughout the 1650s, Teniers developed his pastoral genre and the present work is an exceptional example of his skill and talent for illustrating such subject matter.
The Hermitage holds one of the finest collections of David Teniers the Younger’s works with over thirty paintings demonstrating the breadth and variety of his oeuvre. His pastoral genre scenes are particularly well represented, for example the companion pieces, The Shepherdess and The Shepherd.
Both The Shepherdess and The Shepherd, like their counterparts in the present work, are depicted with individual, portrait features. Furthermore Teniers has taken great delight in detailing the costumes and props held by the two figures. The Shepherd has an identical conical flask tied and hanging from his waist as the shepherd in the present work.
In the Hermitage work, the shepherd gaily holds a pipe in his hands, which is seen being played by the second shepherd in Landscape with a Shepherd and a Shepherdess and their Flock along a Path as he moves his sheep. Traditionally, the pipe - together with the tambourine - provided a musical accompaniment to the pastoral dance and the inclusion of the instrument enhances the elemental rusticity of the scene.
The figures in The Shepherdess and The Shepherd, like the pair in Landscape with a Shepherd and a Shepherdess and their Flock along a Path, are idealised figures in idealised surroundings. The inclusion of an ugly shepherd in the background, however, - here the pipe-playing shepherd in the present work - shows the artistic influence of Adriaen Brouwer (1605-1638) who excelled at depicting subjects, often coarse and grotesque, from everyday life. The use of the shaded tree and vegetation to frame the composition could also allude to the work of Brouwer who used smoky, half darkened interiors to add atmosphere to his works.
Teniers evidently re-used compositional features from earlier pastoral scenes: Landscape with a Tower, painted a decade or so before the present work, shows an exact replica of the cylindrical tower in Landscape with a Shepherd and a Shepherdess and their Flock along a Path complete with bridge, circular window, roofed chimney pot and extension buildings, though the background and composition are markedly different.
David Teniers the Younger was one of the most successful and celebrated artists of the seventeenth century. The son of the artist David Teniers the Elder (1582-1649), the younger Teniers trained and collaborated with his father, before becoming a master of the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp in 1632. In 1637, he married the daughter of Jan Brueghel I (1568-1625) thus uniting two influential Flemish artistic families. Though there is no evidence to suggest any formal training took place, the young Teniers was deeply influenced by Adriaen Brouwer who had moved to Antwerp in 1631 and injected a new freshness and temper to the Brueghelian tradition of peasant scenes. Teniers particularly employed the monochrome palette, smoky darkened interiors and inclusion of sinister, satirical figures of Brouwer’s works.¹
The 1640s and 1650s saw Teniers develop the potential of the peasant genre scene to its full and these paintings were particularly prized by the Antwerp dealers with whom Teniers had forged an excellent relationship, in particular the firm, Matthijs Musson (c.1600-1678). These works are characterised by a rich and varied pastel-tinted palette that present country life in a positive, idealised setting. Indeed the survival of numerous preparatory drawings shows Teniers’ concern for the accurate depiction of the figures in his works. Rural Feast is an excellent example of the artist’s talent for handling figures within an open landscape and, like Landscape with a Shepherd and a Shepherdess and their Flock along a Path, he treats the figures with a warm, human, and often humorous touch. Moreover, the compositional structure of Rural Feast was closely imitated in the present work.
Undoubtedly Teniers’ fame in the artistic circles of Antwerp led him to receive a number of prestigious commissions, including becoming Master of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament in the St. Jacobskerk between 1637 and 1639, and serving as the Dean of the Guild of St. Luke between 1644 and 1645 as well as receiving important civic commissions.²
It was, however, his appointment as court painter in Brussels to Archduke Leopold Wilhelm (1614-1662), Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, in 1651 which confirmed Teniers’ artistic prowess. Not only was he employed as the Archduke’s painter, he was also charged as keeper of his vast collection of paintings. In particular, he was involved in the purchase of a large number of Italian, and especially Venetian, masterpieces from the confiscated collections of Charles I and his Jacobite supporters (now in the Vienna Museum). Teniers visually documented this considerable collection in a series of views of the gallery and also produced an illustrated catalogue of the collection, the Theatrum Pictorium (1660), as well as making small-scale copies of the Italian paintings for engravers.³
By 1663, Teniers had received noble status and used his prominent position in court to lobby for an art academy in Antwerp to rival those in Paris and Rome. The artist’s work post-1660 is dominated by the Arcadian theme and his landscapes become increasingly less populated by figures. Despite his great success, there is some evidence to suggest that his later years were marred by financial difficulties possibly due to international frictions, which ultimately ended with the War of Spanish Succession (1702-1713).
We are grateful to Dr. Margret Klinge who (in a letter dated 9 January, 2006) confirms this painting to be a work by David Teniers the Younger, dateable to c.1650. She will publish it in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist.
¹ See for example, David Teniers the Younger, Twelfth-Night (The King Drinks), 1634-1640, Museo del Prado, Madrid.
² See for example by the Antwerp Guild 'Oude Voetboog' (Old Crossbow) in 1643 (now in The Hermitage, St Petersburg; Collection of Empress Josephine, Malmaison, 1815)
³ Today there are eight known scenes of the Archduke’s collection.