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Boy Offering Grapes to a Woman

Maria Schalcken (Made? 1645/50 – before 1700 Dordrecht)
ca. 1675–82
oil on panel
35.6 x 26.7 cm
signed information

signed, upper left: “Schalcken . F.”

inventory number
Currently on view: Baltimore Museum of Art

Jansen, Guido. “Boy Offering Grapes to a Woman” (2017). In The Leiden Collection Catalogue, 4th ed. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Elizabeth Nogrady with Caroline Van Cauwenberge. New York, 2023–. (accessed June 13, 2024).

This painting, which has always been attributed to Godefridus Schalcken (1643–1706), shows a young woman in sumptuous dress, sitting in front of a red curtain and seen from the knees upward. In her left hand she holds a closed fan, while reaching out with her right hand toward a bunch of grapes in a large wicker basket filled with white, red and blue bunches of this delicacy, which a boy offers her. In the right background is a view of a walled garden with an impressive fountain and tall trees, beyond which high mountains rise. The signature “Schalcken . F” at the upper left appears in a piece of blue sky where the curtain sags. Not only is this a rather unusual place for Godefridus Schalcken to have put his signature, but the absence of his first initial, G, is certainly uncommon.

A comparison of this painting with works considered typical of Schalcken reveals additional anomalies. The detailing of the woman’s clothing and particularly the wicker basket is somewhat hard and lacks the soft touch we expect to see from this master. The anatomy of the boy’s head is not entirely correct, and a background landscape with a mountainous vista appears nowhere else in Schalcken’s oeuvre. The painting therefore seems to have been produced in Schalcken’s studio by a pupil or an assistant.

The attribution of the painting can be pinpointed more exactly thanks to the capital F in the signature. This signature, as well as its placement, is identical to that on Maria Schalcken’s Self-Portrait at the Easel, now in the Van Otterloo collection (). Though Godefridus occasionally placed an F after his name as an abbreviation for fecit, he did so using a small S-like letter. On Self-Portrait at the Easel, not only did Maria sign her name in full, but she also wrote the same capital F we find on the present painting. The space in front of the signature on Boy Offering Grapes to a Woman is, moreover, large enough to have accommodated Maria’s Christian name. Thus it is reasonable to assume that it was not Godefridus, but rather Maria—his sister and pupil (and junior by several years)—who painted Boy Offering Grapes to a Woman, even if her brushstrokes are somewhat broader and less accomplished than in her Self-Portrait at the Easel. The absence of Maria’s Christian name in the signature could then be blamed on a former owner, who evidently thought it might prove more profitable to let it pass for a work by Godefridus.

Maria Schalcken presumably studied with her brother from 1665 to 1670, after he had completed his training in Gerrit Dou’s studio and returned from Leiden to Dordrecht, where he moved back in with his parents in the Nieuwstraat (see GS-101). She thus became Godefridus’s first pupil (see GS-106). A century and a half ago, her work had already been described by Immerzeel as rare. Her painting career cannot have lasted very long, and she would never have had to paint for a living. It is likely that after her marriage in 1682 to the Dordrecht merchant Severijn van Bracht (b. 1658), she never touched her brushes again, because one year later she gave birth to a daughter, Anna, and in 1685 to a son, Cornelis. Van Bracht had his banns read again in July 1700, so by then he must have been a widower and Maria must have died some time before that. Therefore, Maria’s painting activities should be placed mainly in the 1670s.

In addition to Self-Portrait at the Easel, there is one other known painting by Maria’s hand, Interior with a Young Lady Seated, Powdering Her Hair, a small panel documented in 1979 in the London art trade. Furthermore, there are a number of listings of paintings by her in old sale catalogues. These refer to two genre pieces, Woman at Her Toilet, Eating Comfits (Een Vrouwtje dat voor haar Toilet sit Confituuren eetende) and Drunken Woman and a Young Boy in a Room (Een dronk Wyf en een Jongetje in een Vertrek), as well as the aforementioned Young Lady Seated.

- Guido Jansen, 2017
  • Possibly Arthur Kay, Glasgow (his sale, Christie’s, London, 11 May 1911, no. 224, as by Godefridus Schalcken [to Roos for £12.12]).
  • (Sale, Sotheby’s, Monaco, 2 December 1989, no. 319, as by Godefridus Schalcken [for 721,500 francs].
  • [Richard Green Fine Paintings, London, 1992 (sale, Christie’s, London, 23 April 1993, no. 8, as by Godefridus Schalcken).]
  • Dr. Hinrich Bischoff, Bremen and Berlin, until 2005; on consignment with Galerie Heide Hübner, Würzburg, June 1993–March 1994, as by Godefridus Schalcken; on consignment with Klaus Edel, Cologne and London, 1995, as by Godefridus Schalcken (sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 15 June 2006, as by Godefridus Schalcken).
  • From whom acquired by the present owner in 2006..
  • Washington, D.C., The National Museum of Women in the Arts, on loan with the permanent collection, 1 August 2018–10 October 2019 [lent by the present owner].
  • Washington, D.C., The National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Woman Artists of the Dutch Golden Age,” 11 October 2019–5 January 2020 [lent by the present owner].
  • Washington, D.C., The National Museum of Women in the Arts, on loan with the permanent collection, 6 January–31 July 2021 [lent by the present owner].
  • Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century Based on the Work of John Smith. Edited and translated by Edward G. Hawke, 5: 358, no. 169a. London, 1913 (as by Godefridus Schalcken).
  • Hübner, Heide. “Junge Frau mit Pagen.” In Alte Meister. Old Master Paintings. Kunsthandel Heide Hübner. Sales cat. Galerie Heide Hübner, Würzburg, 1993, 18–19 (as by Godefridus Schalcken).
  • Sevcik, Anja K., ed. Schalcken–Gemalte Verführung. Exh. cat. Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum; Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum. Stuttgart, 2016, 116.

The support is a single oak board from Western Germany or the Netherlands. Dendrochronological analysis indicates an earliest-possible creation date of 1642, with a more plausible date of 1652 onward. The panel retains its original beveled back and measures about one half inch at the thickest point. On the reverse are two labels, two wax seals, and an inscription in black that reads “DxDx.” The panel, with the grain oriented vertically, has a mild convex warp. The edges do not appear to have been trimmed.

The panel was prepared with an off-white ground, followed by a brick-red colored priming layer. Examination with infrared reflectography did not reveal any underdrawing.

The paint was applied with softly blended brushstrokes, allowing the artist to distinguish between textures. Impastoed paint was employed sparingly to emphasize details such as the woven basket bearing the grapes and the white ruffles of the woman’s dress. A warm brown underpaint was used to sketch thinly in some areas of the initial composition beneath the body color. There is a small pentimento above the woman’s head that relates to a change in her head covering.

The painting is generally in excellent condition. There is some minor craquelure in the dark brown passages, revealing the red priming below. There are also some vertical cracks, following the grain of the wood, that appear raised in raking light but are stable.

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