Monday, 20 November 2017
Jan van Vliet’s etching, “A Hunchbacked Beggar”, 1632
Jan van Vliet (aka Jan Georg van Vliet; Jan Joris van Vliet) (c1600/1610–1668?)
“A Hunchbacked Beggar”, 1632, from the series of eleven plates, “Beggars”. (See the title plate for the series and the BM curator’s comments: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1603736&partId=1&searchText=S.255&page=1)
Etching and engraving on laid paper with watermark (partial) and small margins.
Size: (sheet) 9.6 x 7 cm; (plate) 9.3 x 6.7 cm
Inscribed on the plate at upper left: "JG van vliet inv."
State i (of iii) before the addition of the plate number “4” inscribed at the lower right corner of the third state.
Hollstein 75.I (F W H Hollstein 1949, “Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts c.1450–1700”, Amsterdam); Bartsch-Claussin 1797–1828 II.102.75 (Adam von Bartsch 1797, “Catalogue raisonné de toutes les estampes de Rembrandt” [plus Supplement], 2, Vienna and Paris)
The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“A hunchbacked beggar; to right, leaning on his staff and carrying a satchel over his right arm.” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1603820&partId=1&searchText=Vliet&page=2)
Condition: faultless impression in near pristine condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing).
I am selling this lifetime impression (based on the clarity of the impression and how well it matches the first state print held by the BM [see no. S.261]) by one of the most famous of the Dutch old masters and a collaborator with Rembrandt in Leiden at around the time of this print (see “Rembrandt and van Vliet. A collaboration on Copper”, exh. cat., 1996 and compare this print with Rembrandt’s etching “A man making water” [BM no. 1848,0911.96), for AU$320 (currently US$242.19/EUR205.69/GBP182.83 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this superb impression of an important print that has been copied by many later masters (see BM nos. S.281; S.282; 1861,0413.133), please contact me (email@example.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
This print has been sold
Clearly, images like this are not intended to be spiritually uplifting, but there are motivations underpinning them regardless. For example, at the time when van Vliet executed this print of a hunched-back beggar slowing walking with the support of his staff, Rembrandt, with whom van Vliet was collaborating, executed an equally challenging subject to contemplate: a vagabond pissing—politely titled, “A man making water” (BM no. 1848,0911.96). The choice to portray subjects like cripples, beggars and vagabonds, from what I understand after reading Larry Silver’s (2006) “Peasant Scenes and Landscapes: The Rise of Pictorial Genres in the Antwerp Art Market”, is that there were popular perceptions at that time that such folk were undesirable. Going further, they were perceived to be potential thieves.
Mindful of these alarming and prevailing social attitudes, I thought I might outline a few of the pictorial conventions that arguably play a role in this print:
- Cripples, beggars and vagabonds are more likely to be thieves if they look backwards like this hunchback. Such subtle symbolism is all tied to the idea that “bad” folk look back to the folly that they’ve created whereas honest folk look forward.
- Cripples, beggars and vagabonds laden with a bulging satchel within a barren setting, as seen here, usually connotes that they have been thieving.
- Cripples, beggars and vagabonds portrayed grimacing an inward smile are not to be trusted.