Completed Continental European before 1800 97 Do you know who painted 'The Forge of Vulcan'?

The Forge of Vulcan
Topic: Artist

We would like further information on this work.

Jade Audrey King, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade Audrey King,

This painting is now listed as being attributed to Ary de Vois (1632/1635–1680).

This amend will appear on the new version of the Your Paintings website in January 2016. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this fantastic discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Laura Jacobus,

I'll start the ball rolling by suggesting that its Dutch, 16th century... but you probably thought that already

Laura Jacobus,

Whoops, I meant to say 17th Century!

Martin Hopkinson,

This is one of those paintings which have both Dutch and Flemish characteristics, I would say, and which may date from the second half of the 17th century rather than earlier. Has the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in the Hague been sent an image ? For they have a formidable photographic archive for Netherlandish art

Al Brown,

I would generally agree with Martin Hopkinson, but the idea that it could have been executed by a foreign artist working in England shouldn't be ruled out. It has the awkwardness of subject pictures produced here around 1670-1700.

Has anyone wondered whether the figure of Mars is a portrait?

National Trust,

How about Gerard de Lairesse ( Liege 1640 - Amsterdam 1711) or someone from his circle?

A M,

Just to give people some context.

The subject is taken from Roman mythology, specifically from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Vulcan, the god of fire, in this picture is the blacksmith. He is making armour for the god Mars, seated on the left who is having an affair with Vulcan's wife, Venus who is the standing figure on the right.

Velázquez painted the famous, Forge of the Vulcan in Rome in 1630. Which in turn was inspired by an engraving by Antonio Tempesta in 1606.

This striking difference between this painting and those is the inclusion of Mars rather than Apollo and the inclusion of Cupid and Venus, he also seems oblivious to the love affair in this one. But it also bears some resemblance to other versions, such as the orange toga on Mars, the large millstone in the centre of the shop, and the additional figures.

The Velázquez painting was housed in Spanish royal collections until 1819 when it became part if the collection of the national Museo del Prado in Madrid.

Contemporary industrial scenes and blacksmith forges were a popular subject for Joseph Wright of Derby who painted five of them in the 1770s.

A M,

I think you could get quite a lot of clues from the helmet, armour and boots that Mars is wearing and which is on the floor. This could probably give you a date range, location and status of the subjects.

The helmets look to me like a Lobster-tailed pot or harquebusier's pot helmets (Capeline in French, Zischagge in German). Or a modified, earlier burgonet or sallet.

The lobster pot is a post-Renaissance cavalry helmet, popular in Europe throughout the 17th century when the fell out of use, except in Austria. It was widely used during the Thirty Years War (1618-48 in Central Europe) and in the English Civil War (1642-51).

It had a forward projecting peak (sometimes hinged, most often in Britain), sliding nasal bar ( which I think this one has) or 3 face bars (in the civil war), cheekpieces (better quality ones were hinged and articulated) and neck guard (sometimes articulated). I can't see the painting well enough to tell which of these it definitely has.

The skulls of English-made helmets were usually formed from two sections, joined by a raised comb running from front to back (as this one has); the skulls of helmets manufactured on the continent were most often raised from a single-piece of metal. The tails tended to get longer over time and in Italy. Many European-made lobster-tailed pot helmets were later imported to Britain during the English Civil War.

The golden decoration on Mars' helmet suggests quality (it was added to spruce up steel helmets that had been blackened to increase their strength). Or it may be a parade helmet. It is somewhat redolent of the style worn by the Polish hussars. The helmet on the floor looks like an English civil war helmet.

The body armour is quite confusing and doesn't seem to match the helmet. On the one hand, Mars isn't wearing limb armour, only a breast and back plate (cuirass). This practice developed as the French mounted cavalry (Harquebusiers/Cuirassiers) discarded theirs during the 17th century. And this then became the standard throughout western and Central Europe by the middle of that century. Mars' breastplate looks smooth without rivets or a plackart, a style that evolved during the gothic period and was popular in the 30 years war. The golden shoulder straps (scales) could place it as part of dress uniform as late as the 19th century. However Vulcan seems to be forging limb armour.

The leather boots are interesting. They are knee high rather than the thigh high ones favoured by the Cuirassiers. They could signify several things: that he was a cuirassier who also had to fight on foot; that he was mounted cavalry but not wealthy enough to have lower leg armour as royals did. Or that he wasn't in a combat role and this is mainly a dress uniform.

I'd hazard a guess that the man modelling for Mars is the subject of the painting and might be a cuirassier officer. Only two cuirassier regiments were raised during the English Civil War, the Lifeguard of the Earl of Essex and the 'London lobsters'.

