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    A Newly Discovered Painting by Paulus Bor for the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

    Author(s): Erika Dolphin

    Source: The Burlington Magazine , Vol. 149, No. 1247, Flemish and Dutch Art (Feb., 2007),

    pp. 92-94 Published by: Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd.

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    Accessed: 25-04-2016 18:03 UTC


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  • 8/18/2019 newly discovered paul;us.pdf


     A newly discovered painting by Paulus Bor for the

     National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

     by ERIKA DOLPHIN, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

     the unpublished painting of the Annunciation of the death

     of the Virgin by Paulus Bor (c. 1601-69; Fig.25) is an important

     discovery for scholars of Dutch art and a significant addition

     to the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, for which

     it was acquired in 2003 .*

     Born into a prominent and well-connected wealthy

     Catholic family from Amersfoort near Utrecht ? and later

     marrying into another ? Paulus Bor presumably did not

     need to rely upon the sale of his paintings to make a living.

     Certainly, the preponderance of obscure subjects in his small

     uvre (fewer than thirty known works) reflects the interests

     of an intellectual unconstrained by conventions.2 Because

     Bor seldom signed or dated his pictures, they remain difficult

     to attribute and date. However, the recent attribution to Bor

     of the Annunciation of the death of the Virgin is convincing. 3

     The painting is closely related to two other well-known

     works by Bor, both thought to have been painted around

     1640: The enchantress in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

     New York (Fig.26), and Cydippe with Acontius' apple in the

     Pdjksmuseum, Amsterdam.4 All three paintings feature the

     same figure types, costumes, sensuous rendition of fabrics,

     monochrome backgrounds and shimmering palettes, and

     were clearly painted by the same hand. The distinctive

     pedestal ? with sphinx base and putti clambering up acanthus

     leaves decorating the stem ? that appears in the Annunciation

     of the death of the Virgin (where it supports a candle) also

     appears in the Enchantress, which suggests that the pedestal

     was a studio prop owned by the artist.

     In 1623, at the age of twenty-two, Bor departed for a three

     year sojourn in Rome, where he became a founding member

     of the Schildersbent, or Bentvueghels, the society of Nether

     landish artists in Rome. While there Bor fell under the sway

     of Caravaggio and his followers, although he never favoured

     a pronounced chiaroscuro. Instead, the cool light, elegant

     rhythms and luminous quality of the fabrics found in Bor's

     paintings are reminiscent of the work of Orazio Gentileschi

     and the Utrecht Caravaggisti. The archangel's beautiful dal

     matic recalls the lavish gold-embroidered brocades found in

     paintings by Hendrick ter Brugghen and Abraham Bloemaert.

     Other aspects of the Annunciation of the death of the Virgin, such

     as the light coming from a single source and the overturned

     chair that the Virgin uses as a prie-dieu, which juts provoca

     tively into the space of the viewer, point to lessons learned in

     Caravaggio's Rome.

     In 1626 Bor returned to settle in his home town of

     Amersfoort. There he had contact with prominent patrons,

     probably very similar to those of Pieter de Grebber and other

     Haarlem classicists. In 1638 - around the time Bor must have

     been painting the Annunciation of the death of the Virgin ?Jacob

     van Campen, also from Amersfoort, hired Bor and a team of

     painters to help paint the decorations for Prince Frederick

     Henry of Orange-Nassau's country palace at Honselaarsdijk

     just south of The Hague (subsequently destroyed).5

     The subject of Bor's newly discovered painting is here

     identified as the second Annunciation, that is, the announce

     ment by an archangel to Mary of her impending death,6 and

     not the more often-painted scene of the Archangel Gabriel

     informing the Virgin that she will bear a son named Jesus.

     Unlike the first Annunciation, the second does not appear in

     the Bible and is only known from the Apocrypha.

     The Annunciation of the death of the Virgin is a relatively

     rare subject in Western art. Because of the Eucharistie signifi

     cance of the incarnation of Christ, the first Annunciation is a

     more appropriate and popular subject for altarpieces. One of

     the few examples of the subject dating from the seventeenth

     century is a work by Samuel van Hoogstraten (Fig.27). Other

     wise, the iconography of the second Annunciation is known

     primarily from earlier Italian and French examples. It is often

     difficult to distinguish this second one from that of Gabriel's

     first Annunciation, and most scholars rely upon the presence of

     the palm branch in the hand of the archangel, as described in

     Jacopo da Voragine's Golden Legend. However, there are too

     many exceptions to the rule to make the palm branch a reliable

     determining factor. Even a brief survey of the iconography

     reveals instances of Gabriel in the first Annunciation holding a

     palm branch instead of the more common lily or baton, while

     the archangel of the second Annunciation sometimes holds

     something other than a palm. Regardless of any attribute the

     archangel might or might not hold in paintings of the first

     Annunciation, he usually raises a hand, pointing with one or

     ' The painting was sold at Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 14th May 2002, lot 48. The

     National Gallery of Canada purchased the work from Hall & Knight Ltd., New

     York. Remarkably, the painting is unlined, a feature that has allowed Stephen Gritt,

     Chief of the Conservation and Restoration Laboratory at the National Gallery of

     Canada, to extract a considerable amount of information from the canvas regarding

     Bor's technique, a subject little discussed in the literature. The canvas is made from

     two pieces of finen sewn together, with the seam running horizontally across the

     middle. Examination by infra-red reflectography shows no evidence of a careful

     laying out of the design, or of a transfer of an existing drawing. The only penti

     mento is found in the location of the Angel's head, which has been shifted lower

     and to the right. The overall impression is of a very direct, loose painting technique,

     allowing for an element of spontaneity.

     2 For Bor's biography, see the entry by MJ. Bok in A. Blankert and LJ. Slatkes,

     eds.: exh. cat. Holl?ndische Malerei in neuem Licht: Hendrick ter Brugghen und seine

     Zeitgenossen, Utrecht (Centraal Museum) and Braunschweig (Herzog Anton

     Ulrich-Museum) 1987, pp.224?26. For bis uvre, see E. Plietzsch: 'Paulus Bor',

     Jahrbuch der k?niglich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 37 (1916), pp. 105?15, who lists a

     total of fourteen works, and J.W. von Moltke: 'Die Gem?lde des Paulus Bor von

     Amersfoort', Westfalen. Hefte f?r Geschichte, Kunst und Volkskunde 55/1?2 (1977),

     pp. 158?61, who fists twenty-six paintings.


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  • 8/18/2019 newly discovered paul;us.pdf



     25- Annunciation of the death of the Virgin, by Paulus Bor.

     ci635-40. Canvas, 203.2 by 157.5 cm.

     (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa).

     more fingers in an oratorical gesture of address. Rarely, if ever,

     does Gabriel touch the Virgin as the archangel does in Bor's

     painting, although he sometimes hands over the lily. Bor's

     angel grasps Mary's wrist in a gentle manner that is fully in

     keeping with the consoling and ministering attitude of the

     angel reassuring the Virgin, who, as Vor?gine describes, is

     afraid of death.

     Additional evidence in Bor's painting that points towards

     an Annunciation of the death of the Virgin is the fact that

     Mary is clearly in her middle years, and not the young girl we

     usually find in representations of the first A