Photo credit: : College of Optometrists
We have recently rediscovered a discussion from 1936 about what this painting shows (and hence, by whom it may have been painted). This discussion was not available to the project team that catalogued the College paintings in 2000 and we would like to know if the suggestions made in 1936 would carry any weight with modern scholars of Dutch Golden Age art.
The discussion, published across three issues of the British Optical Association's ‘Dioptric Review’, is attached as a pdf. Note that the painting was originally acquired as by an unknown artist. Following enquiries to the authorities of the day it was tentatively published as 'By William van Mieris' although the honorary curator of the time (an optician by profession) was dubious about this. A member of the Association, Albert Hill, then proposed both a different artist and subject –Johanna Koerten (1650–1715, whose married name was Block), maker of paper sculptures – and Hill even made a replica paper model for the collection (since lost). The main argument against this is that Koerten was not known (at that time) to have been a painter.
After the war no mention seems to have been made of this 1936 theory. Fast forward to the re-cataloguing exercise of 2000. This led to a re-attribution of the picture to 'Style of Dominicus van Tol' (an attribution which the current curator has always doubted). Another case was made at that time, by Guido Jansen, for an attribution to 'Style of Jacob Toorenvliet', who concluded that the picture almost certainly had a Leiden origin and dated from the last quarter of the seventeenth century. We would also welcome comments on this, but particularly any views as to whether the theory concerning the Dutch female paper sculptor holds any water. Even if not the painter, might she be the subject of the picture?
Art UK adds:
The NICE Paintings entry records one of the inscriptions on the ribs of the globe as: ‘Memento Mori Gedens Keeser’[?]. The attachments include an enhanced image.
The 'Dioptric Review' article is attached here.
This seems a work by Nicolaes Juweel who more often painted figures with these elaborate paper cut artworks. See for instance this signed work on the website of the RKD, The Hague: https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/images/244282
Another signed work by Juweel also on the RKD's website is in the Rotterdam Museum and also features a similar paper artwork: https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/images/record?query=Juweel+Nicolaas&start=0 I)
In the Journal of the Northern Renaissance there is a small article that discusses the above painting.
It also comments that there are also inscriptions on the ribs in Dutch as well as Latin. One section has the inscription
GEDENCK TE STERV[EN]
It is the Dutch equivalent of Memento Mori and can be seen in many other Dutch paintings.
The painter is obviously a minor artist and relatively crude. The work by Juweel at the Hague linked above is remarkably similar, so that attribution seems quite plausible.
The name of the artist, Nicolaes Juweel, can clearly been seen cut into several ribs of the smaller spheres of paper in this painting. See attached for a close-up. On one of the left-hand-side ribs of the larger sphere is the word Anno, followed by a date, but the resolution is too hard to decipher.
It is possible that the inscription on the paperwork refers to the person who commissioned it [Keeser?]. For instance: the inscriptions on the intricate paperwork in the The Hague painting are, in the upper part: "JOHANNA VAN" "VERWINDE" (twice). In the lower part: "ROTTERDAM PER MEMO", "NICOLAAS YWEEL", : "()NNO 1696". This has led people to believe that the female sitter is Johanna Verwinde; she was the wife of Nicolaas Juweel Junior, the son of the painter of the portrait. Nicolaas Junior and Johanna got married in 1695 - perhaps the artful paper object was a wedding gift from Juweel Senior who commemorated it in the portrait of the paper cutting artist.
As E Jones has very rightly deciphered from the painting, the inscription that contains what appears be a possible name of Keeser is, in fact, the phrase 'Gedenk Te Sterven':
What looks like to be a K as a first letter of Keeser, is actually the K as the last letter of Gedenk, which is followed not by an EE but by the word TE.
The peacock in the cutout in the Hague painting is probably the classical illusion to Juno, the goddess of marriage and childbirth, which might add to Maaike Dirkx comment above, and also suggest that the other figure in that painting might actually be Nicolaas Juweel the younger.
A peacock also appears in the bottom right quarter of our discussion's painting.
Oops, "classical illusion" above should, of course, read as "classical allusion". Another victory for predictive texting and careless attention.
