Categories
Art Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—Doubting Thomas by Adriaen van der Werff, Part 2

Adriaen van der Werff (Dutch, 1659–1722). Self-portrait with the Portrait of his Wife, Margaretha van Rees, and their Daughter Maria, 1699. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, SK-A-465.
Adriaen van der Werff (Dutch, 1659–1722). Self-portrait with the Portrait of his Wife, Margaretha van Rees, and their Daughter Maria, 1699. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, SK-A-465.

In the first part of this post, using the Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting Doubting Thomas, we explored the biography and style of Dutch artist Adriaen van der Werff (a self-portrait of him from the Rijksmuseum is to the left).  This week, we’re going to trace the provenance of Doubting Thomas and see what it tells us about the history of taste in art and trends in collecting.

Van der Werff was one of the most famous painters of his day and was known internationally throughout his career. He was in demand in his earlier career for his rich portraits in the popular “Fine School” style. One example of his early work is the 1685 painting in the National Gallery, London called Portrait of a Man in a Quilted Gown.

Then in the 1690’s van der Werff’s paintings became more and more influenced by the classical style admired in France. He already had a tendency to use richer detail and elegant lines in his Fine School paintings. An important reason for this transition is the fact that the new style was preferred by patrons in the late Baroque period. If you want to make a living, you paint want people want to buy!

Categories
Art Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—Doubting Thomas by Adriaen van der Werff, Part 1

Adriaen van der Werff (Dutch, 1659–1722). Doubting Thomas (The Incredulity of St. Thomas), 1710. Oil on wood panel. 24 15/16 × 18 15/16 in. (63.34 × 48.1 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. R. V. Krikorian M1971.60. Photo credit: P. Richard Eells.
Adriaen van der Werff (Dutch, 1659–1722). Doubting Thomas (The Incredulity of St. Thomas), 1710. Oil on wood panel. 24 15/16 × 18 15/16 in. (63.34 × 48.1 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. R. V. Krikorian M1971.60. Photo credit: P. Richard Eells.

Remember in an earlier post when I said that the study of provenance can tell us a lot about the history of taste? We’ll see how by taking a closer look at one of the paintings in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The painting is Doubting Thomas—sometimes called The Incredulity of St. Thomas—by Dutch artist Adriaen van der Werff (1659–1722).

Adriaen van der Werff started his career by painting in the style called Fijnschilder, which literally means “Fine School”. In Fine School painting, the goal was to create a painting that is so smooth and pristine that individual brushstrokes could not be seen. Often the artworks were small and filled with details that required close looking and layers of symbolism. A perfect example is our A Young Woman at a Window with a Parrot and a Birdcage, which you can see bellow (and which will be discussed in a future blog post!).

By the late 17th century, van der Werff began to change his style, painting in a classical style that was popular in France. Doubting Thomas is a perfect example of this classical style. You can see it in the long, elegant proportions of his figures and in his rich depiction of costume.