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  • WILLEM SCHELLINKS (1627-1678)


    Pen & ink with grey wash on laid paper, watermarked with a posthorn

    21 x 33.7 cm



    Private collection, France



    Rosanna De Gennaro and Paolo Giannattasio, 'Messina nel diario di viaggio e nei disegni di Willem Schellinks', in Prospettiva, no.157-158 (July 2015), pp. 19-49





    Willem Schellinks' diverse career is relatively well-understood today, thanks both to the journals he kept and the drawings which survive, both of which attest to his several lengthy journeys and his relationships with other Netherlandish artists of the time. He may well have studied first with Lambert Doomer, a student of Rembrandt's with whom he travelled around France in 1646; however, it seems that Jan Asselijn was one of the foremost influences on the young artist at first, with Schellinks hoping to meet the older master on the aforementioned French trip but being frustrated in his hopes, and then seeking him out in Amsterdam upon his return to the city. Peter Schatborn has noted that 'The relationship between Schellinks' work and that of Jan Asselijn goes beyond this borrowing [Schellinks had adapted several of Asselijn's drawings himself prior to his meeting him] ...He may have become one of his pupils or assistants; he is in any event referred to as such in an old sale catalogue. It is also possible that he acquired drawings from Asselijn's studio sale after the artist's death in 1652, and that these served as a starting point for his own work." [1]


    Schellinks visited Italy (as well as England, France, Switzerland and Germany) in c.1661-1665, travelling as an escort to Jacques Thierry, the son of a wealthy shipowner, though Schellinks' trip was also sponsored by the Amsterdam lawyer Laurens van der Hem, in order to gather material for an atlas which the lawyer would eventually publish in 46 volumes (with the aforementioned Doomer another contributor), with Schellinks providing an impressive 120 sheets. An event of particular note on this extensive trip was Schellinks' visit to the island of Malta, as well as to Sicily, islands which few if any artists from the Low Countries had drawn or painted before this time, and certainly not with the intention of producing a topographical survey.   


    Schellinks' drawings of Sicily were intended for the tenth volume of the Atlas produced by van der Hem, and were acquired by Prince Eugene of Savoy, who purchased the group at an auction in 1725, before Emperor Charles VI bought it for the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, where it remains today. These important drawings were brought back to the attention of scholars thanks in part to the 1983 publication by Bernard Aikema, W. Schellinks fecit. Viaggio al Sud 1664-65, which examined the significance of the artist's sojourn in the Southern part of Italy, as well as Sicily and Malta, and also included reproductions of drawings that had lain hidden in private collections or unidentified in institutions. 



    Schellinks arrived at the Port of Messina in 1664, having begun his journey in Amsterdam on the 14th July 1661. The artist recorded this journey in his Dagh-register, a diary in three small manuscripts which are known in two version: the first, which is believed to be autograph, is preserved in the Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen; the other, a replica with some variations, in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The great biographer of Dutch artists, Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719), had seen this text in the home of Arnold van Halen in Amsterdam, and drew on it when composing his note on Schellinks. Houbraken detailed the artist's itinerary, which began in England (volume 1 of the Register), then France (vol. II), the time spent in Italy, Sicily and Malta and, finally, the return journey to Switzerland, Germany and Holland (vol. III). In spite of Houbraken's reference to the text, little importance was attached to the journey and the drawings Schellinks made, and it is only in the last fifty years that a proper reassessment has been made and more of the series have come to light. 




    • NOTES

      [1]  P. Schatborn, Drawn to Warmth: 17th-century Dutch artists in Italy (exhib. cat.), Amsterdam (2001), p.174[1] P. Schatborn, Drawn to Warmth: 17th-century Dutch artists in Italy (exhib. cat.), Amsterdam (2001), p.174

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