Johanna/Joanna Koerten was born in Amsterdam on the 17th November 1650 and died in Amsterdam the 28th December 1715, aged 65. She was the daughter of Jan Koerten (1622 - 1651), a Baptist cloth merchant, and Ytje Cardinaels, who died before the 25th October 1691. Koerten was married after 1691 in Amsterdam to Adriaan Blok (about 1653-1726), also a cloth merchant. This marriage remained childless.
The lady cut-out-artist featured in this discussion's painting can be identified by the implements of her trade under her right arm. The painting would seem to depict the construction of the paper object, as a complete version can be see in The Hague painting, with its small red fan-shaped pieces in place.
If this work was painted at anytime before 1699, as would appear to be the case by the presence of the numbers 16.. that follow the word Anno, Koerten would have been 49-years-old or less. This does not seem to fit in with the age of the sitter on the left in this work, who would appear to be in her very late 50s or in her 60s. It certainly cannot be a Memento Mori for her as she died in 1716, at least seventeen years after this painting was executed.
A comprehensive article on Koerten can be seen here:
Marion, would it be possible to send the highest resolution image of the paper cut out? It would help greatly with the deciphering of the various words that appear on it.
The woman depicted at left could easily be in her seventies.
Attached are three known images of Johanna/Joanna Koerten Blok/Block. None look like our sitter, unless they were executed when she was younger than the sitter in this painting and Koerten Blok had aged prematurely before 1699.
In the larger, lower paper sphere, the left hand side appears to contain the Dutch words "Fines. Het Einde. Anno 16..".
When added to the right hand side's words of "Memento Mori. Gedenk Te Sterven" this roughly translates as "Memento Mori. Remember to die. Finish. The End. Anno 16.." Dutch linguists will be better placed to improve on this interpretation.
On the basis of the various suggestions above, if this painting is accepted as being by Nicolaas Juweel, attached for the discussion's consideration is a composite of three known works by the artist. There are some facial similarities between the ladies in the middle and right-hand works with those of the young lady holding the paper object in this painting.
Attached is a small definition of the works Fines and Het Einde. The Google Translate version leaves a great deal to be desired, but it allows for a general idea of the concepts.
"Fines, The End, Target, causa finalis, The End-causation, is counted from the mataphysics among the four sorts of the causae, and this under the casuae externae, and variously parts. According to the opinion of Cartesius, the doctrine of the End-causes in Physics has no place. Some make out of this thesis a separate study, which is called Scopologia or Teologia, that is, lore of the Final Cause, and the objects of natural things."
The word Target here has a 17th century meaning of The End. Again, fluent Dutch speakers will be able to present this text with a better translation.
And here is the attachment.
I think there can be little doubt that the artist is Nicolaes Juweel (1639-1704), who was born and died in Rotterdam and was presumably based in that city. The painting would thus date from the last third of the 17th century or very early 18th century.
This link may be of interest and possibly of use:
Note especially the following:
"The Papercut Art Museum is situated in Westerbork. The Foundation W.Tj. Lever, named after the founder of the Papercut Art Museum, conducts research into the history of the papercut art."
Westerbork is a village in the northeastern Dutch province of Drenthe.
Here's the website for the Papercut Art Museum:
Hi Kieran, Neil Handley [College of Optometrists] has replied by email that he doubts he could take a better photograph of the detail.
For the sake of clarity, attached is a version of this painting with some the lettering colour-enhanced on the paper globes' ribs.
The name 'Nicolaas Juweel' and the words 'Fines. Het Einde. Anna 16..' should all be highly legible.
Marion, our messages have just crossed over. Many thanks for asking. What a shame that a higher-resolution image is not possible, as the date could, most likely, be ascertained under a closer inspection of the painted surface. Perhaps if the College could X-ray the painting, as has been done in various episodes of 'Fake or Fortune' and 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces', the inscriptions could be seen in detail and the authorship, subject, and date of the painting might consequently be revealed.
In the meantime, I hope that my enhanced lettering is accepted as confirmation that the words are as I am suggesting. The challenge now is to try and decipher the letters on the left-hand-side of the smaller globe, opposite the painter's name.
