Herman Saftleven (Rotterdam 1609-1685 Utrecht) Fruit harvest (September)

Son of Herman Saftleven Senior (1580-1627) and younger brother to Cornelis Saftleven (1607-1681), Herman was born in Rotterdam in 1609. He was trained by his father and possibly by his elder brother Cornelis as well. On the 9th of May 1633 Herman married Anna van Vliedt and the couple settled in Utrecht, where Herman joined the St. Luke Guild in 1655 and would live the rest of his life. He collaborated with fellow Utrecht artists alike Cornelis van Poelenburch (1594-1667), Dirck van der Lisse (1607-1669) and Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651).

His artistic development ranges from Herman's early works in the manner of van Poelenburch, Jan van Goyen and Pieter Molijn to the later wide Rhine river landscapes he made after his travels along the Rhine and Moezel in Germany. After the devastating storm of 1674 which destroyed numerous buildings and chruches in Utrecht, Herman made a series of drawings and prints as a memorial now present in the collections of the City Archives Utrecht. In his final years Herman worked for the collector and botanist Agnes Block (1629-1704), drawing the flowers from her celebrated botanical gardens at Vijverhof along the river Vecht nearby Utrecht. His daughter Sara Saftleven (1645-1702) was a flower painter as well.

The present drawing was made by Herman Saftleven in 1670, the year in which Agnes Block bought the estate Vijverhof in the village of Nieuwersluis, Loenen aan de Vecht (Stichtse Vecht).


Herman Saftleven made three series of "The Twelve Months"; one undated, but most probably early 1660's, which is preserved complete in the collections of the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, Weimar (Thüringen), a second series dated 1667 of which few examples survived and the final 1670 series, for which the Weimar series served as models.[1]

Goll van Franckenstein owned at least four sheets from this 1670 series. January, recorded by Schulz as missing (nr.847), now in a private-collection, USA. June (nr. 854), private-collection, Augsburg. August (nr. 856), Museum voor Oude Kunsten/Collection De Grez, Brussels and the present sheet which we discovered recently, depicting the month of September symbolised by the harvest of fruits.

Comparing the present sheet to the Weimar drawing representing the month of September, there are several additions and improvements added to the 1670 version compared to the 1660's sheet, making the 1670 version a better belanced composition. The 1660's copy is centered on the left plan, whereas the 1670 copy has been enriched with a large ladder resting against the three on the right where a man stands in the tree. Also added is a man with his arms raised upwards, readily awaiting aside his basket to collect the fruits to be picked.[2][3][4]

The Weimar sheet also misses the added foliage on the lower right of the 1670 copy, adding weight to the well balancing of the composition. The small uprooted three which has fallen from left to right has been shortened to give way to the additions in the later drawing, which also benefits the balance and composition. Another difference is the sign of the Zodiac, which Herman has omitted in the 1670 sheet (actually, none of the 1670 sheets bears the inserted Zodiac sign).

On the verso Goll van Franckenstein Sr. wrote his so characteristic N-numbering as well as the title "Herfst" (Autumn). His collection comprised between five and six thousand sheets.

Cornelis Ploos van Amstel (1726-1798) and Goll van Franckenstein were by far the most important collectors of the 18th century in The Netherlands. Their collectors' marks still hold their fame and are highly esteemed.[5][6]


[1] Wolfgang Schulz, Herman Saftleven 1609-1685 : Leben und Werke, mit einem kritischen Katalog der Gemälde und Zeichnungen. Berlin, De Gruyter, 1982

[2] Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, Weimar (Thüringen) , inv./cat.nr KK 5393

[3] Op Cit. p.345, nr. 833

[4] H.-U. Beck, 'Anmerkungen zu den Zeichnungssammlungen von Valerius Röver und Goll van Franckenstein', Nederlands kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 32 (1981), p. 111-125

[5] Jannie J.H. Polak, Jan Peeters, Is getekend, J. Goll van Franckenstein, tekeningen van een 18de-eeuwse heer. Museum Beeckestijn, 1997.

[6] Clare Bille, Johan Goll van Franckenstein, een gelukkig verzamelaar. In; MISCELLANEA, I.Q. van Regteren Altena. Scheltema & Holkema, Amsterdam, 1969. pp.195-197.

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