A M,

Royalist troopers in Charles I’s Oxford-based army wore red sashes across their body or waist whilst those in the Earl of Essex’s Parliamentary army wore sashes of a tawny orange colour, Essex’s family colours.

Martin Hopkinson,

The suggestion that this is a painting by Henry Gibbs has some merit - see the painting in Tate Britain 'Aeneas and his family fleeing burning Troy' of 1654

A M,

The flask on the ground looks like a Saddle flask, carried by cavalry and for hunting. It had its origins in the pilgrim flask.

This one looks to be made of blue glass and ornate silver, double ended with a leather shoulder strap. It's ornate design suggests it wasn't for everyday use and/or may not be English. Most English ones I've seen are plain metal with silver or steel tops and come in a leather holster.

I don't know for sure, but I think the conical shape is a Victorian design.

Martin Hopkinson,

Karen Hearn wrote the fundamental article on Henry Gibbs in The Burlington Magaine in 1998 after the Tate acquired the painting of 1654. She should be shown an image of the painting under discussion

Simon Wilson,

All this looks very good and it is indeed surely mid-seventeenth century. I too thought of the Tate Gibbs but if this is by him or English at all it is a very rare object. Mythological subjects such as this are not so rare in seventeenth-century Dutch art and the small scale of this picture compared with the Gibbs (which is 1.5 metres square) and its apparently more sophisticated style than the Gibbs, suggests Dutch. Its slight eccentricity and the hand gestures brought to mind the name of Nicolas Knupfer but it's just something to kick around. Karen Hearne is a good suggestion and Christopher Brown Director of the Ashmolean is a specialist in this area too. I would show it to the old master department at Christies and Sothebys too. On the subject - it suggests to me an initial encounter of Venus and Mars in Vulcan's forge - she seems to be making eyes at Mars as well as flashing a lot of breast and thigh, while Cupid points an arrow at him to underline what is going on while Mars seems to be virtuously waving her away. An interesting question is what source the artist was using. This image does not correspond to the story as in Ovid for example.

A M,

I notice in the close up of the painting on the main landing page that Mars' helmet is decorated with a dog along the top, a lion's face on the side and a salamander on the cheek plate. You might be able to get a regiment from that heraldry. The salamander was

Chris Manton,

How about Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – c. 1656).

Louis Musgrove,

There are lots of Artists who painted in a similar way. In Ipswich we have some by Herman Van Der Myn. But how about using technology. The above suggestion that Mars could be a portrait is a good one. Use face recognition software to scan images of all the paintings of the era and see if there is a match.
Cheers. Louis.

A M,

You might be able to get some clues about date and location from the anvil too.

It's a hornless, church-window style anvil. This places it between the 16th and the mid 19th century when the London pattern that we all recognise became widespread. It has the large flat surface that armourers needed, but no horn for curving things so a blacksmith could tell you how realistic the scene is.

If you could identify what metal it's made from (e.g. bronze, wrought iron with steel facing, steel) and whether it has a hardy hole or a pritchel hole in the top this could narrow the date down further. You would expect to see a square hardy hold from the late 17th century.

It's hard to make things out on the image, but are there some markings and numbers on the front, left panel? If so, it might help you identify its area of manufacture because different countries used different labeling formats. For example, English anvils were generally marked with three numbers, indicating hundredweight, quarter hundredweight and pounds. Some blacksmith tools were also imprinted with a badge.

Bendor Grosvenor,

Not good enough alas for Gentileschi, or de Lairesse. The Gibbs idea is interesting, although does the technique look quite English enough? Is it too finished and smooth? The drapery suggests northern Europe, French or Dutch. What a shame our first homepage picture is such a tricky one!

A M,

The composition puts me in mind of "Plunder of a Church During the Revolution" by Victor-henri Juglar (Victor Henri Juclard). ie. the flask on the flagstone floor, the raised platform on the left, his rendering of stone. Some of his other paintings have a more similar facial style to this one.

Louis Musgrove,

Er - the flask on the floor is actually a quiver for Cupid's arrows.

National Trust,

A clue probably lies within the inventory of chattels of bequest of Arthur Edwin Preston (1852 - 1942) in the Abingdon/Berkshire (not Oxfordshire) records offices - ironic if not extant as such a 'documents' man -as other paintings in the Guildhall collection suggest he may have owned this too.

Toby Campbell,

Can I suggest an artist in the circle of Carel de Moor. You should definitely contact Eva Geudeker at the RKD who should be able to pin it down.