One of our principal motivations for participating in Art UK has been the opportunity to have good quality images taken of our collections to a standard hitherto quite impossible for small museums without studio facilities. We remain grateful to Art UK for this great benevolence that, amongst other things, has made online discussions such as this feasible. We are astonished at how the ease of electronic communication has made new discoveries possible even after many years of asking the same old questions. In this case our original Art Detective question proved a bit of a red herring but provided the spur for what is increasingly looking like a firm new attribution. Are readers satisfied that the artistic style is close enough to Juweel's other works, or could it yet merely be a copy after him, a copy that faithfully reproduces his signature as an integral part of the composition? What is certain is that there is a body of works showing Netherlandish paper sculpture in whose ranks our painting can now take its rightful place. What is also interesting for us is the association of optical aids to vision with a memento mori theme of death and bodily decay. This is the overriding theme of another of our paintings showing St Jerome in his Study: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/saint-jerome-in-his-study-215195/search/venue:college-of-optometrists-7398/page/1/view_as/grid This all adds to the coherence of our otherwise esoteric paintings collection, unified by theme alone, without regard to school, date or place of origin. We remain open to any of the investigative techniques suggested if those with the facilities to offer them pro bono would step forward.
This image should be better definition.
In the several but always very short biographical entries for Nicolaas Juweel that have appeared since the start of the 1700s, he has generally been described as a little-known or minor painter, and then usually as a miniaturist. The likelihood is, therefore, that he would not necessarily have been an artist whose works would have been widely if at all copied by others. Given their very small sizes, if it was possible to physically compare this discussion's painting (which is 39cm x 32cm) with the two that are, respectively, in the collection of the RKD (the Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis) (c.1691; 24cm x 18cm), and in the Museum Rotterdam (1696; 29cm x 25cm), additional details might emerge that could allow for a favourable identification.
It is extremely unlikely that this is a copy, and the style very closely matches that of other Juweel paintings, even apart from his name appearing in the picture. The remaining question is the memento mori element along with the identity of the sitter(s). However, they may not represent specific people but rather types, or different ages, stages or stations of life, which would naturally relate to the entire picture being a particular sort of vanitas or moralizing message.
It is also possible that the evident fragility or vulnerability of the delicate spheres of cut paper function as a symbol for human life.
I do not know Dutch, but it would be nice if someone who does could notify the Papercut Art Museum linked above as to the "discovery" of this picture which obviously relates to its field of interest. I believe the museum's earliest specimen is from the 18th century.
A relevant message, incorporating a link to this discussion, has been sent to the Museum, which hopefully will elicit an enthusiastic and helpful reply.
Thank you, Kieran. All things considered, I do not think this picture represents Joanna Koerten, who lived and worked in Amsterdam, while Juweel was based in Rotterdam.
In various references, it is mentioned that the miniature painter Daniel Bruijninx (1724 - 1787) was a pupil of Nicolaas Juweel. Given that Nicolaas Juweel senior died in 1704, this suggests that Bruijninx must have been a pupil of Nicolaas Juweel junior, who, therefore, must also have been an artist.
Nicolaas Juweel died in Rotterdam on the 13th September or November 1704. It has been documented that he worked, between 1671 and 1697, for Agnes Blok (Agneta Block) (1629 - 1704), the Dutch Mennonite paper-cut artist, art collector and horticulturalist, at her estate Vijverhof aan de Vecht (Vijverhof-on-the-Vecht), which is less than 70km from Rotterdam.
It is reported that Blok's second husband, Amsterdam Sijbrand de Flines (1623–1697), whom she remarried in 1674, died in 1697. Given this strong connection between Nicolaas Juwell and Agnes Blok, it could be the the first word in our painting, on one of its paper cutting spines, is Flines and not Fines, as I had suggested earlier, and that the persons depicted in the painting, therefore, are Agnes Blok (1629 - 1704) and her husband Amsterdam Sijbrand de Flines (1623–1697), who, in 1697, would have been 68 and 74 years old, which is much more in keeping with the ages of the two eldest sitters in this painting.
