THEODOR VERCRUYS (c.1680-1739)
A PAIR OF ITALIANATE CAPRICCI
Pen & ink with monochrome wash on laid paper
Both 21 x 16 cm
Vercruys is one of the Dutch artists active in Italy during the 17th century about whom we know least today: there is no documentary evidence even to show his ever having lived in the Low Countries, instead we only know him as an artist active first in Florence, in 1695, then in Rome from 1700-1706, and then Florence again until his death in 1739. He was evidently a member of the Bentveughels, the Netherlandish artistic 'brotherhood' in Rome, whose members were each given a nickname (bentnamen) by their peers, Vercruys' being Sonneschyn ('Sunshine').
The late Erik Löffler's comprehensive study into the artist establishes a thorough historiography for the artist's life, beginning with the first printed mention of Vercruys, found in the artist's lexicon of P. A. Orlandi from 1704, where he is referred to as Tèodoro della Croce Olandese. The second source on Vercruys's life is the unpublished artist's lexicon Vite di pittori by F. M. N. Gabburri, written between 1738-1741, whose manuscript is preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence.
The first scholar to identify Vercruys' drawn oueuvre was Alfred von Wurzbach, who mentioned five drawing in Lille, Vienna and Lubeck. A further drawing appeared in 1976, on the art market in London, with several further appearing at auction later and more identified by Löffler in 2000. There exists another sheet in the Royal Collections Trust; and, alongside this small body of drawings, there are numerous engravings which Vercruys created throughout his career.
Our drawings conform exactly to the type described by Löffler: " [Vercruy's drawings] ...display a number of recurring characteristics: foliage drawn in a continuous, spiral line, decoratively conceived buildings of alternating rectilinear and circular dimensions, rock formations comprised of rectangles, often parallel to the image plane, powerfully drawn cumulus clouds, and groups of several birds in the sky. These motifs often also include a small, short-haired dog." [Our translation from the original Dutch, cf. Bibliography below]
Erik P. Löffler, Theodor Vercruys (ca. 1680-1739), een vergeten Nederlandse kunstenaar in Florence, in Oud Holland, Vol. 114 no. 2 (2000), pp.195-208