A M,

I think the pot helmet on the ground left could prove crucial in placing this painting. The artist had been careful to depict its neck guard, stamped from a single piece of metal to simulate an articulated version; this is a highly unusual feature particularly when combined with the comb on the skull. The only one I've found like it is this Cromwellian one:

But as I understand from other comments that this is most probably a continental painting then a British helmet is unlikely.

Also, on closer inspection it looks like a mer-dog on the top of Mars' helmet; either that or a fish eating a dog.

His breast plate is slightly peascod (pigeon chested) with hook fastenings which probably dates it in the first half of the 17th century.

But of course the armour could just be a jumble of the artist's own and Mars just a model.


A few suggestions for people to contact for more information:

- Royal Armouries research department.
- Styrian Armoury museum in Graz, Austria.
- Museum des Dreißigjährigen Krieges (Museum of the 30 Years War) in Germany.
- And reenactment groups.

Martin Hopkinson,

Its provincial adoption on Continental elements is very much in favour of it being painted in Britain by a British or minor immigrant artist from the Low Countries. Has Karen Hearn seen it yet?

Gregory Martin comments: I am stuck over the Venus and Mars at the Forge of Vulcan; I guess it dates from early in the eighteenth century and is by a fairly minor artist, probably Dutch and perhaps working in Leyden ( like the Van Mieris's). But it could be more offbeat like Danish. Anyway I am off to Holland quite soon and may ask around to see if anyone has any idea over there.

Simon Turner,

I sent Karen Hearn a link to this and we shall see ...

I'd be inclined to explore the possibility of Ary de Vois, or artists close to him. But that really equates to Leiden School late 17th/ early 18th century, as others have suggested. It could easily be a one-off or rare example of a work by a minor artist obscure even to specialists. But I'd try Christiaan Vogelaar, the curator at De Lakenhal, Leiden (see CODART website for contacts), and/ or the RKD, The Hague in the first instance (see also the recently revamped & excellent RKD online artists database). They are best placed to give an authoritative opinion. A look through Peter Hecht's De Hollandse Fijnschilders, exh. cat., Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1989, might also prove instructive.

What's puzzling about this picture is that, whereas the overall design or composition is inventive, confident and even compelling, there is a marked inconsistency in the degree of skill displayed in translating this into paint. There is a degree of accomplishment in the execution of the faces (particularly that of Mars) and the armour, which is totally lacking in the painting of certain of the exposed limbs. Whoever painted the arms of Vulcan, for example, or -- weakest of all -- the legs of Cupid had no understanding of their underlying anatomical structure. Surely we see more than one hand here -- perhaps two or more artists of varying abilities working-up the design of a master in his studio, or quite possibly copying from an existing painting, perhaps via an engraving.

At first sight, the image of this picture suggests that it is a typical example of a small, perhaps 40 cm square, panel painting made by a minor artist in Leiden in the late 17th cent. That the painting is actually on canvas and of larger dimensions, 89 by 85 cm., perhaps explains the uneven execution rightly described by Richard Green. It may be that more than one hand is at work, but I think it more likely that the artist in question was simply not good enough to sustain the quality of his or her figure drawing and painting on this scale, although he or she had perfected the less demanding accurate painting of armour and drapery.

In response to suggestions made by others that Dutch authorities are consulted about the work, I have asked Gregory Martin and John Walsh, both specialists in this school who are currently on independent research trips in Holland, to pursue investigations both about this picture and the van Mieris portrait. I shall report further in due course.

Bastiaan Blok,

I would like to see a flask of that shape,colour or decoration,mr Mitchell-it clearly is a quiver...that also casts some doubt on your findings concerning the armour.Why not ask Peter Finer,probably the world's nr1 connaisseur in that matter?! The Venus has clearly been copied from Titian's Bacchanal.
Can't seem to find the enlargement button,is there any?
What about restorations,overpaintings,especially the weaker areas??

Tim Williams,

Bastiaan - click the 'open on your paintings' link upper right - will enable a larger image.

To eliminate a couple of confusions that have arisen: A. Miller's reference to a flask on the floor relates to the object on the floor of "Plunder of a Church During the Revolution" by Victor-Henri Juglar, not to the undoubted quiver in the "Forge of Vulcan". However, I see no connection with the Juglar work, which must have been painted at least 150 years later than 'The Forge of Vulcan'. B. Blok refers to the Venus as a copy of Titian's 'Bacchanal'. To which 'Bacchanal' does he refer? That in the Prado does not seem to me to provide a prototype. It is very likely that the Venus in the 'Forge of Vulcan' is related to an Italian model, but probably through the eyes of a Flemish painter - perhaps van Dyck?

