This charming portrayal of a woman who daydreams while weaving a crown of flowers is a fine example of Godefridus Schalcken's refined manner of painting. Its meticulous technique, particularly evident in the rendering of the costume, reflects Schalcken's connection to the Leiden fijnschilders (fine painters), who specialized in small genre scenes executed with extraordinary attention to detail. These gemlike pictures, filled with brilliant touches of color and light, found favor among collectors throughout Europe.
Woman Weaving a Crown of Flowers almost certainly alludes to the yearnings of a young woman for love and marriage. The crown of flowers refers to both of these themes, which are reinforced by the cupid atop the fountain and the young lovers in the distance. The crack in the stone base of the fountain nevertheless offers a warning that, over time, even the most solid foundation of love is fragile.
As a young man, Schalcken moved to Dordrecht, where he was apprenticed to Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627–1678). He then trained in Leiden under Gerrit Dou (1613–1675) and went on to establish himself as an independent master in Dordrecht by the mid-1660s. In 1692 Schalcken moved to the court of King William III and Queen Mary at Windsor, where for seven years he painted portraits of the Dutch-born king and the English aristocracy. In 1699 he settled in The Hague, where he worked for the rest of his life.
This charming painting of a woman lost in thought while weaving a crown of flowers is an excellent example of Schalcken’s refined manner of painting and also of the way he infused abstract ideas into his genre scenes.
I would like to thank Anneke Wertheim for her assistance in writing this entry.
In Dutch emblematic traditions the wreath of flowers was symbolically associated with love and virginity.
See Alison McNeil Kettering, “Rembrandt’s Flute Player: A Unique Treatment of Pastoral,” Simiolus 9, no. 1 (1977): 35–38. For further discussion of the symbolism of the wreath of flowers, see Eddy de Jongh, Portretten van echt in trouw—huwelijk en gezin in de Nederlandse kunst van de zeventiende eeuw (Haarlem, 1986), 254.
Jacob Cats, Maechden-Plicht ofte Ampt der Ionck-vrowen, in eerbaer Liefde, aen-ghewesen door Sinne-Beelden (Middelburgh, 1618), 1; Cesare Ripa, Iconologia Uytbeeldinghe des Verstands (Amsterdam, 1644; reprint, Soest, 1971), 223.
I would like to thank Genevra Higgenson for identifying the flowers and indicating their symbolism (correspondence of April 25, 2005, in NGA curatorial records). Flax (Linum usitatissimum) can connote the linen in which Christ was swaddled as a babe; cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) was associated with loyalty, constancy, and celibacy; baby’s breath (Gypsophila) denotes self-reliance; morning glory (Convovulvus genus) is linked to wisdom, but as it closes at night, it has sad connotations; marigold (Calendula officinalis) often adorned the Virgin Mary and symbolizes grief.
Schalcken featured the same model in a painting he executed around 1680, Préciosa Recognized, in which she posed for the figure of Giomaer, Préciosa’s mother
The date of c. 1680 for this painting, which is in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, can be postulated through its stylistic similarities to Frans van Mieris’ The Death of Lucretia, 1679 (see Otto Naumann, Frans van Mieris [1635–1681], the Elder, 2 vols. [Doornspijk, 1981], 2:120, no. 116), a connection noted in Thierry Beherman, Godfried Schalcken (Paris, 1988), 142, no. 49. The subject of the Dublin painting is based on a short novel by Miguel de Cervantes, La Gitanilla, which was published in 1613 in Novelas ejemplares (Madrid, 1613) and translated into Dutch in 1643.
The woman’s distinctive costume, particularly her brown jacket with its striped decorative pattern, also indicates a date from the mid-to-late 1670s. According to costume expert Marieke de Winkel, it reflects French styles that came into fashion in those years. Such jackets were, however, generally worn with lace at the neck and sleeves rather than with a loosely tied translucent shawl.
Marieke de Winkel, correspondence dated April 3, 2005, in NGA curatorial files. Winkel expressly associates the jacket with one seen in the doll house of Petronella Dunois, dated 1676.
Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1980), 3:175
For stylistic and thematic connections between Schalcken and Van Mieris, see Otto Naumann, Frans van Mieris (1635–1681), the Elder, 2 vols. (Doornspijk, 1981), 1:72. A further point of contact between the two artists was apparently Karel de Moor (1655–1738), who became a student of Schalcken’s in Dordrecht after having studied with Van Mieris in Leiden around 1670.
See, for example, Van Mieris’ The Broken Egg, c. 1655–1657, oil on copper, Hermitage, Saint Petersburg (see Otto Naumann, Frans van Mieris [1635–1681], the Elder, 2 vols. [Doornspijk, 1981], 2:19–20, no. 17); and A Woman Before a Mirror, c. 1662, oil on panel, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin (see Otto Naumann, Frans van Mieris [1635–1681], the Elder, 2 vols. [Doornspijk, 1981], 2:56, no. 46).