This is obviously very much hopeful conjecture. The point really is that, without the forensic revelations that are technically, though perhaps not financially, available to institutions like the College of Optometrists, either in-house, or through professional service providers, those of us who contribute to Art Detective have to proceed on unverifiable deductions to arrive at a credible suggestions as to the identity of a painting's subject and/or attribution. The X-raying of this painting would, by contrast, probably immediately reveal the painted words and dates, which are otherwise only revealed through time-consuming (and, most likely, inaccurate) visual deciphering of the painting's contents.
That sounds highly suggestive, Kieran, meaning the connection of this picture to Juweel, Blok, her second husband and his death, which would date the picture to around 1697.
Apparently, there are no known surviving cut-paper works by Blok, so if this is a depiction of her, it would also be a record of one of her creations in that medium.
The application of technical research methods, such as X-Ray photography - as was used so successfully to reveal the identity of Emma Jones as the painter of the picture of two black slave girls in 4th episode of 7th series of "Fake or Fortune?", which was broadcast on the 2nd September of this year - underscores the crucial benefit of such an approach to the successful deciphering of otherwise impossibly obscure painted signatures or lettering, an example of which is present in this discussion's painting. If it was possible to subject our painting to the same methods, it might well be that the date would be seen clearly, as might the other as-yet-unreadable lettering on the left-hand-side of the smaller globe, opposite the name of Nicolaas Juweel. Should such treatment be successful, it might elevate an otherwise undervalued painting to a much higher level of importance. Is that not a journey worth undertaking? Surely it is not beyond the technical capacity of the College of Optometrists, either through its own facilities, or though those of an appropriately-equipped fellow or sister institution, or even through a private art restoration service, to investigate the painted layers on this canvas to see if such value-altering results can be achieved.
The link to the Juweel picture in Rotterdam is here (the link given previously above does not work):
It is believed that the cut-paper object, which is very similar to the one in our picture, was made by a known Rotterdam cut-paper artist named Elisabeth Rijberg, active and successful ca. 1690s-1710. The other Juweel picture linked above (at The Hague?), also showing a woman holding a cut-paper object very similar to ours, is thought to represent Rijberg herself and/or her work:
The great similarity between the cut-paper objects in all three Juweel pictures (including ours) suggests a common maker, ostensibly Elisabeth Rijberg, who was based in Rotterdam like Juweel. While our picture may well depict Agneta Blok, she was chiefly known as a horticulturist and is remembered as the compiler of an album of flower and insect paintings to which various artists (including Juweel) contributed illustrations. Blok lived in Amsterdam and later at a country estate about 70 Km from Rotterdam, as Kieran previously mentioned.
Thus, at this point, it would appear more likely that Rijberg was the cut-paper artist and Agneta Blok a sitter in our picture, possibly a memento mori related to her husband's death in 1697 (the Rotterdam picture is dated 1696).
It should also be noted that cut-paper work was popular as a pastime or hobby among well-to-do women of leisure like Blok, meaning it was not confined to more or less professional artisans like Rijberg.
It is interesting that Joanna Koerten, whose fame in her time was enough to garner a visit from the visiting Peter the Great of Russia in 1697, married a Mennonite cloth merchant named Adrian Blok, who may have been related to Agneta Blok, herself the daughter of a Mennonite cloth merchant.
The Museum Rotterdam description of this painting uses the word MOGELIJK which translates from the Dutch as POSSIBLE. They are suggesting that the work is possibly a portrait of Elisabeth Rijberg. This is very different to the suggestion that "It is believed..." that Rijberg was the artist.
...as in the artist who produced the cut paper object in the painting, not the artist who painted it.
My understanding is that the "possibly" refers to Rijberg being the woman depicted, meaning the sitter. I said "it is believed" that Rijberg was the cut-paper artist who made the orbs, based on the RKD entry for the picture (at The Hague?) which states (Google translation):
"According to the attributes (paperwork, scissors, knife and paper shreds), a cut-out artist with one of her works is depicted here, in view of the Rotterdam painter and the Rotterdam origin of the portrait, probably a Rotterdam artist. As far as known, Rijberg was the only Rotterdam cut-tale artist around that time."
