Abraham Danielsz. Hondius (Rotterdam circa 1631-1691 London)
Amsterdam Dog Market oil on canvas 38 1/2 x 48 1/2in. (87.8 x 123.2cm.)
PROVENANCE: Sale, London, May 1726 from the collection of a Mr. Halstadt With Mr. Gerald Massey, London, 1960
EXHIBITED: New York, The Dog Museum of America, The Best of Friends: The Dog in Art, September 15-December 1, 1982 New York, The Dog Museum of America, Era of the Pet, 1983 Greenwich, Connecticut, The Bruce Museum, Houston, Texas, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 'Best in Show: The Dog in Art from the Renaissance to Today, May 2006-January 2007, p. 34, fig. 29
LITERATURE: J. Weyerman, De levens-beschryvingen der Nederlandsche konst-schilders en konst-schilderessen : met een uytbreyding over de schilder-konst der ouden, 1729-1769, vol. 3, p. 158 H.Gerson, "Het Meesterwerk van Abraham Hondius," Oud Holland, no. 66, April 1952, p. 246-248 The Illustrated London News, Christmas Number 1960, p.22 ill. W. Secord, Dog Painting, 1840-1940: A social history of the dog in art, 1992, p.37, pl.3 W. Secord, Dog Painting: A history of the dog in art, 2009, p. 38,40, pl. 23
Born in Rotterdam, Abraham Hondius studied under the noted painters of Dutch genre scenes, Cornelis Saftleven and Pieter de Bloot. However, much of his output shows a closer affinity to the vigorous and violent hunt scenes of the Flemish artists Jan Fyt and Paul de Vos . He is known today for his scenes of packs of dogs engaged in various boar and stag hunts as well as bear and bull baiting.
The Amsterdam Dog Market has long been regarded as one of his masterpieces, since it was first recorded in 1726 in London. George Vertue noted in his diaries:
"May, 1726, Mr Halstedts sale of pictures... The Celebrated Dog Market. 'AbrahamHondius 1677'. This picture being much noted & esteemed as his Master piece. The dogs of all sorts and kinds, extremely Natural. Above on some steps are some people, men & women, which shows his skill in Humane figures, not very correct but an easy pencil. those steps strait a cross the picture being dark, have an ill effect in the middle of it."
And the biographer Jacob Weyerman states: " We remember having seen a Dog market in Amsterdam from his hand with more than thirty different types of dogs. All the animals are beautifully drawn and painted in a lovely manner. Outstanding in this scene is, among other things, a white bitch with her six pups."
Since the 18th century, the painting has been associated with the city of Amsterdam, but no such dog market is known to exist or have been recorded there. The architecture is a classical pastiche and the arrangement recalls a stage setting. Vertue's, and later H. Gerson's criticism of the dark steps misses the function they provide in the composition. Below is the kennel where masses of dogs squirm and writhe with all sorts of activity. Above them is the 'showroom' where an elegant lady with her servant select a small lapdog, while the gentleman in the center is engaged in picking out a sighthound from three that are being presented.
On a social level, the painting has been noted for the rising interest in the activity of dog breeding amongst the upper and middle classes. Though prescient, in subject it is much more of a departure from traditional dog painting of the time. There is no clear precedent for this type of scene in the world of dog painting prior its execution, nor has there been anything like it since. In essence, it is a group portrait of a large number of dogs. While some of the dogs portrayed may be generic, a number of them, such as the central Mastiff, appear to be renderings of individual dogs. It owes more of a debt to the lively Dutch group portraits of Hals or the menageries of d'Honedcoeter.
The painting also functions almost as an artistic catalogue of dogs of the day. William Secord has suggested that at least sixteen distinct breeds are displayed. Add to that, there is the deliberate array of dog collars in the lower right which are quite specific in their rendering and detail. In a sense, Hondius has created a kind of Kunstkammer painting for dogs. Much like Dutch 17th century artists such as David Teniers, who memorialized patron's art collections, and others recorded those of shells and tulips, Hondius has chosen dogs. Though unlikely to have existed or belong to one owner, Hondius is displaying what could be available to the dog loving public of the day. Given its uniqueness, it may have been a commissioned work by a dog breeder or a purveyor of dogs and related articles such as collars and leads.
Please note this lot is on canvas not on wood or panel as an early cataloguing error identifying it as such has been repeated in the literature.
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