Many of Schalcken’s and Van Mieris’ paintings deal with lost innocence or with the balancing of human and spiritual values, as in a remarkable pair of pendant paintings that these artists made together in 1676: Allegory of Virtue and Riches (also called Lesbia Weighing Her Sparrow against Jewels) by Schalcken
These works—Schalcken’s Allegory of Virtue and Riches in the National Gallery, London, and Van Mieris’ so-called Lesbia Allowing Her Sparrow to Escape from a Box, 1676, oil on panel, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam—were listed as pendants in the collection of the Greffiers Fagel from The Hague in 1752. See Otto Naumann, Frans van Mieris (1635–1681), the Elder, 2 vols. (Doornspijk, 1981), 1:82, 2:116, no. 108; Thierry Beherman, Godfried Schalcken (Paris, 1988), 145, no. 50; and Neil MacLaren, The Dutch School, 1600–1900, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London, 1991), 1:416, no. 199, where the title of Van Mieris’ painting is given as Allegory of Virtue and Riches. Other connections between Schalcken and Van Mieris exist during the 1670s, as in Préciosa Recognized. In Frans van Mieris (1635–1681), the Elder, 2 vols. (Doornspijk, 1981), 1:82, Otto Naumann argues that Schalcken’s painting slightly postdates that of Van Mieris.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
lower left: G. Schalcken
Graf Lothar Franz von Schönborn [1655-1729], Schloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden, from at least 1719; by descent in the Schönborn family; (Schönborn sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 17-18 and 22-23 May 1867, no. 111); purchased by De l'Espine. Comte de L*** [Lambertye or Lépine], Paris; (his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 15 April 1868, no. 57). Goldschmidt collection, Paris; (his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 14 and 16-17 May 1898, no. 97); purchased by Fischer. Gabriel Cognacq [1880-1951], Paris; (his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 11-13 June 1952, no. 87); Princess Ermina Tonsson, Washington, D.C.; (sale, Christie's East, New York, 19 November 1980, no. 197); (P. de Boer, Amsterdam); purchased c. 1981 by private collection, New Rochelle, New York; (sale, Sotheby's, New York, 22 January 2004, no. 25); (Colnaghi, London); sold 16 March 2005 to NGA.
- Chefs-d'oeuvres des collections parisiennes, Musée Carnavalet, Paris, 1950, no. 74, as La faiseuse de bouquets.
- Voorjaarstentoonstelling van nieuwe aan winsten, Galerie P. de Boer, Amsterdam, 1981.
- Dutch and Flemish Paintings from New York Collections, National Academy of Design, New York, 1988, no. 46, repro., as Young Woman Weaving a Garland.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 5(1913): 348, no. 135, as A Young Girl tying up a Nosegay.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 5(1912):362, no. 135.
- Musée Carnavalet. Chefs-d'oeuvre des collections Parisiennes. Exh. cat. Musée Carnavalet, Paris, 1950: 40-41, no. 74.
- Hecht, Peter, and Ger Luijten. "Nederland Verzamelt Oude Meesters Tien Jaar Aankopen en Achtergronden." Kunstschrift Openbaar Kunstbezit 30 (1986): 213-214, fig. 57.
- Adams, Ann Jensen. Dutch and Flemish Paintings from New York Private Collections. Exh. cat. National Academy of Design, New York, 1988: 11, no. 46.
- Beherman, Thierry. Godfried Schalcken. Paris, 1988: 244, no. 150.
- Howard, Jeremy. "Two Years in Review at Colnaghi." In Colnaghi Old Master Paintings. London, 2007: introduction, fig. 7.
The small painting is on a vertically grained, single-member oak panel, which is finished with beveled edges on the back. Narrow, nonoriginal wood strips have been nailed to the panel's perimeter. The panel has an off-white ground layer. Both the ground and the paint are rather thin and as a result, the panel's wood-grain texture is visible. The paint was applied in multiple overlapping opaque and transparent layers. The foliage is painted with a low-impasted paint that stands proud of the surface. Details such as the sitter's blonde tendrils and her black snood were painted wet-into-wet, while other details, including the sprigging on her dress and the splashing water, were painted wet-over-dry. There is a visible pentimento in the sitter’s neck where the artist widened it slightly.
The painting is in excellent structural and visual condition. Areas of tiny traction cracks in the paint, due to the artist's technique, have been finely inpainted. The blue foliage at the lower right suggests the presence of a faded yellow pigment or glaze. The varnish is thin and even, but slightly hazy. The painting has not been treated since acquisition.
 The characterization of the wood is based on visual examination only.
Related IconClass Terms
- classical antiquity
- baby's breath +used symbolically
- Arcadian scenes
- fountain +used symbolically
- nobility and patriciate
- the rich
- artist +Frans van Mieris + influence of
- desire +symbolical representation of concept
- etc +France + influence of