Panel, 25.7 x 29.8 cm
Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, The Hague
GERARD HOET THE ELDER
Zaltbommel 1648 – 1733 The Hague
One of the principal history painters of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was Gerard Hoet the Elder. He was a much-revered and prominent artist whose fashionable, classicist paintings were available to only a handful of the wealthiest collectors. From Hoet junior’s catalogue it appears that paintings by Gerard Hoet the Elder attracted high prices. At a sale in 1719, for example, a depiction of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness Dancing around the Golden Calf sold for 250 guilders. A salient detail is that the following lot, The famous Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, fetched only half the price, namely 126.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, prices for Hoet’s works declined dramatically. Two pendants, an Achilles among the Maidens and a Death of Agamemnon were sold in 1760 for 135 and 132.10. Together, ten years later, they raised just 202 and after another two years a mere 57 guilders each. Why these prices fell remains a mystery.
An exceptionally attractive aspect of this small panel is the brilliance of the colours that flowed from Hoet’s brush. The two nymphs in the foreground are covered in poppy-red and pansy-blue robes, while their companions are draped in a combination of the two hues – purple. The care with which Hoet chose his colours is soon revealed when any of the robes is covered: the composition immediately collapses. The deep-green leaves of the tree link the floating putti with the nymphs, while various tints of brown represent the foreground, centre and background. The blue cloth in the foreground gives the gentle blue sky greater depth.
Hoet’s manner of painting is breathtaking. His brushwork has an enamel-like perfection, the poses of the figures are exceptionally elegant and his use of light is masterly. Notice the subtle shadows on the back of the foremost putto, the graceful pose of the central nymph and the varied portrayal of the pale, naked flesh on each of the figures.
Indeed, a Bacchus-Feast, by G. Hoet, uncommonly fine and artistic.