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Jan van Noordt (Holland 1623/4-after 1676)
A Shepherd with a flute

Hammered at SEK 540.000 at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 16-18 June 2020

Lot 24. Jan van Noordt (Holland 1623/4-after 1676). A Shepherd with a flute. Oil on canvas, 67 x 49 cm.

With label on the reverse: ”Buste de Berger af Ad. van Oort” and a lacquer seal with the Sparre Family coat-of-arms.
Dr. David de Witt has kindly confirmed the authenticity of the present painting on the basis of a digital photograph.


200.000 – 300.000 SEK
€ 19.000 – 28.000


Count Gustaf Adolf Sparre af Söfdeborg (1746‑1794), Kulla-Gunnarstorp manor.
Thence by descent to his daugther countess Christina Sparre af Söfdeborg (1778‑1811), married 1799 to count Jacob De la Gardie (1768‑1842).
Thence by descent to their son count Gustaf De la Gardie (1800‑1833), married 1828 to baroness Mariana von Salza (1806‑1888).
Thence by descent to her sisters grandson baron Malkolm Leijonhielm (1852‑1945).
Thence by descent to his niece baroness Margaretha Leijonhielm (1890‑1989), married in 1913 to count John Hamilton (1886‑1969).
Thence by descent to the present owner.

In context

Jan van Noordt’s portrait of a Shepherd with a flute

This beautifully preserved painting, which recently appeared from a Swedish private collection, is a previously unknown work by Jan van Noordt dating from circa 1670 and strikes by its elegant expression of sensuality and its superb painterly technique. Its recent discovery is of importance as so far no other single figure painting of a shepherd dating from the later phase of the artist’s career was known. It is thus a significant addition to the oeuvre of the artist, as compiled by David de Witt in: Jan van Noordt. Painter of History and Portraits in Amsterdam, 2007.

In the shepherd at half-length and turned in three quarter to the side van Noordt took up a subject which was first introduced into Dutch painting by the Utrecht Caravaggisti, in paintings such as by Hendrick Terbrugghen, now in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel (L.J. Slatkes, W. Franits, The Paintings of Hendrick ter Brugghen, 2007, cat. A 62, plate 61). In the 1640’s van Noordt’s master Jacob Backer treated the subject at a number of occasions, such as in the painting of a ”Shepherd at half length playing the flute”, possibly a selfportrait, of circa 1644, in the Mauritshuis, The Hague (de Witt, op.cit., p. 55. fig. 26).

As pointed out by de Witt, van Noordt’s paintings of single shepherd and shepherdesses at half lengths were destined for the open market. Only a small group of such paintings are known today, among which that of ”A shepherd with a bird’s nest”, in Museum the Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam (de Witt, op.cit., p. 164/6, cat. no. 39) and the ”Shepherdess with a Wreath of Flowers”, last seen at the sale of Dorotheum Vienna, 5 October 2005, lot 88 (de Witt, op.cit., pp. 172/4, cat. no. 44). Others remain only known from inscriptions in old inventories (de Witt, op.cit., nos. L29/31).

The present painting adds significantly to the group as it dates from circa 1670, when van Noordt was at the height of his artistic powers. Here he staggers the emotion and elegance of the figure by combining a virtuous energetic and fluid brushstrokes in the drapery with a smoother application of paint in the flesh and by mastering a soft play of light falling in from the left. While the figure remains reminiscent of that developed by Jacob Backer in paintings such as ”Granida and Daifilo”, in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (D. de Witt, op.cit., pp.150/2, cat. no. 33, with ill.) and Sale Sotheby’s, London, 18 April 2002, lot 34 (D. de Witt, op.cit., pp. 153/5, cat. no. 34) – van Noordt seeks to render the shepherd with a livelier facial expression as if he is speaking, perhaps to a shepherdess, in a now missing pendant.

Van Noordt’s style as seen in the present painting fitted the Flemish taste of collectors of the day. As elsewhere, these collectors followed the international trends, now that the Dutch Republic had developed into a cosmopolitan society. As his master Backer, van Noordt too based his idiom on Northern and Southern stylistic elements, by which he became one of the most successful painters in Amsterdam in the 1660’s and beyond.

Van Noordt’s life is somewhat cast in shadow. Born in a family of highly respected organists and composers, he as his brothers must have been part of the cultural elite of the city. Van Noordt seemed never to have married and lived with his brother Anthoni in the Jordaan.

The present painting has been in the collection of Count Gustaf Adolf Sparre at Kulla-Gunnarstorp manor in Skåne in south of Sweden. The art collection of Sparre was one of the most prominent collections of art in Sweden. Sparre, who was the son of the director of the Swedish East India company, travelled widely in Europe and acquired artworks for his fine collection, showing a great interest in especially art by the Dutch and Flemish painters.

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