It would be extremely helpful if a better, higher resolution image was available of the Nicolaas Juweel painting that was illustrated as Lot. 105 in the Van Marle, de Sille & Baan auction catalogue of the 24th/25th October 1946 (as to be found on the RKD site). This would allow a clearer presentation of the date (which appears to be 1697), and also would allow for a proper reading of the cut lettering on the smaller of the two globes. The lettering on the larger globe clearly reads 'Nicolaas Juweel', and 'Anno 16.."
The website of the German Papercutting Club ( http://www.scherenschnitt.org/geschichte-des-scherenschnitts ) states, though I am not sure on what specific evidence or authority, that Elisabeth Rijberg lived from 1670 until 1721. As she is documented elsewhere to have been active between 1698 and 1710, this would put her at the age of 28 in the year 1696, the year of the execution of the Museum Rotterdam painting.
If the Juweel painting illustrated in the Van Marle, de Sille & Baan catalogue (RKD site) is actually from 1697, and it does represent a portrait of her, she would have been 29 years old. Does that fit in with the possible age of the female sitter in that painting?
In the light of the suggested dates for Rijberg's birth and death, she certainly could not be the elderly woman featured as a sitter in this discussion's painting. However, she could be the lady holding the two paper-cut orbs, and there is, as I have suggested above, some facial and stylistic similarities between this young subject and the two ladies in the other two paintings (see attached).
Could it be that Elisabeth Rijberg (1670? - 1721?) was a pupil of Agneta Blok (1629 - 1704) and learned her paper cutting skills from that older lady? If Nicolaas Juweel did work for Blok from 1671 until 1697, he could certainly have been aware of Rijberg as one of Blok's pupils.
Blok's estate at Vijverhof is just over 40 miles from Rotterdam and just less than 15 miles from Amsterdam, so too great a set of distances for all of the people to move within.
Forgive me, the live above that reads "this would put her at the age of 28 in the year 1696, the year of the execution of the Museum Rotterdam painting." should, of course read "this would put her at the age of 28 in the year 1698, the year of the execution of the Museum Rotterdam painting." and the line "is actually from 1697, and it does represent a portrait of her, she would have been 29 years old." should read "is actually from 1697, and it does represent a portrait of her, she would have been 27 years old."
It has been a long day!!!
Above, live = line.......a really, really long day!!!
The Rotterdam picture includes a woman's name, Johanna van Verwinde, who may be the sitter, and was the name of the daughter-in-law of the painter.
In the attached composite, images 1, 3 and 4, are known likenesses of Agnes/Agneta Block/Blok. The sculpting on the medal shows her profile with a long straight nose and a prominent chin, so not at all like the Juweel portrait's sitter. However, the other two images show a softer outline, which might, given artistic licence, be more like the Juweel face. Personally, I do not think that our sitter is Blok, convenient and all as that might have been for the theory that the gentleman might be Sijbrand de Flines.
Yes Jacinto, Maaike Dirkx mentioned this in an earlier comment, one week ago, but all that can definitely concluded in that case is that her name is on the paper globe. It does not mean that she is the sitter. And if the three ladies on my composite are the same person (as in Elisabeth Rijberg), then it just means that any name on any of the globes does not necessarily have a direct connection to a specific sitter. Even the name of Nicolaas Juweel, in the Rotterdam painting, might not, as I have suggested above, be associated with Juweel senior but refer to Juweel junior, his son. This is why this discussion cannot really go beyond the realms of speculation until better quality higher-resolution images, or detailed real-world inspections under magnification, of all three of the painting can be examined for the finer details of the included dates and names that, as yet, cannot be deciphered.
The young woman in our picture could easily be the same person as that in the RKD image, but the woman in the Rotterdam picture, painted around the same time, looks somewhat more mature and fuller-figured. Thus, she might be the painter's daughter-in-law whose name appears in the picture, while the aforementioned young women may both be Elisabeth Rijberg. As for Blok, the old woman in our picture does not have the same facial features (nose and chin) as other images of her, but those are better images by better artists than Juweel.
