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1609-1629. Oil on canvas. 159 x 116cm. Inscription on the lower margin: Miles Christianus contra peccata mortalia pugnans coronam recipit. Framed.
VEEN, OTTO VAN
- on the upper stretcher an adhesive label marked: "Cabinet de tableaux J.
- on the canvas labelled "No. 8" as well as labelled on the lower frame "MC Witthoff a
Ost, Hans, Unbekannte Werke von Otto van Veen, in: Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, Vol. LXVIII,
Cologne 2007, p. 279-294.
- Collection Johann Jakob Merlo, mid 19th century
- Auction 1890, unknown purchaser
- since the 20s in private ownership, Cologne
Otto van Veen was one of Antwerp's leading figure painters and he was the teacher of Peter Paul Rubens. His work "Miles Christianus", which impressively depicts the dramatic battle of the Christian knight against the seven deadly sins and death itself, was considered lost for a long period of time. In 2007 Hans Ost praised the work extensively in his piece "Unbekannte Werke von Otto van Veen" (unknown works by Otto van Veen) in the Wallraf-Richartz yearbook. Presumably it was created between 1609 and 1629 for a Cologne cleric and in the 19th century it came to the collection of Johann Jakob Merlo who is known for his fundamental article "Nachrichten von dem Leben und den Werken Kölnischer Künstler" (news of the lives and works of Cologne artists) from 1850. After his death in 1890 the painting was sold by auction and after decades of uncertainty it was rediscovered in a private collection only a few years ago. Merlo dedicated an extensive description to this opulent work:
"I consider the allegorical painting by Otto Veenius a principal ornament of my collection. Next to excellent technical skills it shows the artist's poetic intellect in all its greatness. By painting his work he wanted to visualise the sublime truth that true Christians have the power to overcome tribulations of the Evil and thereby earn everlasting salvation. A young man trusting in his faith, hope and love is able to wield his sword with a brave and unshaken hand against the mightiest vices. These capital vices being wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony are represented by brilliantly chosen attributes. On his shield there is a depiction of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, which represents an important connection to the human duty of obedience against God's commandment. Above the young hero there is a host of angels who show him the weapons of Christ in order to fortify him. The ground is split and in the abyss there are men who abandoned themselves to vices. They make desperate gestures, are surrounded by flames and have to bear the torture of condemnation. (...) On high we see the splendid future lying ahead of the Christian hero: in a glory of light and surrounded by the multi-coloured arch of peace there is Christ holding the banner of victory with the cross. He rewards the kneeling young man with the crown of the Blessed. Below we see the inscription: Miles Christianus contra peccata mortalia pugnans coronam
recipit. (...) According to the statement of former owners Otto Veenius painted this work which is excellent in every respect in Cologne for a noble friend of art, a member of the Domcapitel. This information appears even more trustworthy since the style which predominates the painting is the style of the Italian school and firstly recalls Giulio Romano. He probably created this work shortly after returning from Italy when he still had the lively impressions of his local studies in mind." [translation]
The subject of the battle of the virtues against the vices goes back to the 4th century and is present to the modern era. The trizonal structure of the painting recalls compositions of the Last Judgement. The division of the spaces is also influenced by the medieval painting type where the "good" are depicted on the left side whereas the "damned" are shown on the right side of the painting. Another element that fits into this interpretation is the fact that the beautiful female half figure at the lower left margin is not part of the group of the "damned", but instead she makes aware of the inscription by leaning over the railing in order to read it. According to Ost this inscription can be seen as an evidence for Otto van Veens authorial, scholarly, text-oriented interest as a pictor doctus. The motif of the painting itself has its origin in the letter of Paul to the Ephesians in the bible: Eph.6, 10-17.
Otto van Veen worked at the court of the prince-bishop of Liège, Gerard von Groesbeck, in
Rome, at the Prague Court of Emperor Rudolf II. and at the Munich Court of the Wittelsbacher before he finally came to Cologne in 1583 where he became court painter of the Cologne elector Ernst of Bavaria. Most probably his inspiration for this painting originates from the time spent in Italy. A large Chiaroscuro xylograph by Andrea Andreani served him as a model for his work. In turn Andrea Andreani states in a text concerning his depiction that his work refers to a drawing by Battista Franco which seems lost at the present day. Furthermore he copied the monogram BF at the lower margin. While Merlo dates the painting to 1585, Ost offers convincing arguments for a later date, ca. 1609-1629. On the upper stretcher verso there is an adhesive label marked: "Cabinet de tableaux J. Merlo". Verso the canvas is labeled "No. 8" and on the lower frame there is the inscription "MC Witthoff a Cologne".
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Köln (Cologne), Germany
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Conditions of Sale
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Bronzes & Sculptures
Indication of the artist refers to intellectual authorship of the model; the castings may also have been made after the artist's death. Materials other than bronze (zinc, galvanoplastic copper, terra-cotta, etc.) are expressly listed. Size stated in centimetres excluding base.
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Name ohne Zusatz
(Name without addition)
In our opinion undoubtedly a work of the stated artist.
In our opinion probably wholly or partly a work of the stated artist.
In our opinion from the workshop of the stated artist, presumably under his supervision.
In our opinion a contemporary work showing the influence of the stated artist.
In our opinion a work in the style of the stated artist, but not necessarily by a pupil of his.
In our opinion a work in the style of the stated artist from a later period.
In our opinion a copy of a work of the stated artist.
Painting title in "..."
In our opinion the work was personally titled by the artist.
In our opinion the work was personally signed and/or dated by the artist.
In our opinion the work was signed/dated by someone else later.
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The buyer shall pay the bid price plus a premium of 28% on the first €250,000 and a premium of 25% on all sums exceeding this amount. This includes statutory VAT, which will, however, not be listed separately due to the margin scheme as per § 25a UStG (German Sales Tax Act). A premium of 24% on the first €250,000 of the bid price and of 21% on all sums exceeding this amount shall be levied on items listed in the appendix as subject to standard taxation. Statutory VAT of 19% shall be levied on the total of the bid price and the premium. Please note that the reduced VAT rate of 7% from 2014 will no longer apply. For individuals who are entitled to deduct VAT, there is generally the possibility of the VAT identification. We ask for written notice prior to invoicing. Please note that there is an additional Online-Transaction-Fee for the Invaluable-Online-Bidders of 3%.