Bastiaan Blok,

Could I ask for a LARGE image,I think I just spotted this the right way around or is the pic mirrored,by some accident?

Osmund Bullock,

For what it's worth, a remarkably similar face for Mars in this 17th Century wood carving - the helmet has something in common, too. This perhaps leading us to it being a type rather than a portrait.

If the accompanying figure is intended for Jupiter - and the thunderbolt-like kris and eagle at his feet at least suggest it - then could this provide a clue? Is there any artistic tradition - of place or time - that commonly depicts Jupiter as a warrior in armour, something I don't think I've ever seen before?

1 attachment
Greaeme Cameron,

I could assist with solving this one, however the research article I spent some time adding, went suddenly into unsaved 'cyberspace'. Due to time constraints it will now have to wait, but since discussions have been over many months, that should not be a problem. Here is an example of its most probable author's other work attached. Best regards, Graeme

1 attachment
Greaeme Cameron,

Addendum - He is recorded to have also painted a "Forge of Vulcan" work.

Bart Cornelis,

I'd like to mention Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719); a terrible artist but very occasionally rather better than you would expect, as in his Sacrifice of Iphigenia in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (,177). The Abingdon picture perhaps rather too good to be by Houbraken, but in my opinion we are definitely looking for a Dutch artist of Houbraken's generation who took inspiration from the work of Gerard de Lairesse.

Greaeme Cameron,

There’s been quite some water flow beneath the bridge since our last contacts through the early 80’s at New Bond Street Tim, so it’s nice to renew acquaintances and I’m pleased to assist the cause.

Apologies also for the delay in assembling this response, due to commitments to forthcoming Volumes.

As cited in earlier notes, the suggested candidate for this work is relatively rare, but his works still appear at auction, with the same works irregularly recycling. So it was back to my archives, as he seemed a master I remembered from the past.

His name is Jan Baptist Tyssens, a Flemish master from Antwerp, active through the 2nd half of 17thC He also produced reasonable Still Life paintings, some with armour.

Jan Baptist Tyssens (1660-1710)
Aliases: Jan Baptist (1688) Tyssens; Jan Baptiste Tyssens; Jan-Baptist Tyssens

As evidenced in the attached illustrations, the common factor which defines this artist’s productions is the specific emphasis on foreground armour, which is the hallmark of his oeuvre, and he could be deemed, "The Master of the Foreground Armour". A common template is a diagonal layout with half being foreground being armour.

Items often include, armour, weapons, flags/standards, drums, war loot, or a keg of powder. He signs his works as shown, and is recorded to have painted a “Forge of Vulcan”. I have no reference for that, as this file entry was from 4 decades back, whilst researching at the Witt Library, but it could quite well represent the subject work.

Here are some of his productions. I trust this finally resolves this listing.

With kind regards,

Graeme and Bart have made some interesting suggestions and I would be pleased to read colleagues' reactions to them. We all seem to agree on the date: 1680 - 1700, but not necessarily which part of the Netherlands. Like Bart, I favour the United Provinces. I find it difficult to see the hand of either Tyssens or Houbraken in this picture. The painter of the 'Forge of Vulcan' wants to show us that he knows about high-minded matters, but unfortunately lacks the skills to express his subject in a serious manner. There is a rather comic aspect to the painting. Perhaps this is also characteristic of Houbraken, but I feel Houbraken is rather more sophisticated. Tyssens manner of painting seems to me not comparable to the Abingdon picture, although as Graeme rightly points out, they share an interest in the depiction of armour. This has been a long discussion, but it seems there is still some way to go.

Toby Campbell,

I completely agree with Tim. Houbraken as you say lacks the slightly more comic depiction so prevalent in this Forge of Vulcan while Tyssens is clearly a sub Teniers follower who also lacks the quality of this painter. I am fairly sure that should an image be shown to the rkd they will put us out of our misery very quickly.

Martin Hopkinson,

We know that the acquisition method is unknown, but when was this painting first recorded in the Town Hall?

Toby Campbell,

I have forwarded this discussion to a colleague who I hope will shed some further light.

I also had a thought that is there a possibility that Vulcan is a portrait of a known individual?

Greaeme Cameron,

On that possibility I was earlier going to suggest it could be the artist's self portrait, as it is much animated in its jovial expression, reminiscent of those of Rembrandt, especially his etchings. Likewise that "Vulcan" is conjointly forging armour, which is also the distinctive accoutrement, on the sitter, and in the foreground.

