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Anthonie van Borssom (Amsterdam 1630-1677)

A view of a village, presumably Diemen

pen and brown ink, grey wash, pen and brown ink framing lines
15.6 x 24.3 cm

A.G. de Visser (active 1858-1880), The Hague.
Adelbert von Lanna (1836-1909), Prague; H.G. Gutekunst, Stuttgart, 6-11 May 1910, lot 111 (35 Mark to ‘Stroefer’);
T.H. Stroefer.
Ernst J. Otto (20th Century), Celles.
With C.G. Boerner, Düsseldorf, 1962 ('Neuer Lagerliste nr. 34, Handzeichnungen alter und Neuerer Meister', no. 17).

This hitherto unpublished sheet is an exciting addition to the drawn œuvre of the Amsterdam artist Anthonie van Borssom. The artist was born in Amsterdam in 1630 to Maijke Mans and Cornelis van Borssom who was a ‘spiegelkassemaker’, a mirror-fronted wardrobe maker and gilder from Emden. Apart from his baptism and various documents relating to the artist’s marriage, his will and death, details about his life are scarce.[1] No portrait of the artist has come down to us, neither have any of his writings, so, as Alice Davies has observed, Van Borssom’s ‘’art is his sole legacy’’.[2]

Besides a small number of etchings and a larger number of paintings, the main body of the artist’s work consists of drawings. In her recent catalogue on the artist’s drawn œuvre, Davies included 179 sheets by the artist, most of which show animal studies and landscapes. The subject of the present drawing has traditionally been identified as Diemen, but that identification was discarded when the drawing was offered by C.G. Boerner in 1962 (see provenance). The village of Diemen, located south-east of Amsterdam and next to the Zuiderzee, was a popular subject amongst Dutch 17th century artists. Rembrandt, amongst others, depicted the village in several drawings.[3] The church of Diemen also appears in an etching by Claes Jansz. Visscher and the overall shape of the church as well as the stork nest are comparable, but the roof of the bay of the church is higher in Visscher’s print.[4] Given these differences, it should not entirely be ruled out that the drawing was made during a trip further from Amsterdam, as the artist travelled through The Netherlands to Germany towards the end of his life.

The drawing’s style and technique are entirely characteristic for the artist. The cows with their almost caricature like heads and schematic rendering, for example, can be compared to those in a sheet executed in the same technique (with a similar use of wash) in Oxford, Christ Church Picture Gallery.[5] Furthermore, the rendering of shrubs and trees can be compared to that in a sheet showing Haarlem, now in the British Museum, London.[6] Another drawing, now in Kupferstichkabinett in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, is also executed in a closely comparable technique. While the church spire in that sheet is somewhat more compact than that in the present drawing, the overall shape (especially the low bay) of the church seems rather similar to that in the present drawing suggesting that the present drawing shows the same village from the other side of the church.

I am grateful to Alice Davies for confirming the attribution on the basis of a photograph.

[1] A.I. Davies, 'Anthonie van Borssom (1630-1677). A Catalogue of his Drawings', Gent, Belgium, p. 13. [2]Ibid,. p. 14.
[3] See F. Lugt, 'Wandelingen met Rembrandt in en om Amsterdam', Amsterdam, 1915, fig. 98-100; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, inv. MB 1958/T 22.
[4] C. Schuckman, 'Hollstein’s Dutch & Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, volume XXXVIII. Claes Jansz. Visscher to Cleas Claesz Visscher II', Roosendaal, 1991, vol. I, no. 148, vol. II, p. 87.
[5] A.I. Davies, 'op. cit.', no. 3, ill.
[6] 'Ibid.', no. 26, ill.

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