Zierikzee, 1618/19–Middelburg, buried 6 Nov. 1654
Dutch painter, draughtsman and printmaker
Karel Slabbaert was born and bred in the province of Zeeland. He worked in the style of Rembrandt (1606/7–69) and Gerard Dou (1613–75), painting still lifes, landscapes, portraits and interiors. In the years 1640–41 he was in Leiden, where he was friends with the painter Isaac Koedijck (c. 1617–66/8).1 He is recorded in Amsterdam in 1645. Later that year he became a member of the Guild of St Luke in Middelburg, and became dean in 1653. He remained in Middelburg until his death.
Bol 1981–2; Bakker 1984, p. 115; Van der Willigen & Meijer 2003, p. 181; not in Saur; Ecartico, no. 6836: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/6836 (May 6, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 72964: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/72964 (May 7, 2017).
Self portrait of Karel Slabbaert, leaning on a balustrade, c. 1650-1654
panel, oil paint 20,6 x 15,6 cm
lower center : k. slabbaert pinx
Paris, Fondation Custodia - Collection Frits Lugt, inv./cat.nr. 7667 A
Attributed to Karel Slabbaert
DPG407 – A Soldier looking into a Jug
c. 1645–65; canvas, 64.7 x 56.2 cm
Cartwright Bequest, 1686 (no. 71, £5, ‘A Soulder with a Juge in his hand Looking in it a Lofe of bread by him in a gilt frame on 3 quarters cloth’).
Sparkes & Carver 1890, p. 40, no. 91 (A Man with a Jug; no attribution); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 115, no. 407; Cook 1914, p. 234, no. 407 (Artist unknown); Cook 1926, p. 218; Cat. 1953, p. 47; Murray 1980a, p. 302 (Unknown); Beresford 1998, p. 308 (Unknown); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 229 (attributed to Karel Slabbaert); RKD no. 281855: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/281855 (May 6, 2017).
Hull 1981, p. 13, no. 5 (C. Brown); London 1987–8, pp. 23, 60–61, no. 50 (N. Kalinsky; Dutch School).
Medium plain-weave linen canvas, glue-lined onto similar. The tacking margins are present and the original tack-holes are still visible. The paint is very thinly applied, with areas of abrasion and (probable) loss of glazes; it is covered with fine, predominantly vertical, network craquelure, and has suffered from cupping and flaking, which has been a particular problem in the dark background. Some darkened retouchings are visible. Stretcher bar marks can be seen, particularly at the vertical sides of the painting. The outer edges of the painting are vulnerable and a small chunk is missing from the top right corner. Dark layers of discoloured or toned varnish obscure elements of the painting’s composition, and its subtlety of colour and detail. Previous recorded treatment: 1981, blisters treated with wax/resin adhesive, varnished, National Maritime Museum, C. Hampton.
1a) Karel Slabbaert, Portrait of a Boy with a Bird, signed k. slabbaert, c. 1650, canvas, 59.8 x 41.4 cm. Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Brunswick, 280 .2
1b) Karel Slabbaert, Portrait of a Gentleman, possibly a Self-Portrait, Half-length, in Black Fancy Costume, panel, 21.6 x 15.9 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, New York, 26 Jan. 2012, lot 232) .3
2a) Olivier van Deuren, A Young Astronomer, signed and dated O. V. Deuren fecit 1685, panel, 31 x 25.5 cm. Private collection, New York.4
2b) Olivier van Deuren, A Young Astronomer, panel, 15.3 x 12.7 cm. NG, London, 2589.5
3) Arnold Houbraken, Young Man reading in a Study, signed, panel, 23 x 19.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Hampel Kunstauktionen, Munich, 27–28 March 2009, lot 301).6
4) Frans Hals, Two Laughing Boys, one with a Jug, with monogram FH, canvas, 69.5 x 58 cm. BvB, Rotterdam (on loan from Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum, Leerdam).7
DPG407 is one of the paintings from Cartwright’s collection of which the artist long remained unidentified. Guido Jansen was first drawn in the direction of Godefridus Schalcken (1643–1706), but it then seemed to him to have been painted earlier, and he proposed Karel Slabbaert, on the basis of a painting in Brunswick (Related works, no. 1a) ; he finally concluded that it was a copy after a Dutch work of the years c. 1645–65.8 In 1983 Christopher Wright thought it was even earlier, of the 1630s–40s, by an English artist.9 This shows how intricate the relations were between the Netherlands and England: we know that a lot of minor Dutch and English painters were working in London, taking Dutch pictures and prints as their models.10 Most convincing seems to be the attribution to Karel Slabbaert (Related works, no. 1b)  or an English copyist after his work. Stylistically it is not unlike the work of artists such as the Rotterdam painter Olivier van Deuren (1666–1714), a pupil of Peter Lely (1618–80; Related works, nos 2a, 2b), and Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719) from Dordrecht (Related works, no. 3), but their late dates of birth (1660 and 1666) almost seem to rule them out, since the picture was part of the Cartwright bequest of 1686.
