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Cornelis Dusart (Haarlem 1660-1704)

Head and shoulders of a man, en-profil

black chalk, pen and black ink, watercolour, black chalk framing lines
9.6 x 7.8 cm

Private Collection, France.

Cornelis Dusart was the last pupil of Adriaen van Ostade (between 1675 and 1679), who had a profound influence on the artist’s work.[1] Like his master, Dusart specialised in scenes of peasant life which he depicted in his large œuvre consisting of paintings, etchings and mezzotints, quick sketches and highly finished drawings. After Van Ostade’s death in 1685, Dusart inherited his master’s studio estate which he exploited through working up drawings by his master as well as by using it as an inexhaustible source of inspiration. As observed by Bernard Schnackebnurg, Dusart’s well-documented œuvre and his relation to his master and his estate represent one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of Dutch draughtsmanship.[2]
From the 1680s onwards, Dusart produced finished watercolours on parchment with peasant scenes which echo those by his master. Besides these, Dusart also produced a large number of small and highly detailed and worked up drawings of peasant heads. These were often produced in series of which at least two examples survive; one was previously in the Unicorno collection and subsequently sold at auction and broken up[3] while another complete series is in the Prentenkabinet, Leiden.[4] While the earlier head studies tend to be executed in chalk alone, very much in the tradition of those by his master[5] , many of his later works are more worked out and drawn in colour. These drawings, often datable to around 1690, show peasants heads often in a witty or caricature-like style. The present drawing, which is a fine and characteristic example, can be compared to a group of small rectangular sheets executed in coloured chalks with subtly coloured backgrounds. The sheet is particularly close to a drawing showing the head and shoulders of a man wearing a similar hat, which was previously in a Belgium private collection (Fig. 1)[6] and to a drawing showing the head and shoulders of a woman in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.[7] Other comparable sheets can be found in the Albertina, Vienna.[8] The subtle accents in pen and black ink are furthermore characteristic for these head studies and an example, signed and dated 1690, with similarly executed accents is in the Maida and George Abrams collection, Boston.[9]

[1] E. Trautscholdt, ‘Beiträge zu Cornelis Dusart’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, no. 17, 1966, pp. 171-200.
[2] B. Schnackenburg, Adriaen van Ostade. Isack van Ostade. Zeuchnungen und Aquarelle, Hamburg, 1981, vol. I, p. 60.
[3] See C. Dumas and R.-J. te Rijdt, Kleur en Raffinement, exhib. cat., Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam, 1994, no. 22, ill. and Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, 19 May 2004, lot 77-80.
[4] Inv. PK-T-223-232; E. Kolfin, in Leiden viert feest! Hoogtepunten uit een academische collectie, exhib. cat., Amsterdam, Museum Het Rembrandthuis, 2014, no. 71, ill.
[5] B. Schnackenburg, op. cit., vol. I, nos. 81, 113-116, vol. II, plate 58-59 and for a coloured example see no. 255, plate 118.
[6] Anonymous sale; Ader Tajan, Paris, 28 October 1994, lot 43.
[7] Inv. RP-T-1897-A-3390.
[8] Inv. 10160 and 10411.
[9] See W.W. Robinson, Bruegel to Rembrandt. Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exhib. cat., Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge and elsewhere, no. 91, ill.

Fig. 1. Cornelis Dusart, Head and shoulders of a man wearing a hat, black chalk and watercolour, 12.7 x 11.2 cm.

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