Circa 1571 – Utrecht – 1638
Shepherdness Beating the Tambourine
Oil on panel 74 x 59.4 cm
Signed and dated upper right: “PM: [in ligature] 1635.”
Probably sale Oberman et al., Amsterdam (De Vries, Roos), 31 March 1846, lot 62,
sold to Roos (with lot 61, pendant: ‘een jonge Herder, met een roode muts op het hoofd,
houdende in de rechter hand een blad muzijk, van hetwelck hij schijnt te zingen, terwijl
hij met zijn linker hand op zijn staf leunt; […] paneel, 75 x 60 duim’)
Probably sale J.F. Martinet et al., Amsterdam (De Vries, Roos), 16 November 1853, lot
218, sold to Roos (for fl. 80, with pendant: ‘Een arcadische Herder […] paneel, 73 x 59
Probably sale, Amsterdam, 26 April 1854, lot 28 (with a pendant: ‘Een Arcadische
Herder, met een blad muzijk in de rechterhand en een staf in de linker […] paneel’)
With Gebroeders Douwes, Amsterdam, 1973
Private collection, United Kingdom, 1984
With Gebroeders Douwes, Amsterdam, 1984
G. Daleboudt, Nijkerk
With Gebroeders Douwes, Amsterdam, 1985-88, from whom acquired by the below
Eric Albada Jelgersma, Belgium
Delft, Museum Het Prinsenhof, 25e Oude Kunst- en Antiekbeurs: der Vereeniging van
Handelaren in Oude Kunst in Nederland, 1973, p. 103, ill.
New York, Christopher Janet, 1984, nr. 8a
‘Gebr. Douwes. zes generaties in aparte schilderijen’, Kunstbeeld (1984), October,
p. 19, ill.
E.N. Domela Nieuwenhuis, Paulus Moreelse (1571-1638), diss. University of Leiden,
2001, pp. 618-19, nr. SAH207
Although Moreelse was first and foremost a highly sought-after portrait painter in his
native Utrecht, it is really his single-figure images of shepherdesses that now count as
the most appealing part of his output. He can even be credited with the introduction of
this very subgenre into the Netherlands. His earliest known painting of this type is dated
1617.1 Moreelse’s sources of inspiration were probably sixteenth-century Venetian
scenes of courtesans by such artists as Paris Bordone, Palma Vecchio and Titian.2
Some scholars also point to half-length figures of half-nude female characters, such as the
penitent Mary Magdalen or Lucretia.3 Moreelse will have had ample opportunity to study them during his sojourn in Italy sometime before 1596. However, the impetus for
such subject matter was certainly also literary. While Arcadian and pastoral texts had
circulated throughout Western Europe in the preceding centuries, they were first
published in the Low Countries in the early 1600s. Well-known and influential was
Pieter Cornelisz Hooft’s play Granida, which investigates the duality between idealistic
love and blatant eroticism. Published in 1615, Granida inspired many artists, also
About twenty shepherdesses by Moreelse are still known today, the one in the
Rijksmuseum being the most famous.4 Most of these shepherdesses flaunt plunging
necklines. The present is dressed decently and set somewhat further back from the
picture plane but her gaze is nonetheless seductive and engaging. The undefined
background furthermore enhances the figure’s presence. Like some other shepherdesses
in Moreelse’s oeuvre, this one also wears a veil, while others wear the more customary
straw hat or beret. The bright and subtle colouring of this painting sets it especially
apart among Moreelse’s other versions of the subject, which often feature dark
backgrounds. This shepherdess is the only known single female figure by Moreelse
holding a musical instrument, as observed by Eric Domela Nieuwenhuis.
Like some of Moreelse’s other shepherdesses, this one probably also originally had a
male counterpart, which appears to be lost.5 The States of Utrecht gave such a, still-
preserved, pair of paintings by Moreelse to stadholder Frederick Henry’s wife Amalia van Solms in 1627, testifying to their popularity with the highest circles.6
Moreelse was not only a respected artist, but also worked as an architect and urban
planner. Born in Utrecht to a wealthy family from Louvain, he studied in Delft with the
leading portrait painter Michiel van Mierevelt. In Italy, where Moreelse stayed next for
an extended period, he was already in demand as a portrait painter though none of these
early works have come down to us, his earliest dated painting being from 1602.
Together with his esteemed colleague Abraham Bloemaert, Moreelse founded a
painters’ guild in their hometown Utrecht, for which institution he was to serve as dean
for many years (1612, 1615 and 1619). With 28 recorded pupils, among them Dirck van
Baburen, Moreelse’s studio must have been busy and thriving. Moreelse was deeply
involved in the city’s civic life, joining the town council in 1618 and later supporting
the founding of the city’s university. These activities certainly also helped advance his
artistic career, furnishing him with many a prestigious commission.
1 For a discussion, see: M. Restellini, Ilone et George Kremer: Héritiers de l’Âge d’Or
hollandais, exh. cat. Paris (Pinacothèque de Paris) 2011, nr. 42, pp. 190-91.
2 See for this A. McNeil Kettering, The Dutch arcadia: pastoral art and its audience in the
golden age, Montclair (NJ) 1983, pp. 53-55.
3E.J. Sluijter in P. van den Brink (ed.), Het Gedroomde Land: pastorale schilderkunst in de
Gouden Eeuw, exh. cat. Frankfurt (Schirn Kunsthalle); Luxembourg (Musée National d'Histoire
et d'Art); Utrecht (Centraal Museum) 1993, p. 54, note 101.
4 For this number see E. Domela Nieuwenhuis in J. Spicer (ed.), Masters of light: Dutch
painters in Utrecht during the Golden Age, Baltimore (Walters Art Gallery); London (National
Gallery); San Francisco (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco) 1997, p. 323.
5 As pointed out by Domela Nieuwenhuis (see literature), from circa 1984 our painting had a
1636 dated pendant depicting a shepherd playing a shawm. This, however probably was not the
original pendant. If the 1846, 1853 and 1854 sales listed here in the provenance apply to our
painting, it had a shepherd holding sheet music as its companion piece. It has not survived and
it could well be the one recorded in a drawing by Henriette A. van Eys, sold as lot 304 on 28-29
August 1989, at Diederiks Auction BV, The Hague.
6 The shepherd is the painting now in Schwerin (Staatliches Museum) and the most likely
candidate for the shepherdess is a painting now in Pommersfelden (Count von Schönborn
collection), see: C. Vermeeren in P. van der Ploeg & C. Vermeeren (eds.), Vorstelijk verzameld:
Vorstelijk verzameld: de kunstcollectie van Frederik Hendrik en Amalia, exh. cat. The Hague
(Mauritshuis) 1997, pp. 174-77.