The department of Netherlandish painting from the 16th and 17th centuries comprises a rotating selection of around 400 works which not only demonstrate the era’s wealth of imagery, highly developed artistry, and broad spectrum of variety, but also stylistic developments within the period. A number of significant masters are represented by important examples of their work.
The margraves of Baden made an early effort to acquire Netherlandish painting. One example from the collection of Margrave Hermann of Baden-Baden (1628-1691) is a small resurrection triptych by the Antwerp artist Pieter Coecke van Aelst (ca. 1535). The margrave had been successful as an imperial military commander against the Turks, resided occasionally in Vienna and emulated the artistic tastes of the Habsburgs. In this way, a number of works from the southern, predominately Catholic region of the Netherlands governed by the Habsburgs – in particular Antwerp – found their way into his possession. Other noteworthy works include the monumental still life of cabbages by Frans Snyders (1610), Frans Francken’s richly narrated Parable of the Prodigal Son (ca. 1630), the beautifully painted Dinner in the Barn (1634) by David Teniers, and a brilliant early work by Jacob Jordaens: Moses Striking Water from the Rock (1618).
Unlike the Baden-Baden line, the margraves of the Baden-Durlach line were Protestant, yet they too acquired Netherlandish paintings, although predominately from the north of the region. A major work of early genre painting, the masterful brothel scene Loose Company was painted around 1540 by Jan van Hemessen, who was active in Antwerp and Haarlem. We have evidence of the painting appearing in the Durlach’s Karlsburg Castle in as early as the 17th century. The collection, however, is defined by the acquisitions of the sophisticated countess Karoline Luise of Baden-Durlach (1723-1783). Her ‘cabinet of paintings’ in the Karlsruhe Palace eventually comprised 200 paintings, the majority of them works by Dutch masters. Highlights include Rembrandt’s self-portrait (1645), still lifes by Willem van Aelst, Jan Davidsz de Heem, Jan Weenix, Jan van Huysum and Rachel Ruysch, landscapes by Nicolaes Berchem and Jan Wynants, and genre paintings by Abraham Bloemaert and Gerrit Dou. A student of Rembrandt, Dou was the founder of a school of ‘fine painting’ in Leyden/Leiden which is particularly well represented in Karoline Luise’s collection by the works of Gabriel Metsu and Frans van Mieris. Karoline Luise’s favourite painting, one of which she once made a skilled copy, was Caspar Netscher’s Death of Cleopatra (1673). Another painting within the genre of history painting on show here is Antiochus and Stratonice, which was painted by the Amsterdam classicist Gérard de Lairesse in 1676 and greatly celebrated by Johann Joachim Winckelmann.
Today, the Karlsruhe Kunsthalle continues to acquire paintings by Flemish and Dutch masters, including significant works by Jan Vermeyen, Roelandt Savery, Clara Peeters, Peter Paul Rubens, Pieter de Hooch, Jan van der Heyden, Samuel van Hoogstraten, Willem van de Velde, Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan de Bray.