Stag Hunt

  • Philip Wouwerman
  • Haarlem, 1619–1668
  • 19 x 25 in.
  • Oil on canvas

Stag Hunt, Philip Wouwerman
Stag Hunt, Philip Wouwerman (detail)
Stag Hunt, Philip Wouwerman (detail)

Provenance: ex-collection Elector Clemens August of Cologne, No. 300 in estate sale, Bonn, 1762 and Paris 1764, lot 300. For the contents and dispersal of Clemens August’s collection with complete inventory documentation cf. Horst Vey, “Die Gemälde des Kurfürsten Clemens August”, Wallraf- Richartz-Jahrbuch, XXV, Köln,1965, pp.193-226.

By 1829, the painting was known to and possibly handled by John Smith in London; it is listed in Smith’s A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, Vol. 1, 1829, pp. 199-412 (Wouwerman); p. 217, no. 48: “The composition consists of about twenty huntsmen, some on foot, others on horseback, with a number of dogs in pursuit of two stags on the banks of a river. The landscape is rich, and finely varied. // Collection of the Elector of Cologne, 1764 (sold at Paris),3000fs.120 l. //19 in. x 25 in. Canvas).

This description is subsequently summarized by Charles Blanc in Le Trésor de la Curiosité, Paris, 1857, vol. I, p. 120, that is merely an epitomized reference without first hand knowledge of the picture. The painting is again and more importantly listed by Cornelis Hofstede de Groot in his German multi-volume amplified reworking of Smith’s catalogues of only the Dutch painters in German and then an English edition as A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, vol. II, London, 1909, pp. 249-65, no. 631 (p. 450), where Smith’s description is paraphrased as: “About twenty huntsmen, mounted or on foot, with hounds, pursue two stags on the banks of a river. A rich and varied landscape.”

Several factors indicate Smith as perhaps the last connoisseur in England or Europe to have actually seen the painting at hand. First, he was quite precise about the source, size, support and subject of the painting, down to the counted cast of staffage which is not given by the entry in the original sales livret: “un tableau repésent la Chasse forcée, peint par Philippe Wouwerman, de deus pieds quatre pouces de largeur, et d’un pied neuf pouces de hauteur.” Clearly. Smith gave a more precise description of the painting than could be gained from the livret entry; he also gave precise measurements that were slightly smaller depending on the exact measures of pied, pouce and ligne (French, Flemish and German could differ in local usages). It is also possible that at some time between 1764 and 1829 the painting was slightly trimmed for repair or re-framing. But when Hofstede de Groot compiled his expanded edition of Smith’s catalogue, he clearly had no further information about its current whereabouts, and as the compiler of the most recent compendium nor any new reference or picture of the Elector’s painting in the millions of notes and images gathered by HdG as the basis for the RKD. It would seem that the painting passed from Bonn to sale in Paris and probably on to London, after which it vanished from view until purchased without name from a Florida estate sale by the late Robert Bahssin in Larchmont, New York from whom it was acquired by us and then identified as the Elector’s Wouwerman listed as HdG 630 but yet unknown to current scholarship on the artist.