Detail from The Flute Lesson by Gerard Valck, after a mezzotint by Wallerant Vaillant, based on a painting by Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl, called Geraers, or Gerards Geraers, late 17th-early 18th century. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
after a mezzotint by Wallerant Vaillant, painter, draughtsman, and mezzotint engraver, 1623-1677, based on a painting by Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl, called Geraers, or Gerards Geraers, portrait and genre painter, 1607-1665
This is an image of a musical group consisting of a woman and two men. The woman is seated in left profile at the right. She holds a recorder in her hands and appears to be singing (or speaking) while an older man sits across from her at the left and holds open a book of music. A young man stands behind the woman and he places his right hand on the shoulder of the older man as he, too, gazes toward the music. The setting is an interior with a single column or pilaster in the right background and a draped curtain at the upper left. The opening in the center background may be a view of the outside with a simple horizon line and a sky, or it may be a view into another room. Miller recorded the title of this work as Unterricht im Flotenspiel (Lesson in flute playing). The title, The Flute Lesson, is its title as given in Hollstein, cited below.
The original painter of this scene was Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl (1607-1665), a Dutch painter who was known for his scenes of small groups of figures around a table playing musical instruments or backgammon. He was called "Geraers" or "Gerards Geraers" and was known as the "little Van Dyck." See 16/N, an etching by G. Texier, probably also based on a painting by van Zyl. The central woman in 16/N is very similar to the woman in this mezzotint and the same model must have posed for both original paintings by van Zyl. Her hairstyle, her hands, and her clothing are nearly identical in both prints. She also holds a recorder in her hands in both works, though the instrument itself is slightly different in each print.
Though van Zyl was the painter of this image, this mezzotint by Valck was actually copied from another mezzotint by Wallerant Vaillant (1623-1677) which was based on the same van Zyl painting. The Valck mezzotint is the reverse of the Vaillant mezzotint and it has slightly smaller dimensions than the one by Vaillant. The abbreviation after Valck's name on the Miller mezzotint, "exud," refers to the Latin term "excudit" meaning "struck out" or "made." It usually refers to the publisher of a print, so Valck probably engraved this mezzotint and published it himself, as well.
The collector's mark on the verso of this print, a "GR," refers to Georg Ràth (1828-1904), former President of the Senate in Budapest, who began collecting prints as a young man. By 1869, he decided to sell his print collection and he collected, instead, paintings, Celtic bronzes, and antique statuary. He was considered one of the most important collectors in Hungary, and many of the works he collected are now in the Georg Ràth Landesmuseum.
About the Artists
Gerard Valck, engraver and publisher, 1651/52-1726
Gerard Valck was a Dutch mezzotint engraver and publisher who was born in and died in Amsterdam. The son of an Amsterdam silversmith, Valck was a student of Abraham Blooteling (1640-1690), a draughtsman, engraver and publisher, whose sister Valck married. In 1672, Valck went to London with Blooteling and may have remained in London until at least 1680. Valck engraved portraits of English nobility, many after paintings by Sir Peter Lely, and he collaborated frequently with Blooteling. In Amsterdam, Valck, together with his brother-in-law, Pieter Schenk, and later with his son, Leonardus Valck, published atlases and maps, and produced prints of various subjects.
Wallerant Vaillant, painter, draughtsman, and mezzotint engraver, 1623-1677
Wallerant Vaillant was a French-born painter, draughtsman, and engraver. He was the first professional mezzotint engraver, a technique he learned in 1658 from Prince Rupert of the Rhine at Frankfurt am Main. Vaillant studied in Antwerp, belonged to the painter's guild in Middelburg, but lived and worked most of his life in Amsterdam, except for the years 1659 to 1665 when he lived in Paris. Vaillant made over 200 prints, from his own paintings, and from paintings by his contemporaries. A review of Vaillant's prints in Hollstein reveals that he made many mezzotint engravings after the paintings of van Zyl, most of which were musical groups. Vaillant's prints were much copied, well into the 18th century.
Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl, called Geraers or Gerards Geraers, portrait and genre painter, 1607-1665
The Dutch painter, Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl, was probably the artist whose name is given as "Guerards" on this etching. He was also called "Geraers" or "Gerards Geraers" and was known as the "little Van Dyck" as he knew and worked with Van Dyck in London from 1639-1641. According to an article by J. H. J. Mellaart, "The Works of G. P. Van Zyl," in Burlington Magazine 41(15 September 1922): 146-149, van Zyl was a painter of some renown. He is mentioned in the poems of Vondel, Vos and Spillebout and, in the 17th and 18th centuries, van Zyl's paintings were more costly than those of Vermeer and Rembrandt. As he often did not sign his paintings, his works were sometimes attributed to Gabriel Metsu or Pieter de Hooch.
Mellaart mentioned that Houbraken wrote a memoir on van Zyl "about fifty years later." It was Houbraken who referred to van Zyl as the "little van Dyck." Houbraken also stated that the artist Moninck imitated van Zyl's work and that after van Zyl's death, Johannes Verkolje worked on his unfinished paintings. Various sources give van Zyl's birthplace as Haarlem, Leiden, or Amsterdam. Mellaart refers to Amsterdam as his "native town" and that van Zyl's birth date of 1607 was confirmed by a Dr. Bredius. It was also Dr. Bredius who discovered that van Zyl's father was a frame maker from Haarlem who had hoped his son would pursue a career in law. Instead, in 1629, van Zyl studied in Amsterdam with Jan Symonsz Pynas (1583/84-1631), a history painter and etcher. After his years in London, van Zyl returned to Amsterdam in 1641. According to Mellaart, van Zyl lived quite prosperously in Amsterdam until his death there in 1665. Though Mellaart does not give the full details of Houbraken's memoir on van Zyl, the man to whom Mellaart refers is Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719), a Dutch painter who also wrote an important three-volume work in Dutch artists entitled De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (The great theater of Netherlandish men and women painters), published in Amsterdam, 1718-1721, revised 1753. This contains a series of biographies of Dutch artists from the early 16th century onward for which Houbraken relied on written and oral sources.
- See Hollstein's Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts ca. 1450-1700, compiled by Ger Luijten and edited by D. De Hoop Scheffer. Amsterdam: Van Gendt B. V., 1987, vol. 31, p. 102, no. 66, for an illustration of The Flute Lesson mezzotint by Vaillant which was then copied by Valck. There is a catalogue entry for Valck's mezzotint The Flute Lesson in the same volume, p. 288, no. 229, but it is not illustrated in Hollstein. Though not illustrated, the Valck mezzotint is described as being the reverse of the mezzotint by Vaillant, which is illustrated, and its measurements (27.0 x 21.0 cm.) match exactly those of this Miller mezzotint, 256/N. [back to article]
- This information on Georg Ràth was kindly provided by Mme Rhea Blok, Curator, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, 22 May 2007. Mme Blok sent a photocopy of the entry on Georg Ràth from the important book on collectors' marks by Frits Lugt, Les Marques de Collections de dessins et d'estampes, 1921, entry no. L.1206, in which an image of the collector's mark of George Ràth is reproduced, and which includes a more extensive biography of Georg Ràth. [back to article]
- A list of some of Valck's British portraits can be found in John Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits.... London: Henry Sotheran, 1878-1883. 4 vols. LC call number: NE265.S6. See vol. 3, pp. 1394-1396. Among the portraits are those of Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland; Mary, Princess of Orange; William, Prince of Orange; Louise, Duchess of Portsmouth; James, Duke of York; Mary Beatrix, Duchess of York; a portrait of Peter Lely; and mention of a portrait of the actress and mistress of Charles II, Nell Gwyn. Many of these portrait engravings by Valck can be viewed online in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London (search under Valck). [back to article]
- For additional biographical information on Valck, see Bénézit, Thieme-Becker, and an article by Christiaan Schuckman, "Gerard Valck," in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). [back to article]
- See Hollstein's Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts ca. 1450-1700, compiled by Ger Luijten and edited by D. De Hoop Scheffer. Amsterdam: Van Gendt B. V., 1987, vol. 31, under Vaillant, nos. 61-72. [back to article]
- For additional biographical information on Vaillant, see an article by Ger Luijten, "Wallerant Vaillant," in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). [back to article]
- For more about Houbraken, his life as a painter and his writings, see an article by Marlies Enklaar, "Arnold Houbraken," in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). [back to article]