Greaeme Cameron,

Interestingly, going one step further, this could also be the artist using a classical setting in which to portray his wife and child as a family grouping. which may explain its variations from the legend and informal ambiance.

Al Brown,

On the idea the Mars is a portrait see my comment of three months ago. Given the context, he would be a known adulterer or just simply licentious.

At the moment, I still think the suggestion of Ary de Vois is the nearest anyone has got.

Martin Hopkinson,

Berkshire Record Office houses a large collection of Abingdon Council Papers if ever any date emerges as to the arrival of this painting

Tim Williams,

Has anyone taken a look at the back? There might be some lot numbers/labels etc. Whilst we won't be able to trace it back to the artist, it might be useful to uncover some former owners and attributions.

Bart Cornelis,

I have shown the picture to Guido Jansen, a former colleague of mine at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. He was not aware of the discussion here and immediately suggested Ary de Vois, so it may well be that Al Brown was right to suggest (15 hours ago as I write) that Ary de Vois remains the best candidate. In that case we're looking at the 1660s or 70s, rather than later. Here is what Guido Jansen writes:

"Even though I haven't found anything in the Hofstede de Groot fiches [at the RKD] or in the Getty Provenance Index, I nevertheless recognise the hand of Ary de Vois in this painting of Venus and Vulcan. The round faces, the warm tones: everything points to him. De Vois has painted such history paintings and I would have like to have added an old mention in a sale catalogue, but alas could not find one. Interesting to see that Metsu in Leiden also painted this subject ("

I might add that in light of the 'comic' aspect of the painting mentioned before, it is interesting to note that Ary de Vois was a pupil of Nicolaus Knüpfer, who himself taught Jan Steen, both of whom are well known for their comic mode, as is, indeed, Ary de Vois himself, especially in his small tronies.

I will send the picture also to Peter Hecht. If he comes to the same conclusion, then we might be getting close to solving this riddle.

Alice Read,

I have been in contact with Abingdon Town Council. They will look into getting more information from the back of the painting and will be in contact with me again next week. I will keep this discussion updated of any further information.

Bart Cornelis,

I'm reporting back. On the basis of the small jpg we have all been working from, which I sent to him without any hints of any kind, Peter Hecht, who had no knowledge of the discussion here or via any other source knew anything of the suggestions by the Barber or Guido Jansen, also suggested the name of Ary de Vois.

It would be good if a high-resolution image could be made available which I could forward to Peter Hecht, so that he may have a closer look at it. Would this be possible?

Bendor Grosvenor,

Ary de Vois is looking very plausible. Great work everyone.

Toby Campbell,

I am still a little hesitant with Ary de Vois. I just feel this picture is a bit later and probably from the early 1700s. The painting in Gloucester that Martin mentions is in fact a copy after Frans van Mieris of his Self-Portrait as a Merry Toper. I look forward to seeing an image of the back or hearing what might be on the back and any hi res image of the front that Abingdon can give us.

Bart Cornelis,

A very telling comparison is with Ary de Vois's Allegory of Peace, Schloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden (inv. no.620), measuring 85 x 60 cm, and thus a similar size (as opposed to most of his cabinet pictures, most of which are under 30 cm on the long side).

1 attachment
Greaeme Cameron,

Hello again Tim, I had not planned to add to my earlier observations above, but felt in the interests of this discussion, that a more definitive contribution should perhaps should be made.

Whilst the de Vois suggestion is entirely understandable and very close in many respects, I feel his work 'qualitatively', is actually quite superior to that evident in the subject 'Vulcan' work. It seems drawn more from 'Classical' origins; whereas the 'Vulcan' composition possesses nuances more typical of a 'Genre' nature and artist, and of lower quality, such as Tyssens.

The attached comparisons I would suggest demonstrate these points better than any further words, which I will leave for further consideration by other contributors to this entry. With best regards, Graeme

Greaeme Cameron,

Addendum -It may be worth adding that de Vois blends his larger and more elegantly expressed figures harmoniously into their backgrounds, whereas both the "Vucan" work and Tyssen's smaller styled figures project forward, and are stridently highlighted against their backgrounds, with more 'animated' expressions.

Alice Read,

The collection has agreed that I can add a high resolution image to this discussion. Please note this should only be used for research purposes. Please see attached.

1 attachment
Toby Campbell,

Many thanks Alice. I believe that rules out Ary de Vois from this image. I would be very interested to hear what others think. Was there anything about the back of the painting at all?

