Going back though some photo’s taken last summer, I found some photos I took of Sand Sculptures that were on show in the centre of The Hague.
If you find it difficult enough to shape a sandcastle with a bucket and spade then you will appreciate as I do, that these representations of Dutch Old Masters done in sand, are as much stunning works of art as their inspirational originals are in paint.
So which of the Old Masters are we are seeing here? …and who were the original artists?
Jan Havickszoon Steen (c. 1626 – 1679) was one of the preeminent names of the Dutch Golden Age of painting.
Born in Leiden into a brewing family, he studied art under German painter Nicolaes Knupfer and became later the assistant of renowned landscape painter Jan van Goyen.
This later position meant a move to van Goyen’s house on the Bierkade near the centre of the Hague, and eventually marriage to van Goyen’s daughter Margriet.
Together the couple had eight children and his family members were often models in his many painting of daily life.
Jan Steen is known for his insight and humour as well as for incorporating moral, literary and proverbial allusions into his paintings.
This painting is best know by it’s Dutch title: ““Zo de Ouden Zongen “(1664) “so the old ones sing” and gaves rise to a well known Dutch expression “een huishouden van Jan Steen” Translation: “It’s a Jan Steen household”, which means that a household of chaos and mess.
I’ve found this painting listed under different translations of the title, one of them being “The Way You Hear it is the Way You Sing it“ The original painting is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and found a small plaque that says that this Sand Sculpture representation of it is by Susanne Ruseler (Nederland) and Baldrick Buckle (United Kingdom).
Jan Steen was a prolific artist, producing more than 800 paintings, and is also noted for his religous works and scenes in taverns. Later in life when the art trade floundered he returned to the family business of brewing and tavern keeping. He died in Leiden in 1679 and is interned in the family grave in the Pieterskerk there.
It’s thought that Dirck van Baburen was born in the small dutch village of Wijk bij Duurstede, but raised in Utrecht from a young age.
After studying his art under Paulus Moreelse, Dirck moved to Rome where he came to the attention of the art collectors and patrons there. This in turn lead to a commission to paint the altarpiece of the Entombment for the chapel of the Pietà in San Pietro in Montorio circa 1617.
He joined a group of Dutch speaking artist in Rome at this time and they were together called the “Bentvueghels” (Birds of a Feather) but van Baburen was apparently particularly distinctive since he earned himself the nick-name “Biervlieg” ( The literal translation is “Beer Fly” but better translates as “one who drinks a lot“.
He was greatly influenced by Caravaggio and his style incorporated mythological, religious and historical themes, all of which he continued upon his return to Utrecht.
Dirck van Baburen was one of the first painters to popularize genre subjects such as musicians and card players.
In many of the musician paintings, the face of the same man appears regularly, leading to speculation that these may be self portraits of van Baburen himself.
This sand sculpture depicts part of one of his best-known works called in Dutch “De koppelaarster” Translation: The Procuress” (1622) which is housed in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
The “Procuress“ depicts a man offering coin for the services of a prostitute playing a lute, while an old woman, the lady’s procuress, (pimp) inspects his money. This painting (or a copy) was formerly owned by Johannes Vermeer’s mother-in-law Maria Thins, and Vermeer reproduced part of the painting in two of his own works. Van Baburen died in Utrecht in 1624 and is buried in the Buurkerk ,which now houses the “Museum Speelklok” (Musical Clock Museum)
The other “face” on on the left of this sand sculpture panel appears to be one of the many self-portraits of perhaps the most famous Dutch artist of all: Rembrandt van Rijn. … since we are admiring the sand sculptures, I will delve into Rembrandt’s amazing work and history in a separate post one day.