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Godefridus Schalcken, Self-Portrait, 1695, oil on canvas, Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum.

COLOGNE.- A lady looking into a mirror in the soft candlelight, proud, a little pert perhaps, but certainly enigmatic. Few artists have matched the ability of Godefridus Schalcken (Made near Breda 1643 – 16 November 1706 The Hague) to capture such magical moments on canvas so powerfully that they still compel attention three centuries later. 

01

Godefridus Schalcken, Girl Reading a Letter by candlelight, 1689, oil on oak panel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden State Kuntsammlung.

In autumn 2015 the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Courboud launched in cooperation with the Dordrechts Museum the first-ever exhibition to survey Schalcken’s oeuvre as a whole, inviting a reassessment of this unique painter and seducing visitors to have a detailed look at the charming and enchanting art of Schalcken. More than eighty loans from public and private collections worldwide are on show, a third of his known painted oeuvre. Lenders include the Leiden Collection, New York, The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Naples, Uffizi Florence, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Mauritshuis The Hague, National Gallery London, Národní galerie in Prague, Statens Museum Copenhagen, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ashmolaen Museum, Oxford, Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Gemäldegalerie Dresden, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe and Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Kassel. 

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Godefridus Schalcken, Ceres with Venus, Cupid and Bacchus, 1685, oil on canvas, National Gallery in Prague.

Schalcken will not have seemed predestined for an artistic career when he was born in 1643 into a family headed by a Protestant pastor. At the age of nineteen, following an apprenticeship with Samuel van Hoogstraten, a pupil of Rembrandt, he entered the workshop of Gerrit Dou, the celebrated founder of the school of artists known as the Leiden ‘fine’ painters. Dordrecht, London, The Hague and Dusseldorf were further stages in his impressive career. Despite the political and economic turmoils and an ailing art market: Schalcken established himself as a “self-branded artist”. His paintings fetched top prices and entered the most illustrious collections. Royal clients, such as Florence’s Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici and Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm in Dusseldorf, helped Schalcken to international fame. 

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Godefridus Schalcken, Portrait of Mary Wentworth, 1693-94, oil on canvas, Sewerby Hall Museum and Art Gallery.

As a master of light, especially candlelight, Schalcken entered the canon of art history and was lauded by art lovers – even including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. First with the changes in taste that came in the nineteenth century did the “typically Dutch”, bourgeois art by painters like Vermeer, Rembrandt and Frans Hals gain in preference. Schalcken’s elegantly painted aristocratic gems languished in obscurity. With the consequence that the artist ranks today among the great unknowns of the Golden Age of Netherlandish painting.

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Godefridus Schalcken, Sleeping Venus with Cupid, before 1685, oil on canvas, National Gallery in Prague.

Here in the first ever exhibition of his work, we are invited to set out on a journey of rediscovery. With rarely shown masterpieces, including many works from private collections, it opens up the painter’s rich world of imagery. A world that captivates by its wide range of genres and subjects, its tromp-l’oeil illusionism, and the gallant conversations that Schalcken invites us viewer to join.  

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Godefridus Schalcken, Boy, blowing in a flare, 1692-96, oil on canvas, National Galeries of Scotland, Edinburgh.

The exhibition catalogue, with essays and extensive entries by Guido M.C. Jansen, Wayne Franits, Anja K. Sevcik, Nicole Elizabeth Cook, Eddy Schavemaker, Sander Paarlberg and Marcus Dekiert aims to update the meritorious Catalogue raisonée by Thierry Beherman of 1988.

07

Godefridus Schalcken, The Herring Seller, 1675-80, oil on oak panel, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

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Godefridus Schalcken, Portrait of Elisabeth Tallyarde, 1679, oil on oak panel, Zeeuwsmuseum, Middelburg.

09

Godefridus Schalcken, Young woman before the mirror, 1680s, oil on oak panel, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.

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Godefridus Schalcken, Portrait of James Stuart, Duke of Lennox and Richmond, with its Greyhound candlelight, undated, oil on canvas, The Suffering Collection, New York.

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Godefridus Schalcken, Young woman with lemon, 1685-90, oil on oak Holt, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

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Godefridus Schalcken, Apfelesserin candlelight, 1675-79, oil on oak panel, Staatliche Museum Schwerin.

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Godefridus Schalcken, Boy with pancake makeup, 1670-80, oil on oak panel, Hamburger Kunsthalle.

014

Godefridus Schalcken, Allegory of virtue and wealth, about 1667, oil on copper, The National Gallery, London.

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Godefridus Schalcken, The parable of the lost silver coin, 1680-85, oil on canvas, The Suffering Collection, New York.

016

Godefridus Schalcken, The Penitent Mary Magdalene, a skull holding, around 1700, oil on oak, Old Masters Picture Gallery, Museum Hessen Kassel.

017

Godefridus Schalcken, The medical consultation, undated, oil on oak panel, Mauritshuis, The Hague.

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Godefridus Schalcken, The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, 1700, oil on canvas, The Suffering Collection, New York.

019

Godefridus Schalcken, The Holy Family, undated, oil on canvas, The Städel and Municipal Gallery, Frankfurt.

020

Godefridus Schalcken, Lady with mirror under a canopy, early 1680s, oak, 36.8 x 28.6 cm, private collection.