Bart Cornelis,

Thank you, Alice. I have sent the high-res image to Peter Hecht, so that he can explore an (in my view still quite possible) attribution to De Vois in more detail.

Al Brown,

As a general point, would PCF consider providing high resolution images automatically when a work comes under discussion in Art Detective?

Toby Campbell,

I wonder if the painting might not be by Jacob Toorenvliet?

Bart Cornelis,

I think it is important to remember that the Abingdon picture measures 89 x 85 cm. If for the moment we stick to the hypothesis that the picture can be attributed to Ary de Vois, then this is an important consideration. Ary de Vois is known for his small cabinet pictures, but occasionally he goes to a medium size, as in the Abingdon painting. This is why I posted the painting in Pommersfelden, which measures 85 by 60 cm. Very occasionally he goes for an even larger format, as in his Minerva and the Nine Muses currently with Jack Kilgore, which measures 121 by 183 cm. The point is that he adjusts his brushwork to the size of the painting. While he is a fijnschilder on a small scale, on a larger scale he paints with a broader brush. This would explain why the high-res of the Abingdon picture, a medium size painting, may at first sight seem too broadly brushed for a fijnschilder, but not when one takes into account the size of the painting.

With this in mind, the illustrations attached below should help in favour of an attribution to Ary de Vois. It compares very well with the Pommersfelden painting, which alas I only have as a poor black-and-white illustration. There is the awkward anatomy (compare the raised arms of the background figure at left in Pommersfelden and Vulcan in Abingdon in attachment 1), as well as the flabby muscles of the male arms, the knobbly knees of the male figures, the round faces of the female figures (attachment 2 -- one may even speculate they are the same model). In general, De Vois has a predilection for shiny armour, as in his Dido and Aeneas in the Lakenhal, Leiden (29 by 36.5 cm; attachment 3) and the Minerva and the Nine Muses with Jack Kilgore (attachment 4). He equally tends to include faces that look like portraits because they adhere too strictly to the model (attachment 5, comparing Abingdon with Leiden). The last attachment may well, again, show the same model: the same chubby face, bulbous eyes, long eyebrows and distinctive moustache -- they are certainly ‘family’ (it is important to remember here that the Leiden painting is on a smaller scale and thus more finely painted).

It should also count for something that without hesitation both Guido Jansen and Peter Hecht independently suggested Ary de Vois as a likely candidate. Peter Hecht wrote very perceptive texts on the artist in his ‘De Hollandse fijnschilders. Van Gerard Dou tot Adriaen van der Werff’ (Rijksmuseum, 1989), and after reading those, one certainly feels that the Abingdon picture would be entirely at home in Ary de Vois’s œuvre. Alas his book is available only in Dutch.

5 attachments
Tim Williams,

I might be seeing things, but just to the left of the column capital (above the arch of the window) on the extremity, there might be an inscription?

National Trust,

It looks as if there is a SB on plinth above the column's capital but one would need to zoom in further which this image is not high enough to see. Alice Payne will be able to verify.

Alice Read,

I am unable to verify this, I could not be sure if this was decorative or a signature – the collection would need to do this.

Karen Hearn has kindly commented on the early suggestions by the National Trust and Martin Hopkinson that the painting could be by Henry Gibbs:

"On the basis of the digital image attached, I do not think that this painting is by Henry Gibbs. Indeed, it does not look to be English - I think it is much more likely to be Dutch.

Might it be by more than one hand - some elements are smoothly painted, in a quite polished manner, while other areas look rather rougher."

Al Brown,

From the discussions, it still seems that the attribution ascertained by Bart Cornelis from Guido Jansen and Peter Hecht - both independently suggesting Ary de Vois - would appear the strongest.

Glad to see that my tentative suggestion of Ary de Vois is shared by such distinguished specialists. Although small in scale, his (so-called) Portrait of a Warrior (?Aeneas), oil on panel, 13.5x10.5cm, in the collection of Willem Baron van Dedem (see 2002 catalogue by Peter Sutton, pp.266-9, no.58) is perhaps worth throwing into the mix - the 'sitter' is a close relation to the Abingdon Mars. The comic mode of both suggests to me the possibility that they may be inspired by contemporary Dutch theatrical representations of these subjects/ characters, as we see in certain history paintings by Jan Steen...