These comments underscore the pressing need for us to be supplied with the highest resolution images of each of the three paintings. Alas, I suspect that the RKD image, taken, as it is, from a auction catalogue in 1946, is of a painting that is probably still in a private collection, and so is unlikely to be available for examination. This leaves us with just at the access to the Rotterdam painting.
On closer examination of our discussion's work, there does appear to be the words or part-words "..INVENTOR" and "ANNO ....". Attached is my best effort at identifying the letters of the words that appear opposite to the name of Nicolaas Juweel. Experts in Latin might have a better idea of what the complete phrase could possibly mean.
It might be worth noting that the Rotterdam merchant Gillis van Vliet was, around the 1670s, known for his artistic paper cutting. Perhaps he was an inspiration to Rijberg and others.
"Inventor" can simply mean the creator or artist of the work; it often appears as the abbreviation inv in engravings.
Further evidence that this painting might be directly related to the death of Sijbrand de Flines in 1697 may be found in what looks very like the written date of 1697 in the smaller globe, as highlighted and encircled in the attached image. The final numeral could, of course, 2, but 7 seems the most obvious given the relatively straight lines with which it is painted.
If, as Jacinto has suggested, the word INVENTOR might refer to the creator or artist of this work, then the lettering on the smaller globe would read - NICOLAAS JUWEEL and INVENTOR followed by an as yet undeciphered group of three or four letters followed by ANNO 1697.
The caution is that if the word INVENTOR is only ever used in the creation of engravings as opposed to original paintings, this interpretation of the painted words on the paper globe falls.
In engravings, "inv" refers to the original creator of the engraved image, which is usually not the engraver but typically a painter.
Another reason for desiring an image of the highest resolution of this painting is that there appears to be some writing, or a date, on the die of the pedestal, just below the cornice, to the left of the elderly lady's head. This might be an optical illusion due to the lo-res ArtUK picture, but if there is something there it would be worth investigating. Perhaps Marion could upload this segment of the picture from the original hi-res photograph. Otherwise, would the College, dedicated in part, as I presume it is, to the science of optics, which presumably includes magnification, be able to supply a very hi-res image of the work?
Jacinto, I understand your interpretation of the abbreviation of the work 'Inv'. As the work under discussion here is obviously not an engraving, the question that I am asking is has that word or its shortened version ever been used, to anyone's knowledge, on a painting to refer to that painting's creator.
Kieran, Here is the best close-up of the pedestal that I can make.
Marion, many thanks. Alas, your image does not reveal the possible lettering. I attach a detail of the canvas, to indicate where I believe there might be some painted letters or numerals. Could the College oblige by having someone look at this and photograph it? Better shots of the paper lettering on the globe would also be of great help.
I have inspected the London painting with the naked eye, with a pen torch, a daylight lamp and under UV illumination. I cannot make out anything on the pedestal, but others would be welcome to look as I did. With the power of suggestion influencing me (the danger of which I am well aware from some of my other dealings as a curator, with paranormal investigators) I did wonder if there was some extremely faded painted inscription on a higher horizontal part of the architectural column - the uppermost rectangular bit - maybe even including a W (from Juweel?), but the more l looked the less this seemed to be the case, it was also something not picked upon by our art restorer in the 1990s and I think nothing short of sophisticated laboratory-based imaging techniques is going to reveal the truth. I tried taking photographs with a smartphone and with a SLR macro lens and all the resulting images were (very) significantly worse than that produced by Art UK's specialist art photographer. The surface of this painting is particularly reflective, meaning that a professional lighting rig is an essential requirement. It is another opportunity for me to thank Art UK for the wonderful service whereby they enabled tiny museums like ours to have photography taken to a far higher standard than ever before. (At 300dpi, which though not the very highest, hardly counts as low resolution). Neil Handley, Curator.
Mr. Handley, given the presence of his name in the smaller paper globe in the painting, do you yet think that there is sufficient evidence to attribute the painting of this work to Nicolaas Juweel and to date it to c.1697? If so, might it then warrant a recommendation to remove the attribution to "Dominicus van Tol (c.1635–1676) (style of)" and to possibly rename the painting as, I humbly offer, "Constructing a Paper-Cut Memento Mori" or some such more relevant description than "Watching a Paper Wind Toy"?