Un Concert (A Concert) by G. Texier, after Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl, called Geraers or Gerards Geraers, ca. 1792. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
after a painting by Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl, called Geraers or Gerards Geraers, portrait and genre painter, 1607-1665
The title, A Concert, comes from a book by Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun in which this image appeared in 1792. However, this scene seems to depict a music lesson in which three women and a man are seated or stand around a table and look toward a young boy who reads (and probably sings) from a music score. The central woman, dressed in light-colored satin, in the foreground seems to lead the lesson. She sits in profile, facing right, and she holds a small recorder or flageolet in her right hand while she turns a page of music with her left. A man in dark clothing and wearing a feathered cap is seated behind her at the far left. He holds a guitar in his right hand and rests it on his knee. Another woman is seated at the table in the center background. She wears a dark dress and a veil covers her hair. Her left hand adjusts the veil at her shoulder. A woman stands at the right background behind the boy. Her left hand rests on the back of a chair and her right hand is lowered at her side, gesturing to the music on the table. The boy stands at the far right, his back to the viewer, and he seems to read (and sing) the music with deep concentration. The adults all look on expectantly and with great interest in his ability. A dog stands at the lower right and even the dog seems interested in the lesson as he gazes upward toward the group.
The inscription on this print indicates that the original painting by "Guerards" on which this etching by Texier was based, was in the collection of a "Monsieur Le Brun." The Le Brun in question was Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun (1748-1813), a French painter, collector, art dealer, and writer. He was the great-nephew of Charles Le Brun (1609-1690), first painter to Louis XIV. Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun was also the husband of Mme Elizabeth Vigée-Le Brun (1755-1842), a portrait painter, whom he married in 1776.
Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun traveled extensively and collected paintings for his own private collection and many art works which he offered for sale. He published sales catalogues which described each art work in detail and he displayed them in a specially designed gallery attached to his own home in Paris. He promoted northern European paintings in particular and, between 1792 and 1796, he published a three-volume book on Flemish, Dutch and German paintings from his own collection, many of which were subsequently offered for sale. This book, authored and published in Paris by Le Brun himself, was titled Galerie des peintres flamands, hollandais et allemands.
In the first volume of this book, which is dated 1792, the Miller etching appears as the last plate and it faces a short catalogue entry written by Le Brun on page 96. In the "Table des Maîtres" at the beginning of the volume the subject is given as "Un concert," but no formal title for this work appears in the catalogue entry by Le Brun on page 96, which is given here in translation: "GUERARDS, painter of genre and of architecture. / No author having spoken of this master, I cannot give details about his life; I believe him to be Flemish. His compositions are noble, his drawing fine and correct: he often makes satins which approach those of Netcher. There is in his works much harmony; they are for the most part enriched by architecture of good form and careful execution. The paintings of this master are not rare, and are not sold according to their real merit: I believe that one does not pay beyond five or six hundred livres for them. This one that I have had engraved could only be sold for three hundred [livres]. I doubt not at all that one day a greater value will be placed on it."
In the third volume, which is dated 1796, Le Brun gives a "TABLE ALPHABÉTIQUE" of all the artists represented in these volumes and he provides short biographies on each. On page 34, he seems to have discovered more information on "Guerards" and says: "GUERARDS (Marc) painter of history, landscapes, and architecture, born in Bruges in 1561, died in England in 1635. Engraved, Volume I, page 96." Le Brun has probably misidentified this artist. He is referring to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1561/62-1636), who was a Dutch portrait painter in the court of Elizabeth I.
