Pieter Jansz. Quast (Amsterdam 1605/6-1647 Amsterdam) Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

Little is known about Pieter Jansz. Quast's life before he married Annetje Splinters on 19 December 1632. Shortly after the marriage the couple moved to Annetje's native city The Hague where she gave birth to a daughter and another child whose name remains unknown. The couple lived on the east side of theGroene Burchwal, the area where Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) and Paulus Potter (1625-1654) lived. Pieter spent most of his life in his native city Amsterdam, though he lived nine years in The Hague where he became a member of the St. Luke Guild (1634-1643).

The young couple faced a financially bumpy life, with several disturbing happenings due to Annetje's unruly character. The most imagining scene Annetje's face being mutilated by Caspar Ruybergen with the base of a smashed Roemer glass in their home at the Kalverstraat after she insulted him having visited numerous prostitutes Wel, mynheer, ick looff wel dat gy der wel hondert getast en gevoelt hebt... (well, dear Sir., I assume you must have been intimate with over a hundred of them).

Quast is best known as a draughtsman depicting low-life genre scenes with peasants, soldiers, conversation pieces, theater scenes, allegories and biblical scenes, often filled with folly and humour. The majority of his drawings executed in pencil and grey wash on vellum and seldomly in red chalk. Pieter Jansz.'s main sources of inspiration are Jacques Callot (1592-1635), Adriaen Brouwer (1605/6-1638) and also Adriaen van de Venne (1589-1662). The influence of Callot's work on Quast was so big, Quast was called the Dutch Callot. The Commedia dell'Arte was a main source for Callot.[1]

Travelling actors (mainly British) played on stage theaters in Amsterdam (Coster's Academy and the Schouwburg) and The Hague performing popular figures as Hanswurst and Pickleherring. Besides these professional actors and Rederijkers (amateurs), the fairs where populated with rope-dancers, animal acts and quacks. Especially the fairs in May and September in The Hague must have been inspiring resources for Quast during his years in the city.[2]

The present sheet is a most successfully accomplished example of Quast's draughtmanship and is part of his Passion of Christ series dated 1640. The Passion describes the final period in the life of Jesus Christ from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem until his crucifixion and resurrection. Shown in this brilliantly preserved drawing on vellum is the moment where Christ prays in great despair in the Garden of Gethsemane on the foot of the Olive Mountain on the day before his crucifixion on Mount Calvary/Golgotha.

As with seventeenth century painters who used the whimsical veined shapes in a slice of lapis lazuli as background for their paintings and incorporated these naturally shaped artifacts of the media into their compositions, whether solicited or unsolicited, the nuchal folding of the vellum on the far upper centre, just above the head of the Angel, creates a halo which underscores this biblical scene in a brilliant and unique way.

Several scenes of Quast's Passion series have been preserved in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, Weimar (Thüringen).[3][4]



[1] A. Bredius, 'Pieter Jansz. Quast', Oud-Holland 20 (1902), p. 65-82

[2] B.A. Stanton-Hirst, 'Pieter Quast and the theatre', Oud Holland 96 (1982), p. 213-237

[3] Pieter Jansz. Quast, The Mocking of Christ (1640).
Graphite and black chalk, brush and gray wash, on vellum, 26 x 19.6 cm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Accession Number: 2006.293

[4] Pieter Jansz. Quast, Christ before King Herode (1640).
Pencil, 275 195 mm on vellum.
Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, Weimar (Thüringen) , inv./cat.nr KK 5303

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