Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd

  • Black chalk, pen and brown ink and grey wash
  • 10 × 13 ¾ inches · 252 × 350 mm
  • Drawn c. 1640
  • £14,000

Collections

  • Sotheby’s, 1 December 1966, lot 51;
  • Private collection, The Netherlands, to 2017

Diepenbeeck was a hugely productive and versatile Flemish glass-painter, draughtsman, tapestry designer and painter. He was a pupil and assistant of Rubens for most of the 1620s and continued to be influenced by him until Rubens's death in 1640. He was, in Vertue's words, 'of great use to Rubens... after that great Master's death, many works were finishd by him.'[1] By Vertue's day, Diepenbeeck's paintings were also sometimes mistaken for Van Dyck's work. Diepenbeeck travelled widely, working in Paris in the early 1630s and visiting Italy twice, in 1627 and 1638. It is not clear when he visited England, but knowledge of Diepenbeeck had long preceded his arrival, for in 1624 he had painted seventeen stained glass windows in Antwerp which were then sold in England. He is most closely associated whilst in England with William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, who was considered one of Europe's leading horsemen.  Diepenbeeck returned to Antwerp, becoming director of the academy in 1641. During the Civil War, he regained contact with clients he had known in England who were by now in exile, including the Duke of Newcastle, whose book on horsemanship, Méthode nouvelle... de dresser les chevaux (1658), Diepenbeeck illustrated.

In this drawing Diepenbeeck has surrounded the Stuart royal arms by hunting trophies and set it on a plinth decorated with a deer hunting scene. Hunting was Charles I’s main recreation, which yielded one of the great images of Stuart kingship, the portrait à la chasse by Van Dyck, another former pupil of Rubens. Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, Charles's pursuit of hunting was politically charged. Charles I restricted the right to hunt to a privileged elite and extended the royal hunting grounds. For example, in 1637 Charles created a new hunting park at Richmond, introducing two thousand deer and building a perimeter wall eight miles long. In 1641, protests at Windsor concerned the use of the forest for hunting and, during the civil war, royal forests and parks were often destroyed and deer slaughtered, at least in part as protests against the monarchy and privilege. Royal hunting reserves had become a symbol of Stuart tyranny.[2]

Given its subject, and the unusual shape, the drawing might be a design for the back panel of a coach. Perhaps Diepenbeeck produced it for Newcastle, a favoured royalist with whom Charles hunted at Welbeck. Whatever its function, the design is grounded in a seventeenth century Flemish tradition of presenting coats of arms within highly elaborate cartouches. Jan van de Velde's arms of the city of Haarlem, 1628, and the arms of Brussells by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1646, belong to municipal bodies.[3] Diepenbeeck himself designed arms for several individuals which featured allegorical figures and trophies, such as for Antonius Triest, Bishop of Ghent; Gaspar de Bracamonte y Guzman, Count of Pennaranda, 1654; and Luis de Benavides Carrillo y Toledo, Marques de Caracena.[4] The latin motto under the Stuart arms 'semper eadem', meaning 'always the same', was chosen by Queen Elizabeth I and sometimes used by James I, but is not associated with Charles I. Perhaps, then, Diepenbeeck copied the armorial content of the drawing from a source that predated Charles's accession in 1627. Equally, though, the motto may have been chosen consciously to assert the continuity of the Stuart dynasty, in the face of the events of the civil war and its aftermath.

References

  1. Vertue, vol.V, p.57.
  2. Edward Berry, Shakespeare and the Hunt: A Social and Cultural Study, Cambridge, 2001, p.204. 
  3. Rijksmuseum, museum nos. RP-P-1898-A-20543 and RP-P-1906-2042. 
  4. Rijksmuseum, museum nos. RP-P-OB-46.319, RP-P-BI-5941 and British Museum, museum no.1983,U.5.