The soldier looks like a civic guard with his sabre, finely dressed (see his linen collar). A simple piece of bread is on the table. The image might be didactic: the figure is depicted as a kannekijker, a ‘tippler’ or ‘soak’, peering into the dregs of the jug, a symbol of gluttony; the image is reminiscent of a painting by Frans Hals (1582/3–1666) that shows a laughing boy looking into a jug, which was interpreted by Van Thiel as a personification of Gluttony (Related works, no. 4).11 It could also be meant to represent Sight, one of the Five Senses.12
attributed to Karel Slabbaert
Soldier looking into a jug
canvas, oil paint 64,7 x 56,2 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG407
Portrait of a Boy with a Bird
canvas, oil paint 59,8 x 41,4 cm
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./cat.nr. 280
Portrait of a gentleman, possibly a self-portrait
panel, oil paint 21,6 x 15,9 cm
Christie's (New York City) 2012-01-25 - 2012-01-26, nr. 232
1 In Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 229 it is said that Slabbaert in Leiden was friends with Pieter Potter I (1597/1600–1652) as well. That was based on Van der Willigen & Meijer 2003, p. 181. However Pieter, father of Paulus, was then living not in Leiden but in Amsterdam. Perhaps Slabbaert met Pieter Potter there, since he is mentioned in Amsterdam in 1645? Pieter Potter II, son of Pieter I and brother of Paulus, was only born in 1635, so was too young to be friends with Slabbaert in 1640–41.
2 RKD, no. 297740: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/297740 (July 11, 2020); see also https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Karel_Slabbaert_-_Der_Knabe_mit_dem_Vogel.jpg (July 11, 2020); Bakker 1984, pp. 274–5, no. 79 (G. Jansen); Klessmann 1983, p. 191, no. 280.
4 MacLaren & Brown 1991, i, fig. 28.
5 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/olivier-van-deuren-a-young-astronomer (July 11, 2020); Aono 2015, p. 162, fig. 1; MacLaren & Brown 1991, i, pp. 102–3, ii, pl. 87.
8 Letter from Guido Jansen to Anne Thackray, 9 Aug. 1987 (DPG407 file).
9 Note in DPG407 file: ‘Christopher Wright – April 1983. Flemish quality – English artist 1630s/40s’.
10 Karst 2013–14. In the Dulwich collection see e.g. DPG413 (after a print by Cornelis Visscher II; RKD, no. 281756: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/281756 ) and DPG 511 (after a print by Jan Harmensz. Muller after a composition by Bartholomeus Spranger; RKD, no. 281771: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/281771; both May 9, 2020).
11 Anne Thackray in an undated note referred to the interpretation by Van Thiel (see note 7) in the context of DPG407.
12 See for instance a print by Conrad Lauwers after Joos van Craesbeeck, Sight, depicting a man with an empty jug: De Jongh & Luijten 1997, p. 243, fig. 4.