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Cornelis van Noorde (Haarlem 1731- 1795)

A river god with the Spaarne (?) and the Saint Bavo (?) behind

A river god with the Spaarne (?) river and the Saint Bavo church (?) behind
signed and dated ‘den 13 & 16 January 1773/ C: V: N: fe: ad Vivum.’ (verso)
black and red chalk, pen and grey ink, grey wash, countermark IV, pen black ink framing lines
27.2 x 43.6 cm

With Kunsthandel R. de Jong, Haarlem, 1981, from whom purchased by A.M. (‘Ton’) van den Broek (1932-1995), Haarlem (with his collector’s mark and inscription, verso, not in Lugt).

The Haarlem artist Cornelis van Noorde, the son of a baker and initially trained as such, received drawing lessons from his fellow townsmen Frans Decker (1684-1751) and Taco Jelgersma (1702-1795). [1] Both Decker and Jelgersma were specialized in portraiture, and while Van Noorde did produce portraits throughout his career, as well as etchings, copies after paintings and print-drawings, the majority of his artistic output was devoted to drawn town- and landscapes in and around Haarlem. [2]
The present drawing, signed and dated twice on its verso, is rather unique in the artist’s œuvre both in terms of subject matter and technique. The foreground is taken up by a large figure of Peneus, a river God from Greek mythology identifiable by his laurel wreath, paddle in his left hand and the jug on which he leans. Unusually, the figure is drawn in red chalk, making him stand out against the monochrome landscape. One wonders whether the two different techniques could explain the double dating on the verso; it seems likely that the landscape was drawn in one session (on 13 January) and the figure in the next (on 16 January), or vice versa. Large nude figures such as the present one are a rarity in Van Noorde’s œuvre, whose topographical drawings are usually inhabited by small and minutely drawn figures in contemporary dress, but they are not unique. For example, the present sheet can be compared to a drawing after Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem showing Vulcan, [3] in the Noordhollands Archief, Haarlem, further confirming the artist’s interest in mannerist or classical figure studies. The large size of the present sheet, combined with the rather highly finished quality, suggest that the sheet was not intended as a study but as a presentation drawing or a work of art in its own right.
In the far background we can observe the contours of a large church reminiscent of the Grote Kerk or St.-Bavokerk, which can be rather closely compared to a sketch of that church by Van Noorde and, of course, to the building that still stands today. [4] The allegorical figure, therefore, should probably be interpreted as an allegory of the river Spaarne - the river running though Haarlem of great economic and strategic importance -and the city of Haarlem in the background.

[1] R. van Eijnden and A. van der Willigen, 'Geschiedenis der Vaderlandsche Schilderkunst, sedert de helft der XVIII eeuw', Haarlem, 1830 [reprint, Amsterdam, 1979], vol. 2, p. 222.
[2] See B. Sliggers, 'Cornelis van Noorde (1731-1795): Een veelzijdig Haarlems kunstenaar', Haarlem, 2011.
[3] inv. 47185.
[4] B. Sliggers, 'Het schetsboek van Cornelis van Noorde 1731-1795: Het leven van een veelzijdig Haarlems kunstenaar', Haarlem, 1982, pp. 104-105.

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