A Young Woman as Pomona, circa 1670.
Adriaen van de Velde (Dutch, 1636–1672)
Black and white chalks on cream laid paper prepared with tan, 16 11/16 x 11 5/8 in. (42.4 x 29.5 cm). Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection, 1871.186.

One of the foremost Dutch painters of the seventeenth century, Adriaen van de Velde (1636–1672) was also a highly accomplished draughtsman, producing a large number of figure studies like this one. Son of the famous marine artist Willem van de Velde I (1611–1693), Adriaen specialized instead in landscapes, usually populated with figures and livestock. Although he is not known to have traveled to Italy, many of his paintings have a strongly Italianate flavor, while others depict more local views. He was also a talented etcher, favoring cattle and other animals as subjects for his prints.

Many of the artist’s surviving drawings, including the Pomona, were preparatory in nature: the Crocker’s drawing is a study for one of the figures in the painting Vertumnus and Pomona of 1670.(1) William Robinson’s study of van de Velde’s studio practices reveals that the artist’s preparation for his landscape paintings was fairly elaborate.(2) The artist made a rough compositional sketch, followed by a more detailed modello, as well as careful chalk studies of figures and animals. Although van de Velde’s drawing practices have been reconstructed in far more detail than those of his contemporaries, a number of his fellow Italianate landscape painters made similar chalk figure studies.(3)

The Crocker’s study is the second of two known preparatory drawings for this figure. Van de Velde first concentrated on Pomona’s pose and anatomy in a meticulous study from a nude model.(4) In the Crocker Pomona, he turned his attention to the fall of drapery across the woman’s body, maintaining the pose he established in the original sketch. Possibly intending to focus on the arrangement of the skirt, he apparently first roughed in the figure to the upper right of the page: the finished Pomona leans her elbow against a rock that closely resembles the lower half of her own body, and traces remain of her left foot at the right edge of the page. Evidently still dissatisfied with the finished drawing, he made a number of changes in the figure as it appears in the painting. While the figures play a major role in Vertumnus and Pomona, Van de Velde sometimes followed this painstaking process even for small figures that play a far less important part in his landscapes.(5)

Although many of van de Velde’s figure studies, like the Pomona, were made with a specific painting already in mind, some of these drawings had other purposes.(6) He appears to have drawn from the nude in part as practice. In addition, a number of carefully finished studies of clothed figures survive which do not appear in any of van de Velde’s paintings, indicating that he maintained a stock of figures for later use in his paintings. The presence of his signature on many of his figure studies (mostly cut off on the present drawing) suggests that he sold them to collectors.(7) His choice to draw figures in chalk probably stemmed not only from tradition but also from the practical reason that he could make counterproofs from them: by moistening the paper and pressing a second sheet onto the drawing, he could reproduce his original study in reverse, providing himself with twice as many options for later use of the figure.(8) His thorough understanding of the nude and his command of the medium of chalk make his figure drawings some of the finest in Dutch seventeenth-century art.

Stacey Sell, in William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010

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Notes:

(1) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Inv. No. 6446; Frensemeier 2001 as in Literature above, no. 14.

(2) Robinson 1979 as in Literature above, pp. 3–23 and 57–69.

(3) For a thorough overview of the subject, see Peter Schatborn, Dutch Figure Drawings, The Hague, 1981. The drawings of Nicholas Berchem and Jan Baptist Weenix, for example, sometimes demonstrate a painterly handling of chalk much like the technique in the Crocker Pomona.

(4) Robinson 1979 as in Literature above, D 14 (location unknown). A pen and ink composition sketch is in the British Museum (Arthur M. Hind, Catalogue of drawings by Dutch and Flemish Artists preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, vol. I, Drawings by Rembrandt and his School, London, 1915, no. 26).

(5) Robinson 1993 as in Literature above, pp.53–66.

(6) ibidem, pp. 60ff.

(7) ibidem, p. 60.

(8) Van de Velde made similar drawings and counterproofs of livestock for his landscapes.

Inscriptions: black chalk, lower right at margin, cut off: A v d Velde fe.

Marks: lower left corner: Lugt 1853 (Mouriau); preserved from original mount: Lugt 1829 (Mouriau)

Provenance: A. Mouriau, Belgium, before 1858; Edwin Bryant Crocker, Sacramento, by 1871; gift of his widow Margaret to Museum, 1885

Literature: William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010, no. 27; Marietta Frensemeier, Studien zu Adriaen van de Velde 1636-1672, Aachen, 2001, p. 147, under no. 14; Bruce Davis, Master Drawings in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1997, p. 64; William W. Robinson, "Some Studies of Nude Models by Adriaen van de Velde," in Domum Amicorum: Essays in Honour of Per Bjurström, festschrift, Nationalmuseum Bulletin, vol. XVII, 1993, no. 2, p. 65, note 5; Jeffrey Ruda, The Art of Drawing, Old Masters from the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California, exh. cat. Flint, 1992, no. 27; William W. Robinson, "Preparatory Drawings by Adriaen van de Velde," in Master Drawings, vol. XVIII, no. 1, Spring 1979, pp.11–12, 22, D-15; Franklin W. Robinson, Seventeenth Century Dutch Drawings from American Collections, exh. cat. Washington, no. 80; Master Drawings from Sacramento, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 1971, no. 73; Drawings of the Masters, exh. brochure, Sacramento, 1959; no. 9; Numa S. Trivas, Old Master Drawings from the E. B. Crocker Collection, the Dutch and Flemish Masters, unpubl. ms., Sacramento, 1942, no. 129; Numa S. Trivas, "Lesser Known American Art Collections. I. The E. B. Crocker Art Gallery of Sacramento, California, U.S.A.," in Apollo, vol. IV, December 1940, p. 137

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