Abraham Bloemaert (1566/7-1651) occupied a position in the development of Lowlands painting rather similar to and at least as important as that of d'Arpino, and his work, recently rediscovered and again highly esteemed, also combines the elegant sophistication of the late sixteenth century with the more plain, more robust and natural interests of the young seventeenth century. In the past year, two fine works have entered American museums: the exquisitely beautiful Shepherdess
at Toledo and our Shepherd Boy Pointing to Tobias and the Angel.1
Our painting is a remarkable and charming exercise in naturalism. Presumably the two figures from sacred literature, painted as if by some later Venetian, are the excuse for the painting. But is its subject Tobias and the Angel, or the sympathetic boy introducing them, or the brilliantly painted brass bowl and harness? One suspects an allegory as complicated as the composition, and what is important is the richness of contrasts—directness and subtle, even mysterious insight; appealing naturalism and sophisticated rhetoric. From Bloemaert's simplicity and naturalism Rembrandt descends; Bloemaert's force and rhetoric, approach Rubens. The poignant balance of these qualities is not brought together again in Northern painting, unless in the quite different terms of the eighteenth century—one thinks of Chardin and his less epic but somewhat comparable poetry.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- Formerly Inness Collection, Ovington Gardens, London.
- Abraham Bloemaert, Dutch, 1566/7-1651. Shepherd Boy Pointing to Tobias and the Angel. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4” x 46 3/8”. The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund, 1961. 61.30.