Leiden c. 1643 – after 1682 possibly Stockholm
A Fisherman Smoking in a Stone Window
Oil on panel (oak) 26.4 x 19.7 cm
Illegible inscription on the reverse
Private collection, Netherlands
An elderly fisherman leans out of an oval stone window, his net firmly clasped under his arm. An afternoon sky is visible beyond. The fisherman enjoys a well-deserved smoke after a day of toiling.
Although a catalogue of Bartholomeus Maton’s extant oeuvre is still forthcoming it is certain that his works are relatively rare.i In many of his works, invariably executed on small oak wood panels, the influence of his illustrious teacher Gerrit Dou is easily recognizable.ii A typical feature introduced by Dou and then taken over by a host of his pupils and followers, including Maton, is framing a scene in a stone arched niche. Maton uses this device for instance in his fine astronomer in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg.iii In numerous other works, however, Maton placed his figures in an oval shaped niche, as is the case in the present painting. He clearly was the inventor and no other master is know to have used this oval window.
Probably the best-known and most attractive work in which Maton used this oval window is a scene featuring an exotically dressed black man, which circulated in the art trade end 1990s.iv This panel is somewhat bigger than ours and is executed in a finer manner, with more detail and colour, but other than that the two works are comparable. Especially similar is the way the protagonist leans out of the window and the way he holds an attribute; in the other painting it is a banner. Another round niche, this time on copper and of still bigger dimensions, shows a fool with an owl perched on his shoulder.v Finally, Maton painted a soldier smoking a pipe in a round niche and holding his peak similarly as the fisherman holds his fishnet.vi
The present panel is a fine and typical work by Maton. The artist imbued the witty figure of the fisherman with spirit. The smouldering tobacco subtly adds a lively accent to the otherwise tonal palette.
Maton’s family came from Flanders. Bartholomeus Maton’s grandfather was a locksmith and settled in Leiden around 1600 in a house – his own property – at the Voldersgracht (presently Langebrug). It was here that Bartholomeus’ father, Jean Maton (? – 1653), was born. In December 1641 he married Sara Grouwels (? – 1660), who was from Aachen. Jean Maton was registered in the Album Studiosorum of Leiden University as a minister on 6 May 1647, at age 39. It is not known when Bartholomeus was born. On 16 March 1666 took his oath as a member of the Leiden militia guard. As membership required an age of at least twenty, Maton must have been born between 1641, the year of marriage of his parents, and 1646. Bartholomeus Maton is one of the few painters who is firmly documented as a pupil of Gerrit Dou. On 24 May 1669 he is mentioned in the records of the Leidse Guild of Saint Luke ‘desijpel van Gerrit Dou’, together with Matthijs Naiveu and the presently unknown Gerrit Maes. Two years later, in 1671, he obtained membership of the guild himself as an independent master and three years after that, in 1674, he was appointed for two consecutive years as “hoofdman” of the guild. On 3 June 1679 the burgomaster of Leiden granted him permission to travel to Sweden. The guild records indeed show that he had fulfilled his dues until 1678. Then, the comment follows: “Uyt de stadt vertrocken” (left town). In November 1680 Maton was in Amsterdam and here drew his testament op, as was customary prior to a foreign travel in those days, appointing his brother Daniel, who lived in Sweden sole heir. At this moment Maton was thus unmarried and childless. In the following years Maton is thought to have sojourned in Sweden at Vinspong and to have worked for the Dutch merchant Louis de Geer the Younger (1622-95).vii On 18 April 1682 Maton sold the house at the Voldersgracht that was initially bought by his grandfather. There is no more information about his life and activity after this date and we do not know when and where he died. He may have returned to Sweden and have died there, an assumption primarily based on the fact that there are still several works there by him. In 1719 a Bartholomeus Maton, a wine merchant from Stockholm, married in Leiden. This will have been a son of Maton’s brother Daniel.
i: A quick inventory of the documentation at the RKD (Dutch Institute for Art History), The Hague, yields a total of thirty three paintings that can be attributed to him. No doubt, there will be more paintings that are presently wrongly attributed to other Leiden finepainters.
ii: For a discussion on Maton’s work and in particular the influence Dou, see: E.J. Sluijter, M. Enklaar and P. Nieuwenhuizen (ed.), Leidse Fijnschilders. Van Gerrit Dou tot Frans van Mieris de Jonge 1630-1760, exh. cat. Leiden (Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden) 1988, pp. 124-26.
iii: Inv. nr. 1074. Panel 37.3 x 29.1 cm. Monogrammed. See St. Petersburg, Hermitage, cat. 1895, nr. 1246 (as Willem van Mieris) and see H. Schneider, “Twee schilderijen van Barthomeus Maton”, Oude Kunst 5 (1920), p. 224, ill.
iv: Panel 27.9 x 24 cm. Monogrammed lower left “MT [in ligature]”. It sufaced 30 January 1998 on a sale of Sotheby’s New York as lot 33, where it was acquired by the London dealer Johnny van Haeften, who paid USD 230.000,-.
v: Copper 35 x 26 cm. Monogrammed: “MAT [in ligature]”. See: Schneider 1920, p. 224 en The Burlington Magazine 105 (1963), nr. 727, October, p. 432, ill. and P.P. Paskiewicz, “Nocturnal Bird of Wisdom: Symbolic Functions of the Owl in Emblems”, Bulletin du Musée National de Varsovie 23 (1982), pp. 65-6, ill.
vi: Canvas laid down on panel 41.3 x 32.1 cm. Schwerin, Museum, inv. nr. 1041. See Schneider 1920, loc. cit. (note 3).
vii: K. Sidén, “Dutch art in Seventeenth-Century Sweden. A history of Dutch industrialists, travelling artists and collectors”, in: Geest en gratie. Essays Presented to Ildikó Ember on Her Seventieth Birthday, Budapest 2012, pp. 94-103; in particular pp. 99-100.