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Bramer, The Mocking of Ceres, 1619-1627

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The key sheet from his dispersed drawing book


Leonaert Bramer (1596-1674).

Ceres Seeking Her Daughter (The Mocking of Ceres); [caption by the artist: “Dat is mijn teckens boeck”].

Rome, ca. 1619-1627.

Drawing with brush and grey ink, grey wash and heightened with opaque white on blue-grey laid paper washed light brown. Faded signature: “L… Bram…”. 15.5 x 17.8 cm. (image). On a folio sheet, 30,5 x 21 cm., watermarked anchor in a circle (as other drawings from this album).

This is the only drawing from Bramer’s dispersed sketchbook known to bear his writing and signature. The caption reads 'Dat is mijn teckens boeck' (this is my drawing book), in a handwriting style that, compared to other samples by him, indicates he was quite young at the time. It has always been assumed that Bramer made these drawings while in Rome, but there is no evidence to support this notion. He might as well have made these while traveling or even before his journey. In any case, it is rather clear that stylistically he was still at the very start of his career (Bramer was 18 when he left for Italy).
The drawing depicts the goddess Ceres seeking her daughter Proserpina. Tired and thirsty, Ceres meets an old woman (Hecuba) outside her cabin at night. While Ceres is drinking from a jug of water that the old woman gave her, a boy (Stellio) points and laughs at her for drinking too avidly, and the old woman tries to stop the boy from laughing. After this scene, Ceres changes the boy into a lizard as punishment for mocking her (Ovid, Metamorphoses V 456). Bramer succeeds in capturing the hurt expression in the face of Ceres and the disgust with which the old woman tries to push away the boy. The composition is set up with minimal attributes to tell this story: Bramer only drew a candle in the hand of the old woman to indicate night time and a tree to show that they are outside.
Artistically the subject of this drawing suited Bramer because night scenes were a specialty of his. In Italy he had acquired the sobriquet “Leonardo della Notte”. He based his composition for the present drawing on a painting in Rome by Adam Elsheimer (now in Prado), that became available in The Netherlands through copies by Dutch artists, including a 1610 mezzotint by Goudt (Rijksmuseum RP-P-1937-689) and a 1633 etching by Johannes Rutgers (Rijksmuseum RP-P-1903-A-23253). Later in his career Bramer drew the scene after the mocking of Ceres, where she changes the boy into a lizard (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1985.1.21).
Bramer is known to have been an exceptionally infamous member of the rowdy Bentveughels, a group of young Dutch artists in Rome who quicky built a reputation for being avid drinkers. Bramer is well-known for having been in a fight with Claude Lorraine.

Condition: in very good condition. Edges slightly yellowed, corner tips stained. As on all known drawings from this album: paginated "72" in brown pen lower right, “Ceres” in faded pencil below caption.

Provenance: Collection Knorr, Strasbourg (the album); Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, Amsterdam (the album); auction C.G. Boerner Dusseldorf 174, 4-11-1931, lot 33 (the album); Galerie Gerda Bassenge Berlin, 5-12-1984, lot 4037 (the album), Erhardt Fine Art, Liverpool (the drawing); auction Münstersches Kunst- & Auktionshaus Münster, 26-10-2019; Walter Ginhart Tegensee.


Michiel C. Plomp, Jane ten Brink Goldsmith, Leonaert Bramer 1596-1674, ingenious painter and draughtsman in Rome and Delft, Zwolle, 1994, p. 318, no. 37 (the album).

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