A Park Landscape by Jan Van Bunnick

May 19 2014, 10:28am

Carlton Hobbs LLC The leading old master dealer and expert in Italian landscapes, Charles Beddington, has firmly attributed this work to the Dutch artist Jan van Bunnik, noting: “In all respects – size, quality of execution and inventiveness of composition – this Park Landscape is exceptional, and indeed must be regarded as the masterpiece of all the works by the artist hithero identified.”1 Attributions to this painter depend on a few signed works, of which the best known is a Rocky Landscape, 24.5 x 35.5 cm., in the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, which is signed and dated ‘J.V.B.F.c 1712’ (figure 1). Around those signed, the Rijksbureau voor Kunstdocumentatie in The Hague has assembled a group of paintings in the same highly distinctive style. These include An extensive River Landscape with the siege of a walled Town, 71.5 x 100 cm., which was offered by Aguttes, Neuilly-sur-Seine, 9 June 2009, lot 157 (as “Attribué à Jan Van Bunnik”), and again on 9 December 2009, lot 26, and at the Dorotheum, Vienna, 13 October 2010 lot 655 (figure 2). A pair showing A River Landscape with a walled Town under Siege (figure 3) and A Naval Engagement offshore, 43 x 71 cm. (figure 4), was sold at the Dorotheum, Vienna, 17 April 2013, lot 719. Yet another River Landscape with a walled Town under Siege, 50 x 78 cm., apparently on panel, was in a Milanese private collection in 1990 (figure 5). To those may be added A Battle below a Town and Fortress, 40 x 56 cm., offered by Wannenes, Genoa, 24 February 2009, lot 118 (as “Pittore del XVIII Secolò”). Figure 1 Among the non-military subjects of this hand are a pair of river landscapes in a private collection in Northumberland; An imaginary Mediterranean Inlet with Shipping, 42 x 59.5 cm., offered by Piasa, Paris, 16 December 2005, lot 67 (as Orazio Grevenbroeck); a pair of similar scenes, 34.5 x 47 cm., offered by Cornette de Saint Cyr, Paris, 5 June 2008, lot 51 (as “Attribué à Orazio Grevenbroeck”); A River Landscape with Ruins, 116 x 142 cm., offered by Cambi, Genoa, 26 September 2011, lot 571 (as “Ambito di Paul Bril”); and A Town in Winter with Woodcutters, 66.5 x 93 cm., offered by Boisgirard, Paris, 19 December 2008, lot 82 (as “Attribué à Francesco Foschi”), and at Sotheby’s, Paris, 23 June 2011, lot 70 (as “Attribué à Bartolomeo Pedon”). Figure 2 It is likely that more works by the artist will continue to come to light. It may be noted that the ex-Cambi landscape is of almost identical size as this Park Landscape, but otherwise all the known works are of much smaller dimensions. Jan van Bunnik was born at Utrecht, where he studied under Herman Saftleven for three years from 1668. He subsequently spent some time in the Duchy of Cleves and met Gerard Hoet, who convinced him to visit Italy. According to Houbraken, who devoted three pages to his biography, van Bunnik started his trip to Italy in Rees, Germany, and then set off on foot for Frankfurt. From there he travelled to Heidelberg, and to Speyer, where he worked for Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine. He then went to Strasbourg and via Zurich over the Alps to Milan. From Milan he travelled to Genoa, where he had lessons from Pieter de Molijn, a member of the Bentvueghels (a society of mostly Netherlandish artists resident in Rome). From there van Bunnik travelled to Leghorn, where he worked for the Dutch Consul, and on to Rome. Figure 3 On his arrival there he met and befriended several fellow Dutch artists, notably Abraham Genoels, Adriaen Honich, Nicolaas Piemont, Jacob Ferdinand Voet, and the engraver Cornelis Bloemaert. On leaving the city he made several visits to Naples, stopping in Rome again on his way to Bologna, Ferrara, and Venice, where he visited Johann Carl Loth. Van Bunnik then passed through Milan again on the way to Modena, where his works were so admired that he was appointed court painter to Francesco II d’Este, Duke of Modena, who gave him a yearly stipend for eight years to produce decorations for his various homes and buildings. The Este court had a predilection for entertainments of the most lavish and complex kind and were notable patrons of music and the arts, and it is possible that the present painting was influenced by, or perhaps executed during, the years van Bunnik spent in Modena based on the resemblance of the structures in the painting to palazzi and villas of the region, as well as garden design of the period. Figure 4 When the Duke made a pilgrimage to Loreto, Van Bunnik accompanied him there and onwards to Rome, where he joined the Bentvueghels with the nickname keteltrom (‘kettledrum’). Soon afterwards, the Duke returned to Modena and Van Bunnik left his service in order to return North. The Duke gave him a pass to travel unhindered through France to his homeland, which he did, but in Turin he met Jacob Ferdinand Voet, whom he had already met in Rome with Cornelis Bloemaert. From Turin they set out together for Lyon, where they met Adriaen van der Cabel, Pieter van Bloemen, and Gillis Weenix. Finally they set off for Paris in the company of Jan’s brother Jacob van Bunnik who was a respected painter of battle scenes. Figure 5 The beautiful baroque garden design shown in the present painting is evocative of the last location van Bunnik worked on his return to the Netherlands, when he was employed by King William III (4 November 1650–8 March 1702), then Prince of Orange, to assist in the decoration of his palace at Het Loo. Built in the Dutch Baroque style in the 1680s as a Lust-hof, Het Loo has served as a hunting lodge and summer residence (figure 6). Understated in its grandeur, the palace conformed to William and Mary’s domestic proclivity, which was “not only splendid but homely and comfortable as well.”2 Additionally, with its remarkable gardens, Het Loo “was to become the finest example in the Netherlands of the connection between garden art on the one hand, and political status and personal expression on the other.”3 William developed an interest in gardens around 1671, when the advances in hydraulic engineering reached the Netherlands, and wrote to Hans Willem Bentinck that “hunting and gardening” were his two great passions.4 The present Park Landscape is not unlike the layout of Het Loo, situated entre cour et jardin (“between court and garden”), with its many fountains, raised terraces, and avenues. Figure 6 The present painting was formerly in the collection of David Roche (1930-2013), renowned Australian art and antiques collector and connoisseur. Roche’s appreciation for art and design began as a child with frequent trips to Europe to tour the great museums, and he started collecting as a teenager. He continued to expand and refine his collection over the years until it became the greatest assembly of English Regency and French Empire furniture, paintings, and objets d’art outside of England. Many of the works possess impressive provenances including Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress Josephine. In 1999 he established the David Roche Foundation to maintain and preserve the collection, housed in Fermoy House (Mr. Roche’s home) and an adjacent gallery, which was bequeathed to the people of Australia and is open to the public. We are extremely grateful to Charles Beddington for his attribution of the painting and for providing his most helpful research.