This discussion, dormant for some months, was clearly moving in the direction of Ary de Vois. I think it worth mentioning that Dr Alois Lipka of Düsseldorf was carrying out research on de Vois in the 1990s. He identified, for example, the portrait of an unknown woman, previously given to Frans van Mieris, at York Art Gallery as by Ary de Vois, as depicting his wife (Maria van der Vecht) and as a pendant to the artist’s self-portrait of the same size, dated 1673, in the Louvre:

As far as I know, Dr Lipka never published a book on de Vois, but the RKD library holds two CDs (if I have interpreted the catalogue correctly) provided by him, of 2007 and 2008, presumably containing images and/or text relating to his research. In other words, it would certainly be worth consulting the RKD about this problem of attribution.

It’s clear that de Vois was a master of elegance, polish and precision in his small-scale cabinet pictures. However, as Bart pointed out several months ago, he was less able to apply his fijnschilder manner to larger works. Presumably, too, he was less used to working on canvas as opposed to wood panels. The question is just how far did he lose his grip in attempting larger-scale works? Perhaps not as far as the extreme contrast we see in the Abingdon picture between the finely observed and detailed portrait-like heads, for example, and the flabbiness of arms and legs elsewhere in the painting?

On the other hand, the signed painting of ‘Injustice enthroned’ in Warsaw (photo in the RKD), albeit on panel and at 47 x 42 cm smaller than the Abingdon picture, might well support the attribution of the latter to Ary de Vois:

Reviewing this discussion after many months and particularly the very helpful suggestions of Bart Cornelis and others, I think we may be entitled to accept that this painting is the work of Ary de Vois, unless Dr Lipka's CDs suggest otherwise.

I have been in correspondence with Ellis Dullaart (Assistant Curator Dutch and Flemish Old Master Painting, Collections & Research) at the RKD. He writes that his colleague Fred Meijer, who has been working there for over three decades, does not recall having heard in the past few years from Alois Lipka, who would undoubtedly have had a view on the proposed attribution to Ary de Vois: I think we must therefore assume that Dr Lipka is no longer active.

Ellis Dullaart also writes that the ‘two CDs we received from dr. Alois Lipka contain mainly images of works by Ary de Vois, or works that ... have some sort of relation to his oeuvre. There is very little metadata with those images: generally only the dimensions and the present location is mentioned (which means: no provenance information, history of attributions or references to literature). Both CDs contain roughly the same data, although the second one carries a bit more biographical information. I guess the CDs can be considered as ... work in progress for a catalogue raisonné.’ It sounds as if these CDs will probably not help much, particularly as they lack any history of attributions.

In response to my request for thoughts on the proposed attribution, Ellis Dullaart writes: ‘The painting from the Abingdon Town Council has been the subject of a small discussion amongst my colleagues some time ago: I am not sure exactly why or how the painting was put to our attention. None of us has spent much time on it, yet we all agreed that it probably cannot be attributed to Ary de Vois. Mainly because the manner of painting seems to differ quite strongly. Also the type of the figures does not match all too well with ... those in autograph works by De Vois.’ He stresses that proposing an alternative attribution would require much more time and study, but will let us know if he finds out more.

I am trying to obtain a better image of the picture in Warsaw.

Patty Macsisak,

I am very late to the party, but want to draw your attention to an engraving of Nicholas-Henri Tardieu's "The Forge of Vulcan".

You may recognize the design as copied by John Singleton Copley ca. 1754.

Tardieu's painting was after Antoine Coypel (1661-1722). Unfortunately, I was unable to locate an image or engraving of this painting.

Perhaps one of the works above could be the inspiration for the painting under discussion. I thought it remarkable that Mars is dressed in a military uniform in these works, when that is not the case in most other paintings I saw on-line. Also, while Vulcan is often pictured swathed in red cloth (presumably indicating his relationship to fire), here it is Mars and Venus swathed in red (presumably indicating their mutual ardor).

Title Joachim Wtewael: Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan
Getty Museum Studies on Art
Studies on art
Author Anne W. Lowenthal
Edition illustrated
Publisher Getty Publications, 1995
ISBN 0892363045, 9780892363049

Title John Singleton Copley in America
Author Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)
Contributor Carrie Rebora Barratt
Edition illustrated
Publisher Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995
ISBN 0870997459, 9780870997457

Ellis Dullaart,

A short reaction to Richard Green's last comment: I, Ellis Dullaart, am actually a 'she' and not a 'he'.

