Overview

An old hermit dressed in a Franciscan habit, his clasped hands resting on a well-thumbed page of the open Bible, kneels before a crucifix and contemplates the mysteries of Christ’s death and resurrection. Gerrit Dou was fascinated by the subject of the contemplative life and its virtue, and he produced at least eleven hermit scenes over the course of his career. Here Dou has reinforced his message with reminders of the brevity of human life: the skull, the hourglass, and the extinguished light of the lantern. The thistle stands for the hermit’s constancy, while the live branches growing from a dead tree symbolize life after death. The Hermit is an outstanding example of the exquisitely refined painting technique for which Dou became famous.

After an early training in glass engraving, Dou apprenticed with Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) from 1628 to at least 1631, when Rembrandt left for Amsterdam. Dou remained in his native Leiden, where he produced ever more finely wrought, highly finished compositions. His work was greatly sought after by collectors, not just in the Netherlands but throughout Europe, and his paintings fetched high prices. In 1665 a Leiden collector rented a room and exhibited twenty-seven of Dou’s paintings, one of the first recorded occasions of an exhibition devoted to the works of a single painter.

Inscription

lower center on book strap, GD in ligature: GDou 1670; on right page of book, GD in ligature: GDou

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Probably Kurfürst Karl Albrecht [1697-1745], Munich, by 1742.[1] (Kurfürstliche Galerie, Munich);[2] Alte Pinakothek, Munich, by the mid-eighteenth century; deaccessioned in 1927;[3] sold to (Galerie van Diemen, New York and Berlin);[4] William R. Timken [1866-1949], New York; by inheritance to his wife, Lillian S. Guyer Timken [1881-1959], New York; bequest 1960 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1997
Rembrandt and the Golden Age: Dutch Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, 1997, unnumbered brochure, repro.
1998
A Collector's Cabinet, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, no. 16.
1999
A Moral Compass: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Painting in the Netherlands, Grand Rapids Art Museum, 1999, no. 5, repro.
2000
Gerrit Dou (1613-1675): Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, 2000-2001, no. 34, repro.
2003
Rembrandt and the Rembrandt School: The Bible, Mythology and Ancient History, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2003, no. 57, repro.
2005
Time and Transformation in Dutch Seventeenth Century Art, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie; The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, 2005-2006, no. 74, repro.

Bibliography

1829
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 1(1829):38, no. 111.
1884
Reber, Franz von. Katalog der Gemälde-sammlung der kgl. Älteren Pinakothek in München. Munich, 1884: 86, no. 399.
1902
Martin, Wilhelm. Gerard Dou. Translated by Clara Bell. London, 1902: 129, no. 132.
1904
Reber, Franz von. Katalog der Gemälde-Sammlung der Königlichen älteren Pinakothek in München. 2nd ed. Munich, 1904: 93, no. 399.
1907
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: 1(1907): 348, no. 19.
1908
Martin, Wilhelm. Gerard Dou. The great masters in painting and sculpture. Translated by Clara Bell. London, 1908: 129, no. 132.
1911
Martin, Wilhelm. Gérard Dou, sa vie et son oeuvre: Etude sur la peinture hollandaise et les marchands au dix-septième siècle. Paris, 1911: 164-165, no. 11.
1913
Martin, Wilhelm. Gerard Dou: des Meisters Gemälde in 247 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 24. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1913: 6, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 43.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 36, repro.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 110-111, repro.
1980
Artemis Group. Ten Paintings by Gerard Dou, 1613-1675. Exh. cat. David Carrit Limited, London, 1980: nos. 2, 3.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 291, no. 381, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 134, repro.
1990
Baer, Ronni. "The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675)." Ph.D. diss., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1990: no. 121, repro.
1995
Baer, Ronni. "Image of Devotion: Dou's Hermit Praying." Minneapolis Institute of Fine Arts Bulletin 67 (1995): 23-33, repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 57-60, color repro. 59.
1998
Boeckl, Christine M. “Penitence/Repentance." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:723.
1998
Helene E. Roberts, ed. Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:723.
1998
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. A Collector's Cabinet. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998: 65, no. 16.
1999
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., Lawrence O. Goedde, Mariët Westermann, and Henry M. Luttikhuizen, eds. A Moral Compass: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Painting in the Netherlands. Exh. cat. Grand Rapids Art Museum. New York, 1999: 52-53, no. 5.
2000
Baer, Ronni, et al. Gerrit Dou, 1613-1675: Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague. New Haven, 2000: no. 34.
2003
Kofuku, Akira. Rembrandt and the Rembrandt School: The Bible, Mythology and Ancient History. Exh. cat. Kokuritsu Seiyo Bijutsukan, Tokyo, 2003: no. 57.
2004
Smith, Pamela H. The body of the artisan art and experience in the scientific revolution. Chicago, 2004: 205, fig. 6.20, repro.
2005
Brown, David Alan, and Jane Van Nimmen. Raphael & the Beautiful Banker: the story of the Bindo Altoviti portrait. New Haven, 2005: 219 n. 17.
2005
Kuretsky, Susan Donahue. Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Exh. cat. Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville. Seattle, 2005: no. 74.

Conservation Notes

The original support is a vertically grained oak[1] panel with an arched top. At a later date it was squared off with a horizontally grained oak board attached with a half-lap join that overlaps the arched area on the back of the original panel. Both the original and extension panel are attached to a cradle. Dendrochronological examination has revealed that the original panel came from a tree that had been felled in the early 1630s.[2]

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