Haarlem, baptised 22 May 1650–Haarlem, 28 December 1702, buried 2 Jan. 1703
Dutch painter of genre scenes, history pieces and portraits, also made drawings and etchings
Various sources say Richard Brakenburgh was the pupil of the landscape painter Hendrick Mommers (1619/20–93) and of the genre painter Adriaen van Ostade (1610–85). Jan Steen (1625/6–79) is also proposed as a teacher, which would have been possible as Steen lived in Haarlem from 1660 to late 1669. From 1670 Brakenburgh worked in Leeuwarden, where he is known to have painted an equestrian portrait of Hendrik Casimir II (of Nassau). In 1687 he returned to Haarlem. In the same year he became a member of the rhetoricians’ chamber De Wijngaardranken (Vineyard Vine; 1687–95), and later of De Witte Angieren (White Carnations). In 1687 he also became a member of the Guild of St Luke. He seems to have returned to Leeuwarden intermittently. He had a small collection of paintings by French and Italian masters, auctioned after his death. Using subjects like those of Jan Steen, his works comprise a variety of low-life scenes in taverns, domestic interiors with a doctor’s visit or festive occasions such as births or the feast of St Nicolas, a few portraits, and also views of Mediterranean ports.
Hofrichter 1996; Meijer 1996; Van Thiel-Stroman 2006c; Bakker 2008, pp. 183–4, figs. 15–22; Aono 2011, p. 153 (on CD-rom); Ecartico, no. 1353: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/1353 (30 Nov. 2017); RKDartists&, no. 11962: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/11962 (30 Nov. 2017).
Portrait of Richard Brakenburgh (1650-1702), dated 1690
vellum, black chalk, inkt 112 x 93 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-T-1940-461
DPG621 – Celebration of a Birth
1683; oak panel, 40.3 x 54.9 cm
Signed and dated, lower left: R. Brakenburgh. / 1683
?;1 Bequest of Miss Gibbs of Clifton House, Datchet, 1951.2
PGC Minutes, 25 May 1951;3 Murray 1980a, p. 302, Beresford 1998, p. 54; detail on cover of Ons Amsterdam 68/6 (2016); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 42; RKD, no. 287061: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/287061 Dec. 6, 2017).
The panel has a very slight convex warp. There is a painted inscription, ‘B23’, on the reverse. The painting has been over-cleaned in the past, causing abrasion in the more thinly painted areas; the blue areas and shadows are particularly worn. Previous recorded treatment: 1951–68, Dr Hell; 2001, cleaned and restored, A. Gall.
1) Jan Steen, Celebrating the Birth, signed and dated JSteen.1664., canvas, 87.7 x 107 cm. Wallace Collection, London, P111 .4
2a) Richard Brakenburgh, Celebration of a Birth, signed R. Brakenburg, canvas, 46.5 x 54.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Tajan, Etude, Hôtel George V, Paris, 12 Dec. 1995, lot 47) .5
2b) Richard Brakenburgh, Baptism of the Newborn. Dutch Interior, canvas, 98 x 130 cm (looks like a copy of a Steen picture). Present whereabouts unknown (Lenglart sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 1902, lot 13; photo Witt).
2c) Richard Brakenburgh, The Twins, canvas, 49 x 56.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Schidlof sale, Vienna, 22 Nov. 1928, lot 30; photo Witt).
2d) Richard Brakenburgh, The Twins, canvas, 49 x 57 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, 14 March 1983, lot 9; Dorotheum, Vienna, 14–16 March 1957; Hoving and Wimborg sale, Stockholm, 22–26 April 1918).
3) Richard Brakenburgh, Wochenstube, canvas, 48 x 56 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Baroness Stummer-Winter collection; Lempertz sale 445, Cologne, 15 May 1956, lot 10; photo Witt).
4) Richard Brakenburgh, Workhouse Scene. Present whereabouts unknown (H. Müller collection, Bonn, in 1945/6; photo Witt).
5) Richard Brakenburgh, Country Inn, signed R. Brakenb., panel, 35 x 28.5 cm. RM, Amsterdam, SK-A-55 .6
The authorship of this painting has never been questioned. It depicts a traditional celebration of a birth. In his large artisan’s house the proud father in the foreground, wearing his apron, carries a swaddled infant, while beside him an older woman holds another child: the woman lying in bed in the background has given birth to twins. In the centre, in the light, sits the midwife, in her white apron, receiving all and holding a glass and a wine-can: she is the proverbial alcohol-loving midwife. On the mantelpiece is a painting of the Virgin and Child, an exemplary model for a family event. Durantini cites the belief in folklore that twins were the fruit of sex with two different men,7 in which case we might be intended to see the mother as a libidinous contrast to the Virgin.
The birth of twins was a popular subject in the work of Brakenburgh, who painted at least ten versions of the theme.8 Jan Steen, earlier, also painted the celebration of the birth of a child. In one of his pictures the father is openly ridiculed: the young man behind him makes a gesture, giving him horns – the sign of the deceived husband (Related works, no. 1) . While Brakenburgh’s painting is decidedly less blatant, it is likely that there is a connection between Steen’s picture, though it shows only one baby, and Brakenburgh’s depictions of twins, playing on the proud new father as an object of ridicule.9
A similar interior appears in Brakenburgh’s Workhouse Scene (Related works, no. 4). He returned to the theme of the celebration of a birth in another signed picture, which also features twins (Related works, no. 2a) . The woman with a white cap sitting to the left of the father here is shown standing in the middle of a picture of a Country Inn in Amsterdam (Related works, no. 5) .
Celebration of a birth (twins), dated 1683
panel (oak), oil paint 40,3 x 54,9 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG621
Celebrating the birth of a child, dated 1664
canvas, oil paint 87,7 x 107 cm
upper center : JSteen.1664.
London, Wallace Collection, inv./cat.nr. P111
Celebration of a Birth
canvas, oil paint 46,5 x 54,5 cm
Etude Tajan (Paris) 1995-12-12, nr. 47
Country inn, 1660-1702
panel, oil paint 35 x 28,5 cm
lower right : R. Brakenb.
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. SK-A-55
1 GPID (20 Sept. 2012): the only Brakenburg that might be a Celebration of a Birth was sold at Rijp, Rotterdam, 11–13 June 1808 (Lugt 7429), lot 30, but it was much larger: Een Kraamkamer, vol Gewoel, van meer dan Dertig Beelden en een aantal verschilderd Bywerk, aangenaam, geestig, dun en helder geschilderd; doek, hoog 32, breed 37½. (A nursery, full of activity, with more than thirty figures and some other painted details; pleasantly, wittily, thinly and brightly painted; canvas, Dutch dimensions).
2 DPG621 was bequeathed to Dulwich by Miss Gibbs in 1951, along with five pictures by other artists (After Adriaen van Ostade, DPG619; After Antoine Watteau, DPG620; Circle of David Teniers II, DPG622; Joseph Vernet after Claude, DPG623; attributed to Abraham Pether, DPG624). For DPG 624 see Ingamells 2008, p. 215. Nothing is known of their earlier provenance.
3 ‘Sir Gerald Kelly reports that a bequest of 6 pictures, contemporary copies of Teniers, had been made to the Picture Gallery in the Will of Miss Gibbs of Clifton House, Datchet.’
7 Durantini 1983, p. 306.
8 Durantini 1983., p. 308. See also the unsigned and undated note in DPG621 file.
9 Durantini 1983, pp. 306–7, cites six plays with this subject in the 17th century.