PIETER HARMENSZ. VERELST
(Dordrecht c. 1618-1678 Hulst)
An Italian Streetscene with Bamboccianti playing Cards, a Quack preparing Concoctions
signed with monogram lower right: PVE
oil on panel, 34 x 28 cm
Prof. Dr. Rinecker, Würzburg; Collection Mestern, Hamburg, 1882; Gallery Weber, Hamburg
Weber Sale, Berlin, Lepke, 1912, lot 269, ill. 58; Private Collection, England.
G. Parthey, Deutscher Bildersaal, Berlin, 1864, vol. II, p. 40, no. 13
Pflugk-Hartung, Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, 1885, VIII, p. 88
F. Schlie, Galerie Weber, Vienna, 1891, p. 6, p. 12
The Verelst family was something of an artistic dynasty. Pieter Harmensz. Verelst, who was born in Dordrecht, became a pupil of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675). He is mentioned in the records of the Dordrecht guild as a pupil of Dou in 1638. Verelst moved to The Hague in 1643, where he joined the guild in the same year. In 1656, the artist participated in the foundation of the Confrèrie Pictura, serving on the organisation’s committee as a warden. He taught his three sons in The Hague, Simon (1644-1710/17), Johannes (1648-1700) and Herman Pietersz. (1641/42-1700). Simon specialized in flower paintings, while Pieter’s other sons are known for their portrait painting. Pieter eventually fell heavily into debt, and was compelled to leave The Hague. In 1671, he turned up in the vicinity of Hulst, near Antwerp, where he seems to have abandoned painting altogether, and took up the brewer’s trade.
Verelst was a painter of genre, portraits and still life, influenced by his master, Gerrit Dou. His old men and woman in domestic occupations are reminiscent of Dou. His tavern interiors with peasants are distinguished by a soft, refined style and delicate gradations of tone.
The present painting depicts a street scene in an Italian village. In the foreground, three figures are playing cards, one of them looking mistrustfully at the beholder. To the right, a figure can be seen in the shadows. An old, bent man with a stick watches them. Behind them, a quack stands at the dais outside his doorway, pouring a concoction into various bottles. An elderly woman appears to be entering into the doorway of his dwelling. The chart hanging on the wall may testify to the physician’s supposedly bona fide credentials. In the shadows of the background to the left, a man in ragged clothing appears to be admonishing a younger man, who kneels in supplication. Two boys behind them, one of them holding a basket, observe them. The influence of Rembrandt, transmitted via Gerrit Dou, who was Rembrandt’s first pupil, is especially evident in the treatment of light in this painting. The foreground figures appear to be in a spotlight, as though on stage, while the background figures emerge from deep shadow. The buildings stand out darkly against the luminous, Mediterranean sky. It is possible that Verelst was familiar with the famous painting The Quack (dated 1652) by Gerrit Dou, now in the Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam (inv. no. St.4).
An etching was made after the present painting by the German painter and printmaker William Unger (1775-1855).