Monthly Masterpiece November 2014 – SOLD

    Hendrick Martenszn. Sorgh

    Rotterdam ca. 1611 - 1670 Rotterdam

    Esau selling his birthright

    Canvas, 79 x 97 cm
    Private collection, by courtesy of Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, The Hague

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    — SOLD —


    This month we offer this unique painting by Hendrick Martenszn. Sorgh, Esau selling his Birthright.
    It was recently exhibited at Museum Catharijneconvent Utrecht (read below).

    Price comparison

    The price is explained by a comparison with the top 10 best pictures by Hendrick Martensz. Sorgh sold at auction.
    The most expensive picture by Sorgh fetched euro 1,4 million:


    No. 1: Musical company. Signed and dated lower right: HM Sorgh/1661. Canvas, 68 x 82 cm. Sotheby’s New York, January 26, 2011 [Lot 44]. 1,762,500 USD (ca. 1,4 million euro).











    Given its state of preservation and subject matter our painting can be placed between number 4 and number 6 of the top ten pictures sold at auction.


    Sorgh 2009

    No. 4: A vegetable market. Panel, 47 x 62.5 cm. Christie’s London, July 7, 2009 [Lot 2]. 121,250 GBP (ca. 155.000 euro).

    sorgh christies 1997

    No. 6: A fisherman scaling fish on a quay. Panel, 24.7 x 35.5 cm. Misc. signed. Christie’s London, July 4, 1997 [Lot 57]. 67,500 GBP (ca. 85.000 euro).











    Our painting is in very good state of preservation. The setting of Jacob and Esau in a contemporary interior gives it great art historical importance.

    For more information phone us or send an e-mail. Or make an appointment to view the painting.

    Drs. Dunja Hak – curator at Museum Catharijneconvent – about Esau selling his Birthright:

    What a brilliant piece this was to have in our exhibition! When I took people around the show, they would always stop
    for this painting to discover its endless amount of details. The picture is beautifully painted and in a great condition.
    One of the reasons that it is so appealing, is because it shows everyday objects within an everyday setting.
    It makes the viewers realise that the seventeenth century is in fact closer to them than they might have thought.
    Furthermore it is fascinating to see how the people chatting in the background in fact form one of the most
    famous stories of the Bible. Art historically it is a key work because it forms a bridge between a religious work and a
    kitchen- or genrepiece. There are only a few known pictures that have this bridge function and this is one of the best.

    Catalogue entry written by Drs. Dunja Hak

    ‘Man, I’m dying of hunger,’ said Esau, ‘What do I care about that birthright?’
    ‘Swear it to me now,’ replied Jacob.
    And Esau swore it, and so he sold his birthright to Jacob.
    Genesis 25:32-33

    Glistening cabbages catch the eye, a basket full of fruit, poultry; Rotterdam artist Hendrick Martenszn Sorgh
    skilfully portrayed this array of food in a rustic interior. To the right Esau appears, selling his birthright to Jacob.
    The twins shake hands and the bargain is sealed.

    Sorgh placed the still life prominently in the foreground, while the biblical scene takes place in the distance.
    Painters such as Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckelaer popularised this type of reverse still life in the late sixteenth century.
    Some see the foreground still life as a sign that biblical stories became less significant in art in the early modern period:
    the story was merely an excuse to show an exuberant still life.

    Yet that may not be the case here. Both the still life and the biblical narrative are illuminated by bright sunlight.
    And Esau’s sale of his birthright takes place at the vanishing point in the composition perspective, which is further
    emphasised by the magnificent bed in the background. Perhaps the still life in the foreground refers to the temptation
    of worldly, material matters? After all, Esau is selling his birthright for a paltry bowl of pottage. (DNH)

    The exhibition Thuis in de Bijbel / At home with the bible was on view until August 2014 at Museum Catharijneconvent Utrecht.


    Download the article on this painting in Dutch national newspaper Volkskrant here >


    See also: Monthly Masterpiece of December 2014 >