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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 2

This post is part of a series that that will highlight some of the interesting provenance cases in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Collection. 

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.
Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Last time we looked at The Marriage Trap’s provenance and attribution just before and since its acquisition by the Milwaukee Art Museum. That’s usually the easiest part.

In this post, we’ll see how piecing together the ownership of a painting requires pulling information from a number of sources, thinking critically about what we find, and then sometimes making an educated guess (noted as such, of course).

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 1

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.
Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676) was probably a student of the famous Dutch Golden Age artist Rembrandt (Dutch, 1606–1669). Just like his contemporaries, Victors created works with various popular subjects, including religious scenes, portraits, and genre paintings.

The Milwaukee Art Museum has a market scene in its collection which falls into this last category. The Marriage Trap is set along the familiar canals of Holland. A peasant wedding party is purchasing a fish for the ensuing celebration.

But the Dutch loved layering painting with many layers of symbolism–often for a humorous result.  Victor’s ability in combining realism with humor is illustrated by the context and placement of the fish.  It is most likely intended as a sexual metaphor!

Recently, The Marriage Trap was on our list for submission to the Art Loss Register. A quick look at the thick object file—where we keep records and correspondence related to one artwork—showed me that there was some untangling to do! So, I carefully read through everything, looked for more resources, and double checked it all before organizing it in a clearly stated entry for our collection database.