DUTCH PRE-REMBRANDTIST MASTER, possibly PYNAS family or circle

Christ and the Adulteress

Oil on panel, 10 x 14-1/8 in. (25.5 x 36 cm), in a carved and gilt Regence-style frame, 18 x 23 x 4 in. (46 x 58.5 x 10 cm). Condition report upon request; the old varnish yellowed, the edges abraded, the panel otherwise in overall good condition, flat and stable.

Julius Held (1905-2002), art historian, teacher and Rembrandt and Rubens scholar, acquired this panel (recorded in the Frick Art Reference Library from 1943) as by Jan Symonsz. Pynas (Alkmaar 1581/2 – 1631 Amsterdam). When it was exhibited at The Smith College Museum of Art in 1968, Professor Held had backed away from his earlier attribution, and the catalog entry and exhibition label advanced an attribution to Philip Gyselaer.


However, Professor Held, on his looseleaf notebook page for this panel, crossed out Gyselaer’s name and wrote in manuscript, “Jan Tengnagel ? … ‘Gyselaer’ was H. Gerson’s idea – but seems to me unlikely –.” The panel thus may be given to an early 17th century Dutch “Pre-Rembrandtist” master, so-called in a seminal 1974 survey at the E.B. Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento, catalogued by Astrid and Christian Tümpel, from which they launched their ongoing re-examination of Pieter Lastman, the brothers Jan Symonsz. Pynas and Jacob Pynas and their brother-in-law Jan Tengnagel, and, somewhat younger, Lastman’s brother-in-law François Venant, Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert and Moyses van Uyttenbroek, classicizing post-Mannerist artists influenced by the Roman style of Adam Elsheimer and his Dutch Italianate colleague Paul Bril.

A group closely similar to the central figures of Christ and the Woman in the present panel appears in a much more simply staged Elisha and the Shunammite Woman which was given to Jan Tengnagel at public auction (Phillips London, December 14, 1999, lot 5), then later attributed to Jan Pynas by Sotheby’s (London, December 5, 2006, lot 349), for which the catalog note states that the attribution was endorsed by Christopher Brown but not accepted by the Tümpels. A considerably more complex arrangement of multiple figures, akin to those in the present panel, appears in a Christ and the Adulteressexhibited at Somerville & Simpson Ltd, London, in late 1975 as by Paul Bril and Jan Pynas (accepted by Malcolm Waddingham as a work “painted whilst both artists were in Rome, probably circa 1606”), a panel which has some general similarities with the present in its groupings, framing, massing and spatial recession.

We have not yet established any precedent iconography mirroring the central figures of Christ and the Woman in our panel (and the near parallel in the Shunammite Womanreferenced above). A beginning of stylistic influences conflating into elements of our panel may be exemplified by an engraving by Maerten van Heemskerck of Christ and the Canaanite Woman, cited by Astrid Tümpel and Peter Schatborn, Pieter Lastman: the man who taught Rembrandt (Zwolle: Wanders, 1991), p. 104, fig. 10.1, in connection with Lastman’s own Canaanite Woman signed and dated 1617 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Tümpel and Schatborn, ibid., no. 10, pp. 199-200), in which two small dogs gaily frolick adjacent the frontally posed kneeling woman with open arms outstretched toward a pointing Christ.


The groupings in our panel, too formulistic for Lastman, nevertheless recall groupings in the engraving cycles of Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert before 1624 (Histories of Abraham, Jacob, Tobit and especially Lot in the first plate), when the latter was strongly under the influenced of the former. Just such a grouping may be seen in Moeyaert’s somewhat freer and later red chalk drawing, Getty Museum, Malibu, of a Shunammite Woman, dated to about 1630, in which the four standing figures are of almost equal height from the bottom eighth to the middle of the sheet, with a dynamic shallow diagonal extending upwards from the Woman’s knees across Christ’s feet.

With these devices we can also find an elaborate framing Roman architecture on the left, a framing hill middle background right and an open center receding to a far vanishing point though an intermediate architectural feature, as are variously evident in Lastman’s panel Paul and Barnabas at Lystra of 1614 (formerly National Museum, Warsaw, now lost; Tümpel and Schatborn, ibid., p. 20 pl. 4), Tengnagel’s panel Jephthah’s Daughter Welcoming her Father of circa 1610 (London trade 1954; Tümpel and Schatborn, ibid., p. 45, pl. 33) and Jan Lynas’s drawing, inscribed “Jan Pynas FC. Roma 1615,” of Ruth and Boas (Rijksprentenkabinett, Amsterdam; Kurt Bauch, “Beiträge Zum Werk der Vorläufer Rembrandts, II, Zeichnungen von Jan Pynas,” Oud Holland, v. 52 (1935), pp. 199-200 and pl. 8). Thus the principal stylistic features of our panel converge through Lastman, Jan Pynas, Tengnagel, and Moeyaert, precisely as Professor Held surmised, into the period circa 1615-25, the genesis of the abiding influence of this earlier generation of masters on the young Rembrandt van Rijn.