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Core Record

Title Peasants Fleeing
Alternative Title Witchcraft; Fugitives; A Scene of Witchcraft
Collection Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Attributed to Venne, Adriaen van de (Dutch painter and draftsman, 1589-1662)
Date Earliest about 1640
Date Latest about 1640
Description

An overturned pitcher and a bowl can be seen on the ground in the bottom left corner. Above is a peasant woman on her hands and knees and to her left, a young man is running towards her with arms outstretched and cloak billowing out behind him. He carries a hurdy-gurdy on his belt, which would appear to identify him as some sort of street entertainer. Behind him an old man, acompanied by an agitated dog at his heels, raises his hands and shouts in a gesture of shock and terror. On the right, two further women are running wildly in the direction of the man with the hurdy gurdy. The subject is obscure, other than that the panel seems to present a group of rustics fleeing before an unidentified threat.

Van de Venne began painting grisailles (paintings in monochrome) during a period spent in Middelburg between 1614 and 1625 and it was the principal medium of the artist in the later part of his career until his death. The subjects of these works were the Dutch peasant class and Venne's images of them were often accompanied by one-word captions (missing from this painting), such as 'poverty' or 'misery', describing the plight of the characters depicted. The artist's repetition of types and poses throughout his career makes it very difficult to date his works precisely.

Current Accession Number 1961-318
Subject everyday life; figure; allegory (?)
Measurements 24.1 x 36.8 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel
Acquisition Details Purchased from Mrs Sybil Fisher by Nottingham Castle Museum in 1961.
Principal Exhibitions Christopher Wright, Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century: Images of a Golden Age in British Collections, City Art Gallery, Birmingham, 1989, cat. no. 16, as A Scene of Witchcraft.
Publications Christopher Wright, Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century: Images of a Golden Age in British Collections, City Art Gallery, Birmingham, 1989, no. 16.
Notes

The panel is probably part of a larger picture. Three of the edges are straight but the left edge is champfered, suggesting that the scene was cut from the left side of a larger panel. Inscriptions on the back: 1. fragment of a manuscript or some printed matter: 'Storin [...]'; 2. NCM accession number in yellow paint in the centre of the panel; 3. white sticky label at top of the frame, in blue biro: 'VENNE NOTTINGHAM 17'.

Between 1984 and 1985, a research assistant, Dr Brendan Cassidy, was employed by Nottingham Castle Museum to research and write a catalogue of the foreign oil paintings in their collection. The catalogue never materialised, but drafts and notes relating to Cassidy's research can be found in the Artist Files and in the archive at the museum. All references to Cassidy relate to these documents.

The attribution to Adrian Van de Venne was first suggested by Gould (National Gallery, London) in 1961. Gould also suggested the title of Witchcraft.This attribution has since been confirmed by Dr Annelies Plokker (Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, The Hague) (letter dated 14 May 1985, to Cassidy). She compares it to a similar work by Van de Venne in Schiedam, which bears the inscription, 'That what makes the cripple walk', and is dated 1646. Plokker rejects the subject as relating to witchcraft and observes that the figures merely appear to be fleeing from something or someone. Notes in the Artist File for the painting, written in an unknown hand and undated, suggest a title of Fugitives.

Little is known of Mrs Sybil Fisher except that she lived locally at St Martin's House, Strelley, Nottingham. A local newspaper report at the time of the museum's purchase of this painting describes how the picture was discovered by the donor covered in grime in an attic ('Mystery Picture for the Castle Art Gallery', Nottingham Evening Post, 4 November 1961, p. 28).

Rights Owner Nottingham City Museums and Galleries: Nottingham Castle
Author Dr Rebecca Virag
 

 

 

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