Jan Harmensz. MULLER (Amsterdam 1571 - Amsterdam 1628)

A Seated Female Figure (Venus?) Sold

Pen and brown ink, over traces of an underdrawing in black chalk, with framing lines in brown ink.
Traces of a fragmentary inscription at the lower left.
Inscribed Muller on the verso.
233 x 120 mm. (9 1/8 x 4 3/4 in.)



E. K. J. Reznicek has identified a corpus of around sixty drawings by Jan Harmensz. Muller. As a draughtsman, Muller’s work – in pen and ink, wash, or chalk - can be divided into two distinct groups. The majority of extant drawings by the artist are vigorously drawn studies, free and painterly in effect, which show the particular influence of Bartholomeus Spranger’s studies in pen and ink wash. The present sheet, however, belongs with a smaller group of drawings by Muller characterized by a technique derived from the example of Hendrick Goltzius. In these drawings, forms are precisely delineated in pen and ink hatching, a technique readily associated with the work of a printmaker. Among drawings by Muller in this technique are several examples of large and highly finished virtuoso pen drawings on parchment, of the type made popular by Goltzius and known as 'federkunststücke'.

This elegant, refined drawing is a characteristic example of Muller’s pen drawings copied after, or inspired by, the work of the Mannerist sculptor Adriaen de Vries (1556-1626). Muller produced a number of engravings after sculptures by de Vries, and also often took inspiration from the sculptor’s works for his own, independent compositions. The pose and Mannerist form of the female figure in this drawing finds close stylistic parallels, for example, with the seated nymphs at the base of de Vries’s Hercules fountain in Augsburg, completed in 1602, or the figures of the so-called Ceres and Venus on his Neptune fountain, executed between 1615 and 1618 and now in the park of Drottningholm Palace in Sweden.

The pose of the figure in this drawing appears to be loosely based on a small bronze statuette by de Vries of a Seated Female Figure (Prudence) of c.1611, formerly on the art market in Germany, which Muller also used as the basis for an engraving. A similarly posed figure is also found in de Vries’s earliest surviving monumental sculpture, a Mercury and Psyche of 1593 in the Louvre, of which Muller produced three engravings showing the work from different angles. Also similar is the standing figure of Psyche in Muller’s large and elaborate pen drawing on parchment of The Sleeping Cupid Spied Upon by Psyche, signed and dated 1607, formerly in the collection of Pierre Crozat.

Although the graceful, nude figure seen here, possibly intended to represent Venus, is not found in any surviving print by Jan Harmensz. Muller, this drawing may have been intended for an engraving that was never executed or completed.

Bob P. Haboldt & Co., New York, in 1990
Private collection.

Jan Harmensz. MULLER

A Seated Female Figure (Venus?)


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