Jacob Cats (Altona 1741 – 1799 Amsterdam), 'A young woman holding a basket of fruit at a window', after Gerard Dou

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Dated 1786
Watercolor, Pen, grey ink, Black chalk
Signed J. Cats Ao 1786
38 cm
29.5 cm

P. Flock, ‘A Girl with a Basket of Fruit at a Window’, Waddesdon Manor, Buckhamshire, 2011
H. van Eeghen, ‘De verzamelaar Nicolaas Doekscheer’, Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 1971 (19), pp. 173-182.

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In this watercolour painting, after Gerrit Dou's well-known work, a maid in an orange and white jacket with a blue ruffled skirt is leaning out of the window. She holds a wicker basket with apricots, grapes and leaves in her left hand, while invitingly holding open the heavy curtain with her right hand. Behind her, a seated gentleman playing the violin and a singing woman can be seen; the lady has a songbook on her lap and raises her hand to the tune. On the window ledge in front of the window is a terracotta pot, decorated with a mascaron and leaves containing a flowering plant, possibly pinks. Next to the terracotta pot is a snail and over the windowsill lies a dead chicken. Above the chicken is a red birdhouse in the shape of a bell gable, with a green hung roemer as a water bowl. Next to the window on the left wall inside is another birdcage. Above the couple playing music, is a painting depicting a man on a horse.

Jacob Cats (Altena 1741 - Amsterdam 1799) painted Gerrit Dou's work in great detail, from the drapery of the curtain to the painting on the far wall. His execution in watercolour gives the whole a lighter touch. The composition is typical of Dou's small paintings: a vista with a figure in an arched window. The heavy and richly decorated curtain offers the viewer a view of the scene inside and emphasises the couple's wealth. The empy bird cages and the dead bird could have erotic meaning, ‘vogelen’, Dutch for bird, was also a term for copulation in the 17th century. The blooming flowers and dead bird also symbolise decay and the passage of time.

Jacob Cats was a Dutch painter, draughtsman and wallpaper manufacturer. He was born in Germany, where his parents had fled because of their Baptist convictions. After his first wife died, he returned to Amsterdam, where he worked in a cloth manufacturer and book bindery. He then set up a wallpaper factory but was mainly a draughtsman and painter. Besides excellent copies of famous paintings, including works by Rembrandt, he specialised mainly in landscape paintings. He often worked on commission and left behind a large collection of views. This work, after Gerrit Dou, is a particularly fine example of Cats' skills, capturing the essence of Dou's work in great detail.

On the back, in the painter's handwriting, is the text 'Naar het uijtmuntende Cabinetstukje van G. Douw, nu bezitde in het Cabinet van den Heer Doekscheer'. Jacob Cats is referring here to the painting 'A young woman with a basket of fruit in a window' by Dou, which at the time was in the collection of the Amsterdam merchant and art collector Nicolaas Doekscheer. In 1771, the work was bought for 4010 florins by H. de Winter, then came into the possession of Doekscheer, and in 1789 it was sold for 7500 florins to Jan Jacob de Bruyn. Eventually, the work ended up in the collection of the Six family and later of the Rothschilds. It is currently on display in Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire.


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