Dulwich Picture Gallery I


Carl Wilhelm de HAMILTON

Brussels, 1668–Augsburg, 23 February 1754
Flemish painter, active in Germany

Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton (also Karl Wilhelm or Charles William), whose nickname was ‘Thistle Hamilton’, specialized in still lifes with game, living animals and plants. He was the son of the Scottish still life painter James Hamilton (c. 1640–c. 1720). His brothers Philipp Ferdinand (c. 1664–1750) and Johan Georg de Hamilton (1672–1737) were also painters. Carl Wilhelm was first active in Brussels, where his father worked. He was probably painter at the court of Baden-Baden from 1699 to 1701,1 and later, until his death, chief painter to Alexander Sigismund von der Pfalz-Neuburg (1663–1737), bishop of Augsburg from 1690. It is possible that he was introduced to Germany by Franz de Hamilton (before 1640–in or after 1702), perhaps an uncle.

Gerson 1942/1983, pp. 276–7, 328; Buijs & Van Berge-Gerbaud 1991, pp. 56–8, no. 20 (ill.); De Maere & Wabbes 1994, p. 195; Sullivan 1996, p. 111 (under Philipp Ferdinand); Van der Willigen & Meijer 2003, p. 99; Saur, lxviii, 2011, p. 482 (S. Partsch); Lörz 2011; Ecartico, no. 350: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/350 (Jan. 1, 2018); RKDartists&, no. 35643: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/35643 (Jan. 1, 2018).

Attributed to Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton
DPG329 – Hawk and Sparrows

17th century; canvas, 73.9 x 52.7 cm

Britton 1813, p. 17, no. 160 (‘Upper Room. East side of Passage – contd. / no. 23, Landscape, with a Hawk – C[anvas] Weenix’; 3'2" x 2'6").

Cat. 1817, p. 9, no. 151 (‘SECOND ROOM – East Side; A Hawk and Sparrows; Weeninx’); Haydon 1817, p. 384, no. 151 (Weeninx);2 Cat. 1820, p. 9, no. 151 (Weenix); Cat. 1830, p. 4, no. 19; Jameson 1842, ii, p. 446, no. 19 (Weeninx);3 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 19;4 Lejeune, ii, 1864, pp. 495–6 (under ‘Plusieurs (several) compositions’ by Jan-Baptist Weenix); Sparkes 1876, p. 205, no. 19; Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 61, no. 19 (Dutch School. Formerly ascribed to Jan Weenix); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 92, no. 329; Cook 1914, p. 202 (Dutch School (17th Century)); Cook 1926, p. 188; Cat. 1953, p. 19; Murray 1980a, p. 301 (Dutch School); Beresford 1998, p. 305 (Unknown; possibly British); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 95 (attributed to Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton); RKD, no. 287569: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287569 (3 Jan. 2018).

The painting is in good condition [contrary to Denning's impression], and the cracks in the paint surface are secure. The lined plain weave canvas is stretched on the old stretcher, which has diagonal corner bars and probably dates from the late 18th century. The paint layers are very thinly applied with some very fine detail over the thick grey priming layer. Discolouration in the blue pigment in the sky seems characteristic of smalt. Previous recorded treatment: 1911, relined, Holder; 2015, cleaned, relined and restored, N. Ryder.

1a) Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton, A Snake, a Lizard and a Snail, signed C. W. D. Hamilton, panel, 30.5 x 22.5 cm. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, A 114 [1].5
1b) Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton, A Lizard with a Snake, signed, panel, 39.5 x 28.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, 2 Dec. 1983, lot 98 (ill.)).6
1c) Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton, The Parliament of Birds, canvas, 90 x 86 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (sale Paris, Artcurial (Briest, Poulain & F. Tajan), 8 Nov. 2011, lot 2) [2].7
1d) Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton, Yacht Still Life with Hanging Birds and Fox, canvas, 125 x 86.5 cm. Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, 1929 [3].8

attributed to Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton
Hawk and Sparrow
canvas, oil paint 73,9 x 52,7 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG329

Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton
Forest still life with foliage, a snake and lizard, butterflies and insects
panel, oil paint 30,5 x 22,5 cm
center right : C. W. D. Hamilton
Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, inv./cat.nr. A 114

Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton
Parliament of birds
canvas, oil paint 90 x 86 cm

The attribution to Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton is based on stylistic grounds. A picture by him with a snake, a lizard and a snail in Lyon shows the same hand in trees, foliage and ground (Related works, no. 1a) [1], as does Hamilton’s Lizard with a Snake, sold in 1983 (Related works, no. 1b). The commotion that the hawk creates here is shown in an extreme form in The Parliament of Birds, sold in 2011 (Related works, no. 1c) [2]. The body of the dead fox among the birds is a disturbing element in a painting in Karlsruhe (Related works, no. 1d) [3], as disturbing as the action here, where a hawk is on the verge of killing one of the sparrows.

The former attribution to Weenix (Jan Weenix (1641/2–1719), who was a well-known painter of still lifes, also with animals), is probably based on the subject and not on the style; the former attribution to the British School might be based on the work of Carl Wilhelm’s Scottish father, James.

Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton
Hunting still life with a partridge and fox
canvas, oil paint 125 x 86,5 cm
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, inv./cat.nr. 1929


1 Or to 1707, according to De Maere & Wabbes, p. 195.

2 A Hawk destroying small Birds.’

3 ‘A very spirited, though not an agreeable picture, in the style in which Weeninx excelled.’

4 1858: ‘A Hawk and Sparrows. John Weeninx. This picture was formerly ascribed to Weeninx, without any distinction between the father & the son. The minute finish of this however proves it to be by the son, as the broader touch of (147) [= Weenix DPG47] proves it to be by the father. […] In a bad condition but very true to nature, and painted with a very fine touch. I should say a genuine picture. It has been rubbed & scrubbed past redemption.’ 1859: ‘He painted many subjects, but his forte was undoubtedly, in depicting animals – dead and alive. His birds are quite wonderful – so like nature – so delicate – so exquisitely coloured. […] This is a genuine picture – true to nature, and painted with a remarkably fine touch. But it is in bad condition, having been terribly rubbed and scrubbed in former times.’

5 RKD, no. 8248: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/8248 (1 Jan. 2018); Buijs & Van Berge-Gerbaud 1991, pp. 56–8, no. 20 (ill.).

6 RKD, no. 288255: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/288255 (March 5, 2018).

7 RKD, no. 288386: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/288386 (March 1, 2018)

8 RKD, no. 279518: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/279518 (1 Jan. 2018); M. Lörz in Friesen 2011, pp. 294–5; Lauts 1966, i, p. 137, ii, p. 106; Lauts 1983, pp. 77–80, 91 (note 46).

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