Rather, the painter "Guerards" is probably Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl (1607-1665), a Dutch painter who was known for his scenes of small groups of figures around a table playing musical instruments or backgammon. He was called "Geraers" or "Gerards Geraers" and was known as the "little Van Dyck." The spelling of his name,"Guerards," on this etching seems to be a French variant of his name. In an article on van Zyl in Burlington Magazine in 1922 (see citation in his biography below), J. H. J. Mellaart lists about thirty of his paintings, about a dozen of which have a title of Concert Party. Three of van Zyl's paintings and a drawing are illustrated in Mellaart's article, two of which depict concerts. Mellaart mentions that van Zyl "was the subject of a memoir by Houbraken" written about "fifty years later." He states that Houbraken "singles out [van Zyl] for his charming girl portraits and especially the delicate painting of their hands…."
Compare this etching, 16/N, with 256/N, a mezzotint by Gerrit or Gerard Valck (1651/52-1726), which was probably also based on a painting by Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl. In this instance, the name of the painter on the mezzotint is spelled "Geraers" which is one of the known variants of van Zyl's name. The woman in 256/N is very similar to the central woman in 16/N and the same model must have posed for both original paintings. Her hairstyle, her hands, and her clothing are nearly identical in both prints. She also holds a recorder in her hands in both works, though the instrument itself is slightly different in each print.
With regard to Mellaart's reference to van Zyl's painting of hands, note that the hands of the woman recorder player in the two Miller prints (16/N and 256/N) are rather distinctive in that she has extremely elongated and pointed fingers which, in fact, seem unnatural. A similar treatment of the hands of a young woman can be seen in one of the reproductions of van Zyl's paintings in Mellaart's article on page  in which a young woman points to a painting while she is being groomed by servants during her morning toilette.
There is also another curious similarity between a detail in the Miller etching (16/N) and the image of the young woman's toilette [page 149] in Mellaart. The drapery of the gown of the woman in the center of the Miller etching falls to the floor in a tightly curled scroll so that it cannot be "read" easily as drapery; it might also be "read" as the leg of a chair. In the reproduction in Mellaart, a very similar curled scroll of drapery falls to the floor beneath the painting held by a young boy at the far left.
Finally, a comparison of the Miller etching (16/N) with the same etching in Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun's, Galerie des peintre flamands, hollandais et allemands, indicates that both etchings were made from the same plate as the platemark dimensions are identical. The sheet measurements of the Miller etching are slightly larger than the pages in the book, which measure 10 x 15 3/4 inches (26.0 x 40.0 cm.).
About the Artists
G. Texier, draughtsman and etcher, ca. 1750-until at least 1824
G. Texier was a draughtsman and etcher born in Paris about 1750, and he was still living as of 1824, according to Bénézit. Little information about Texier is given in the standard biographical dictionaries on artists. Texier studied with the draughtsman, etcher and engraver, Jacques-Philippe Le Bas (1707-1783), and was said to have engraved genre subjects as well as contemporary events. Per Thieme-Becker, the subject of one of Texier's etchings from 1788 was the Arrival of the King of Prussia (Frederick the Great) on the Champs-Elysées and his reconciliation with Voltaire through Henry IV. Texier also provided two vignettes for Le Ministre de Wakefield, a French translation of Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, published in Paris by Lazan after the French Revolution in the year IV. He also made prints after the works of Philips Wouwerman (1619-1668); Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845); Clément-Pierre Marillier (1740-1808); and Jean Michel Moreau (1741-1814). Texier only provided one etching (the subject of the Miller print) for Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun's Galerie des peintres flamands, hollandais et allemands, Paris, 1792-1796.
Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl, called Geraers or Gerards Geraers, portrait and genre painter, 1607-1665
The Dutch painter, Gerard Pietersz. van Zyl, was probably the artist whose name is given as "Guerards" on this etching. He was also called "Geraers" or "Gerards Geraers" and was known as the "little Van Dyck" as he knew and worked with Van Dyck in London from 1639-1641. According to an article by J. H. J. Mellaart, "The Works of G. P. Van Zyl," in Burlington Magazine 41(15 September 1922): 146-149, van Zyl was a painter of some renown. He is mentioned in the poems of Vondel, Vos and Spillebout and, in the 17th and 18th centuries, van Zyl's paintings were more costly than those of Vermeer and Rembrandt. As he often did not sign his paintings, his works were sometimes attributed to Gabriel Metsu or Pieter de Hooch. Mellaart mentioned that Houbraken wrote a memoir on van Zyl "about fifty years later." It was Houbraken who referred to van Zyl as the "little van Dyck." Houbraken also stated that the artist Moninck imitated van Zyl's work and that after van Zyl's death, Johannes Verkolje worked on his unfinished paintings. Various sources give van Zyl's birthplace as Haarlem, Leiden, or Amsterdam. Mellaart refers to Amsterdam as his "native town" and that van Zyl's birth date of 1607 was confirmed by a Dr. Bredius. It was also Dr. Bredius who discovered that van Zyl's father was a frame maker from Haarlem who had hoped his son would pursue a career in law. Instead, in 1629, van Zyl studied in Amsterdam with Jan Symonsz Pynas (1583/84-1631), a history painter and etcher. After his years in London, van Zyl returned to Amsterdam in 1641. According to Mellaart, van Zyl lived quite prosperously in Amsterdam until his death there in 1665. Though Mellaart does not give the full details of Houbraken's memoir on van Zyl, the man to whom Mellaart refers is Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719), a Dutch painter who also wrote an important three-volume work in Dutch artists entitled De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (The great theater of Netherlandish men and women painters), published in Amsterdam, 1718-1721, revised 1753. This contains a series of biographies of Dutch artists from the early 16th century onward for which Houbraken relied on written and oral sources.
- I am very grateful to Dr. Jennifer Montagu, The Warburg Institute, London, a specialist on Charles Le Brun (1609-1690), who suggested Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun (1748-1813) as the collector mentioned in the inscription of the Miller print. It was Dr. Montagu who also provided the source for biographical information on Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, which is available in print form in The Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan & Co. (Grove), 1996, vol. 19, pp. 25-26. LC call number: N31.D5 1996. The same information on Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun is available online in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). [back to article]
- A copy of it is in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. LC call number: ND625.L4 Pre-1801 Collection. Folio. [back to article]
- Original text: "GUERARDS, peintre de genre et d'architecture. / Aucune auteur n'ayant parlé de ce maître, je ne puis donner des détails sur sa vie; je le crois Flamand. Ses compositions sont nobles, son dessin fin et correct: il a souvent fait des satins qui approchent de ceux de Netscher. Il y a dans tous ses ouvrages beaucoup d'harmonie; ils sont pour la plupart enrichis d'architecture de bonne forme et d'une exécution précieuse. Le tableaux de ce maître ne sont pas rares, et ne se vendent pas suivant leur mérite réel: je ne crois pas qu'on les paye au-delà cinq ou six cents liv[res]. Celui que j'ai fait graver n'a pu être vendu que trois cents: je ne doute nullement qu'on n'y mette un jour plus de prix." [back to article]
- Original text: "GUERARDS (Marc) peintre d'histoire, de paysages, et d'architecture, né à Bruges en 1561, mort en Angleterre en 1635. Gravé, Tome I, page 96." [back to article]
- Gheeraerts was an extremely fine portrait painter and he painted portraits of Elizabeth and many of her courtiers, including the Earl of Essex. A recent catalogue of Gheeraerts' work, in an exhibition curated by Karen Hearn, for the Tate Gallery in London (2002), has many color plates illustrating his work. LC call number: ND1329.G47A4 2002. Gheeraerts work is much too early and his style is not at all like that of the artist represented in the Miller etching. Most of Gheeraerts' portraits are of single figures, standing three-quarter or full length, in an interior or landscape setting. The few examples of his group portraits portray a stiffness and awkward placement of the figures. The figures do not have the natural ease, in group settings, as they evince in individual portraits. [back to article]
- For more about Houbraken, his life as a painter and his writings, see an article by Marlies Enklaar, "Arnold Houbraken," in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). [back to article]