Through the good offices of Magdalena Lanuszka in Krakow, I am able to attach an image of the painting, signed by Ary de Vois, in the National Museum, Warsaw. There seems to be no doubt on the part of the curators in Warsaw as to the certainty of the attribution. Details are as follows (the abbreviated references under 'Lit.' can be expanded if required):

728. Injustice Enthroned

Panel, 47 × 42 cm; signed bottom right: ADVois ft. (ADV in ligature)

Inv.: M.Ob.849 MNW

Prov.: collection of the Prince of Orange and Nassau (1770); purchased on 3.12.1774 by the last Polish king, Stanisław August (1732–1798) (first mentioned in the general catalogue of 1783); State Art Collections, Łazienki Palace; removed to Krakow 1943, in January 1945 via Lower Silesia to Germany, Bavaria, Coburg Castle; collecting point, Munich; returned from Krakow in 1946.

Lit.: Hoet, Terwesten 1770, no. 14, p. 453; Mańkowski 1932, no. 58, p. 43; Białostocki, Walicki 1957, no. 351; Warsaw Cat. 1969–1970, no. 1400.

1 attachment

I totally agree on both counts. The Warsaw and Abingdon pictures cannot be from the same hand. However -- and very well spotted Tim -- the picture recently sold by Lempertz as by Fierlants does indeed have much in common with the Abingdon canvas -- not least in the combination of relatively competently painted heads with poorly understood and articulated bodies, as well as in the convincingly rendered armour.

Tim Williams,

There's a good high res of the Lempertz picture here:

Interesting how the composition is essentially the same, though some of the figures have swapped places. Vulcan is in the chair occupied by Mars in the Abingdon picture and wearing the same outfit, same hammer, anvil etc. One of the blacksmith assistants has taken the place of Vulcan and the remaining figures are more or less in the same position.

The Fierlants appears to be dated 1669 lower right.

Bruce Trewin,

The Abingdon painting is so poor in quality in comparison to Fierlants work. I have great difficulty in seeing a connection unless the figures were substantially studio work. The artist certainly appears to have been heavily influenced by the Fierlants painting, which would tend to confirm the location of painting, but it is hard to think that Fierlants could have painted both.

Lipka Alois,

For 30 years I am studying the work of Arie/Ary de Vois. I believe, it is a group portrait of a couple just like Dido an Aeneas or Apollo and the nine muses. I was not shure, but the flowing scarf intrigued me. See the ladies annexed, especially the one in the Staedel in Frankfurt. But the ugly amor is the same as in "Venus and Adonis" in the New Palace at Sanssoucie in Potsdam. Compare also the head of a historical soldier. If you google picture "Arie de Vois" or "Ary de Vois" you get a lot of paitings of Arie in high quality and a lot of attribution rubbish. The third edition of the Catalogue is in progress.

For those who have doubts about Ary de Vois's authorship of this picture, which I do not, let them inspect the signed work which features as lot 442 in Sotheby's, London, sale of Old Master and British Paintings on 27 October, 2015. I shall be surprised if you do not think this confirms the conclusion I first reached.

Toby Campbell,

Having not been on the site for a while it is interesting to catch up on this discussion. Re Ellis Dullaart comments I believe it was myself who sent the image to Fred Meijer for his opinions. The rkd seems to have come to the same conclusion that I believe. I still don't believe the painting in Abingdon is by de Vois who is really an extremely good painter of very high quality. The painting in Abingdon is too naive for him. The painting at Sotheby's is in poor condition but from the face you can still see the qualities of de Vois and the dramatic contrast in light and shade that are lacking from the Abingdon painting.

Lipka Alois,

Sorry, Mr. Campbell, if you compare the painting 442 with the original one
( my "voisvulkansoldier ) there is a lot of quality lacking in the painting 442.

Bart Cornelis,

Compare also the flabby musculature and elbow in the attached details, a characteristic I have pointed out before (see my long post of a year ago with five attachments). There really can be no doubt that the Abingdon picture is by Ary de Vois, who -- bar the occasional picture in which he hit the bull's eye -- was not at all such a great painter. The anatomical awkwardness tends to be quite disturbing, as indeed it is in the Abingdon picture (and in the Sotheby's picture that got this discussion going again).

I went to Abingdon to inspect this picture in the hope that I would find a signature. I am grateful to Jane Bowen, the curator, for making this possible. In fact, to my surprise, the painting is not at all in as good condition as the photograph suggests. There are numerous small losses and over-paintings and much darkened varnish and no visible signature I fear. All this makes the overall quality of execution difficult to judge. However, as we have come to the conclusion that Ary de Vois paints less expertly on a larger scale than is usual in his small pictures and as many of the figures are characteristic of him and the composition as clumsy as he seems to produce in his larger works, I believe it would be right to apply his name to this picture, but only as 'Attributed to Ary de Vois', implying likelihood but not certainty that he painted it.

Jade Audrey King,

The collection is happy with Tim's recommendation.