Knotty old Tree in the Dunes with a Fence

Claes van Beresteyn

(1627 - Haarlem - 1684)
Pen and brown ink on paper 15 x 13 cm (6.9 x 5.1 in.) Signed in monogram 'CVB' Haarlem, The Netherlands

Nicolaes, or Claes, van Beresteyn was born in Haarlem as the youngest of six children in a Catholic patrician family. His father, the prominent lawyer Paulus van Beresteyn (1588-1636) commissioned his portrait from by Frans Hals in 1919, now in the Louvre. Together with the pendant portrait of his third wife Catharina Both van der Eem (1589-1666) and a monumental family portrait with their children, their established position in Haarlem society apparent.

On January 5th, 1644, Claes joined the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke but was clearly not dependent on his artistic output to support himself as his oeuvre is extremely small. He was a pupil of Salomon de Bray (1597-1664) but may have been taught as well by his brother-in-law Pieter Cornelisz. Verbeeck (1610-1654) who was married to his sister Elisabeth. However, Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-1682), the first artists to choose small groups of trees in the dunes nearby Haarlem as a new subject instead of the usual choice for vast landscapes, seems to have been the most influential although an official connection is not recorded. Claes Beresteyn never married and lived in his parental home in the Zijlstraat where he drew up his will on June 18th, 1677 with notary Gellinckhuizen, creating a hofje (or courtyard) for twelve elderly Catholic women. Although Beresteyn was a Cathalic, he was buried in the St Bavo church in Haarlem on 10 March 1684.

In 1940, Horst Gerson devoted an entire study to Claes van Beresteyn, whom he described as an art-loving dilettante from an aristocratic family and the author of thirty-eight drawings of which only two were signed with a monogram. Frits Lugt however only considered three drawings to be entirely autograph: one in the British Museum, London; one in the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen and the present drawing. Although many scholars have over the years reattributed work published by Gerson to Beresteyn’s contemporary Adriaen Verboom and to a lesser degree to Cornelis Vroom, his neighbor in the Zijlstraat, it was not until 2017 that a clear distinguishment was established by Jeroen Giltaij. A third signed drawing in the P. & N. de Boer Foundation in Amsterdam, unknown to both Gerson and Lugt, shows the same monogram in the upper right corner. In addition to these three signed drawings, autograph versions are in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and in a private collection in New York.

Most probably drawn after life on the outskirts of Haarlem, Knotty old Tree in the Dunes with a Fence, shows a detailed rendering with short, pointed lines and dots, characteristic of Beresteyn. Subjects for van Beresteyn's rare drawings and etchings are exclusively the swampy and overgrown dunes with battered trees on the outskirts of Haarlem. The willow tree with its gnarled bark and young sprouting twigs, shows great similarity with the willow trees in the drawings in Amsterdam and Weimar. One of only three signed drawings, this work has not appeared on the art market since its public auction in 1919 when it was acquired by a Van Beresteyn descendant and remained in private hands ever since.

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Mireille Mosler, Ltd.

"Old Master Paintings and Drawings, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Paintings and Drawings,"

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