Detail from The Flute Player by Lucas Vorsterman, the elder, after a painting by Otto Vorsterman, painter, 17th century. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
after a painting by Otto Vorsterman, painter, 17th century
This is a three-quarter length portrait of a gentleman playing a transverse flute. His head is turned to the left but his eyes gaze right toward the flute. His beret-like cap has a rolled brim and three feathers attached to it on the right. He has a Van Dyck beard and mustache and wears a short jacket slashed in short diagonal cuts. Over his left arm (on viewer's right) is a piece of drapery, possibly a cape.
The title of this engraving, The Flute Player, comes from its entry in the catalogue raisonné of Vorsterman's work by Henri Simon Hymans, Lucas Vorsterman, 1595-1675, et son oeuvre gravé. It is not illustrated in Hymans, but its description matches the Miller print. This engraving is also included and reproduced in Hollstein's Dutch & Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts 1450-1700, vol. 43, p. 124, no. 128, illus. p. 125 as The Flute Player, after Otto Vorsterman whose monogram "OV" is at the upper left.
The measurements for this engraving in Hymans and in Hollstein are 26.6 x 19.3 cm., so the Miller print is slightly smaller at 26.1 x 19.0 cm. Though there are losses at the bottom corners of the Miller engraving, it seems to match the description of the second state as described in Hollstein. The lower left corner of the Miller engraving has been lost, but the inscription there in the second state originally read, per Hollstein: "O Vorsterman pnxit." At the lower right corner where there is also a loss in the Miller engraving, the full inscription originally read: "L. Vorstermā cūm pr."
Here is a translation of the verse beneath the image, read left to right, top lines first then bottom lines: "So many enjoy playing this or that / Either zither or Lute or Basconter [contrabass?] or anything; / But for me and I know it for sure, / That playing the pipe is best of all."
About the Artists
Lucas Vorsterman, the elder, draughtsman and engraver, 1595-1675
Lucas Vorsterman was a Flemish engraver who was born in Zaltbommel in 1595 and who died in Antwerp in 1675. He also became an art dealer. He studied with Rubens about 1617-1618, who trained Vorsterman carefully, especially for the reproduction of his paintings. Vorsterman was a masterful engraver, but he chafed at the demands of Rubens who worked closely with the engraver from about 1618-1620 to ensure faithful and accurate reproductions of his paintings, with Vorsterman continually refining his technique to do so. Though Rubens was the godfather of Vorsterman's eldest son, the working relationship between Rubens and Vorsterman soon took a violent turn. It is said that Vorsterman made an attempt on Rubens' life. By 1624, their working relationship had ended, and Vorsterman went to England in that year and engraved works from the painting and drawing collections of Charles I, the Earl of Arundel, and the Earl of Pembroke. By 1630 or 1631, Vorsterman returned to Antwerp and he made engravings for Van Dyck's Iconography. This was a collection of engraved portraits by various artists after paintings by Van Dyck. The sitters included princes, military figures, philosophers, statesmen, and artists. Besides making engravings after Van Dyck's paintings, Vorsterman copied the works of Old Masters as well as the works of his contemporaries such as Adriaen Brouwer and Jacob Jordaens. He also taught engraving to several artists who copied paintings after Rubens, among them, Paulus Pontius. After the mid-1650s, Vorsterman produced less work. He lost his vision and suffered from depression. He died in poverty.
Otto Vorsterman, painter, 17th century
There is very little information in Grove Art Online on Otto Vorsterman, only that he may have been a relative of Lucas Vorsterman, that he was married in 1632, and may have been the father of Jan Vorsterman, a landscape painter who worked in France and England. It is noted that Lucas Vorsterman made an engraving of a flute player based on a painting by Otto Vorsterman which is cited in the catalogue raisonné of Vorsterman's work by Hymans.
- Henri Simon Hymans, Lucas Vorsterman, 1595-1675, et son oeuvre gravé. Brussels: E. Bruylant, 1893; reprinted Amsterdam: G. W. Hissink, 1972. See catalogue no. 132, Le Joueur de flûte, based on a painting by Otto Vorsterman. LC call numbers: NE674.V8H8 (Prints and Photographs Division) and NE650.V67H95 (General Collections). [back to article]
- Hollstein's Dutch & Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts 1450-1700, compiled by Christiaan Schuckman, and edited by D. De Hoop Scheffer. Roosendaal: Koninklijke van Poll, 1993. Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division. LC call number: NE663.H6. [back to article]
- Translation courtesy of Joost Wellen, Washington, DC, 25 August 2005. [back to article]
- For biographical information on Lucas Vorsterman, see Hella Robels, "Vorsterman: Lucas Vorsterman (i)," in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). For the troubled relationship between Rubens and Vorsterman, see Julius S. Held, "Rubens and Vorsterman," in Art Quarterly 32(Summer 1969): 111-129. LC call number: N1.A64. For a discussion of Van Dyck's Iconography, see Arthur M. Hind, "Van Dyck: His Original Etchings and his Iconography," in Print Collector's Quarterly 5(February 1915): 2-37; continued in 5(April 1915): 220-253. LC call number: NE1.P7. [back to article]
- See Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, "Vorsterman," (subscription only). [back to article]
- See note 1. [back to article]