Astronomer by Candlelight

Object Details

Title:

Astronomer by Candlelight

Artist/Maker(s):

Gerrit Dou (Dutch, 1613 - 1675)

Culture:

Dutch

Place(s):

Netherlands (Place created)

Date:

late 1650s

Medium:

Oil on panel

Dimensions:

32 x 21.2 cm (12 5/8 x 8 3/8 in.)

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In an arched, window-like opening, an astronomer works late into the night. Concentrating, he reads an astronomical treatise and measures the distance between two points on a celestial globe. The candle he holds provides the only source of light; it illuminates his face, the book, the precious globe, the beaker of water, and his hourglass.

Strong contrasts between light and dark show the painter Gerrit Dou's knowledge of a popular Baroque technique known as chiaroscuro. Carefully rendering minute details such as the handwriting in the book, the texture of the glass flask, and the folds in the astronomer's cloak was Dou's special talent. Collectors treasured these small, detailed paintings for pleasurable observation in their private rooms.

Provenance
- 1706

Possibly Adriaen Jansz. van Hoek (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) [Hoek sale, Zomer, Amsterdam, April 7, 1706, lot 2.]

- 1734

Willem Six, 1662 - 1733 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) [sold, Six sale, Schoemaker, ten Brink, Amsterdam, May 12, 1734, lot 18.]

Possibly Wilhelm VII, landgraf von Hessen-Kassel

- 1817

Lapeyrière (Paris, France) [sold, Lapeyrière sale, Lacoste, Paris, April 14, 1817, lot 19, to Charles Paillet.]

1817 -

Charles Paillet (Paris, France)

- 1826

Joseph Barchard (England) [sold, Barchard sale, Christie's, London, May 6, 1826, lot 12, to John Smith.]

1826

John Smith (London, England), sold to William Beckford, 1826.

1826 - by 1829

William Beckford, 1760 - 1844 (Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire, England; Bath, Avon, England), by exchange with Abraham Hume, by 1829.

by 1829 -

Sir Abraham Hume, second Bart., 1749 - 1838 (London, England)

by 1839 - 1864

Richard Hobart Fitzgibbon, third earl of Clare, 1793 - 1864 (London, England) [sold, Clare sale, Christie's, London, June 17, 1864, lot 38, to William Delafield.]

1864 - 1870

William Delafield (London, England) [sold, Delafield sale, Christie's, London, April 30, 1870, lot 79, through Martin H. Colnaghi (London, England) to Albert Levy.]

1870 - 1876

Albert Lévy (London, England) [sold, Levy sale, Christie's, London, April 6, 1876, lot 329, to Piercer.]

1876 -

Piercer

by 1888 - still in 1911

Barclay Field, Esq., 1835 - 1892 (London, England)

- 1971

John Jacob Astor, first baron Astor of Hever, 1886 - 1971 (Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent, England), by inheritance to Gavin Astor, 1971.

1971 - 1983

Gavin Astor, second baron Astor of Hever, 1918 - 1984 (Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent, England) [sold, Astor of Hever sale, Sotheby's, London, July 6, 1983, lot 80, sold to Johnny Van Haeften.]

1983 -

Johnny Van Haeften (London, England)

- 1986

Gerald Guterman (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986.

Exhibitions
Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English Masters (1853) (Cat. 30)
  • British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, (London), 1853
Royal Academy Exhibition 1873 (1873) (76)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), 1873
Royal Academy Exhibition 1888 (1888) (84)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), 1888
Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting (March 18 to November 18, 1984) (Cat. 35)
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, (Philadelphia), March 18 to May 13, 1984
Gerrit Dou (April 16, 2000 to February 25, 2001) (Cat. 35)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), April 16 to August 6, 2000
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery, (London), September 6 to November 19, 2000
  • Mauritshuis, (The Hague), December 9, 2000 to February 25, 2001
Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen (November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002) (81)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002
Radiant Darkness: The Art of Nocturnal Light (April 24 to July 22, 2007) (81)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), April 24 to July 22, 2007
Related Media
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    Audio: Astronomer by Candlelight