Traces of the Hand

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Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman

The Dutch Golden Age

Willem Pietersz. Buytewech
Dutch, 1591/1592–1624
Standing Cavalier, c. 1622
Black chalk with white heightening on faded blue paper
15 7/8 x 9 7/8 in, 40.32 x 25.08 cm (sheet)
Provenance: Leopold I, Dessau (L. 1708b); K.E. Henrici, Berlin, 22 March 1927, lot 1040, with image; H.E. ten Cate, Almelo (L. 533b); with B. Houthakker by 1952; with C.G. Boerner by 1964
Inscriptions: (recto) lower left: "WB" in monogram; lower right: "Wilh. Baytwech 1622." added by a later hand
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2006.11.11

Though Willem Buytewech was only active for roughly a dozen years, his drawings, prints, and rare paintings—of which fewer than ten survive—heavily influenced the development of Dutch art in the first half of the seventeenth century. His small experimental etchings of about 1616 contributed to the innovative naturalism of Dutch landscapes of the local environment. The Herman Collection drawing relates to Buytewech’s still more important invention of the so-called "Merry Company" scene set within a domestic interior. Until Buytewech’s pioneering works of about 1620, artists tended to stage these compositions in verdant outdoor landscapes. This shift in setting enabled Buytewech to place greater emphasis on his figural groups, which he did by bringing them closer to the picture plane, as if to include his viewer in the festivities. Enhancing this effect are the poses and glances of the young men and women, who, as here, seem to be posing for or looking knowingly at the viewer.

This drawing is comparable in size and manner of execution to three other drawings by Buytewech dating to approximately the same period: the Standing Young Man in Amsterdam, the Standing Young Man with a Hat in His Hand in Berlin, and the Standing Young Man Turned to the Right in Rotterdam, the last of which also shares the same grey-blue paper support.1 Though it has been suggested that this drawing was possibly intended as a preparatory work for an artist’s manual,2 this seems unlikely, as no such book is known and the drawing has not been indented for transfer. The Standing Cavalier, however, was closely adapted for the central figure of a painting attributed to Buytewech, as well as for a work by Buytewech’s close contemporary Dirck Hals.3 Despite slight changes between the drawing and these paintings, their reliance on Buytewech’s drawing is unmistakable.

In this work, Buytewech proves his mastery of chalk drawing. He artfully combines more highly-worked passages, as in the coat, with areas worked up by only a few summary strokes, like the cavalier’s forearm and clasped left hand, in a manner that rivals and almost predicts the works of an artist like Antoine Watteau a century later. Ever attuned to texture, Buytewech wet his chalk before applying it in areas suggesting the major drapery folds and darkest shadows and used a stump to soften many of the most prominent chalk lines to provide a highly tactile sense of the young dandy’s clothing. Yet, in this drawing’s current state of preservation, one only obtains a vague glimpse of Buytwech’s original intentions. In its original state, the paper, which has now lost most of its grey-blue coloring, would have created further volume in the figure by enhancing the contrast with the white chalk heightening.

Krista Gulbransen
John Hawley

 

1. Egbert Haverkamp Begemann, Willem Buytewech, Amsterdam, 1959, nos. 96, 97, and 98. See also Maria van Berge, Jeroen Giltay, et al., Willem Buytewech: 1591–1624, Rotterdam: Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1975, nos. 83, 84, and 85, Plates 68, 73, and 72.

2. Chappell, Form, Function, and Finesse, 80.

3. For the paintings attributed to Buytewech and Dirck Hals, see Haverkamp Begemann, Buytewech, no. XII, Plate 109; and no. XX, Plate 149.

 

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