CORNELIS SAFTLEVEN (Gorinchem 1607 – 1681 Rotterdam)

Cornelis Saftleven

Cornelis Saftleven (Gorinchem 1607 – 1681 Rotterdam)

A Seated Housewife Holding Keys

Black chalk, some pen and brown ink, 259 x 200 mm (10.2 x 7.9 inch)

Signed with initials and dated ‘C SL / 1662

~ Geheimrat A. Köster; his sale, C.G. Boerner, Leipzig, 13 November 1924, lot 410
~ Curt Otto (c.1880 – 1929) (Lugt 611C); his sale, C.G. Boerner, Leipzig, 7 November 1929, lot 124 (‘Porträt einer sitzenden jungen Frau, fast von vorn. Ganze Figur. Höhe: 26 cm. Breite 20 cm. Vorzüglich’), where purchased for fl. 21.05 by:
~ Professor Johan Quirijn van Regteren Altena, Amsterdam (1899–1980), until sold by his descendants in 2014 (his collector’s mark applied on the verso); recorded in his inventory book ‘796. t. C. Saftleven zittend vrouwtje.’

W. Schultz, Cornelis Saftleven 1607–1681: Leben und Werke, mit einem kritischen Katalog der Gemälde und Zeichnungen, Berlin 1978, p. 109, no. 181


Cornelis was the son and pupil of the painter Herman Saftleven the Elder (c.1580–1627) and the brother of the landscape painter Herman Saftleven the Younger (1609–1685).1 Soon after Cornelis’s birth, the family moved to Rotterdam. His earliest dated paintings show fanciful animal allegories and scenes of hell. From 1632 to 1634 Cornelis was active in Antwerp, where Anthony van Dyck made a portrait drawing of him, which was engraved for the Iconographia series, entitled ‘Hollandus Pictor Noctium Phantasmatum’ – Dutch painter of nightly and fantastic scenes. Rubens was an admirer of the young Saftleven; no less than eight paintings by Cornelis are listed in the inventory of Rubens’s possessions following his death in 1640. In four of these, Rubens had painted the figures. Saftleven was also close to David Teniers, and together they developed the genre of the peasant stable interior which had been pioneered by Adriaen Brouwer.

By the end of 1634 Saftleven was working in Utrecht with his brother Herman, and by 1637 he had settled in Rotterdam. Saftleven taught Abraham Hondius, Ludolf de Jongh, and Egbert van der Poel. Saftleven also appears to have influenced Pieter de Hoogh, mainly in his dark tavern interiors of the early 1650s.2 Studies by Saftleven such as the present sheet however also seem strikingly similar to seated figures in some of De Hoogh’s interior scenes.

Saftleven was a highly prolific draughtsman, who treated a wide variety of subjects. He is best known for his carefully observed drawings of single figures and his studies of animals, which show an awareness of the work of Roelandt Savery. Saftleven was proud of his talents as a draughtsman, and in his sensitive early self-portrait of c. 1628 in the Fondation Custodia in Paris he depicts himself holding a drawing of a monkey.3 Saftleven frequently monogrammed and dated his drawings, suggestind they were intended as finished works for sale to collectors of ‘papierconst’. Dated drawings are known from almost every year between 1625 and 1677. They were very rarely related to his paintings.

Our drawing can for instance be compared to Saftleven’s Seated Man with Pipe in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, which was done in the same year (fig.).4 Both the Rijksmuseum drawing and our sheet share the characteristic occasional touches of pen and brown ink reinforcing key features of the figure.


1. For the artist, see: W. Schultz, Cornelis Saftleven 1607–1681: Leben und Werke, mit einem kritischen Katalog der Gemälde und Zeichnungen, Berlin 1978.
2. See Walter Liedtke, with Michiel Plomp and Axel Rüger, Vermeer and the Delft School, exh. cat. London (National Gallery) and New York (Metropolitan Museum) 2001, pp. 134-35.
3. Oil on copper, 21.1 x 15.5 cm, collection Frits Lugt, Fondation Custodia, Paris; see Q. Buvelot, H. Buijs and E. Reitsma, A choice collection. Seventeenth-century Dutch paintings from the Frits Lugt Collection, Zwolle 2002, cat. no. 29, repr.
4. Black chalk, some pen and brown ink, 292 x 206 mm, inv. no. RP-T-1989-104; see .F.L. Bastet et al., De verzameling van Mr Carel Vosmaer (1826–1888), exh. cat. Amsterdam (Rijksprentenkabinet) 1989, p. 67, cat. no. 23.