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Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (1728–1782)

Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (1728–1782)

Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (The Hague 1728 – 1782 The Hague)

Peacocks, Turkeys, Pheasants, Doves and Fowl in a Farmyard

Watercolour, brown ink framing lines, 260 x 357 mm (10.2 x 14.1 inch)

Signed  ‘La Fargúe v.d.’ (graphite, verso); inscribed ‘JChambre fec’ (in ligature, pen and brown ink, recto); and annotated ‘27 February 1798 N 29’ (graphite, verso)

Provenance
- Possibly Theodorus van Duysel (d. 1784), The Hague; his sale, Amsterdam (Van der Schley … Yver), 11 October 1784, Album D, No. 69: ‘Twee dito [stuks] bevallige Hofgezigten, gestoffeert met verscheide Land- en Watergevogelten, uitvoerig met Zapverven geteekent, door P.C. la Fargue’ (‘Two ditto [pieces] of attractive farmyard views, with several land and water birds, elaborately drawn in watercolours, by P.C. la Fargue’)
- Sale 27 February 1798, No. 29 (possibly the sale of Jacobus Beyen [Lugt 5718], which took place on 26 February 1798 and further days, although this drawing does not appear to have been included in the printed catalogue of the sale)
- Private collection, The Netherlands

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Paulus Constantijn was the most talented and the most productive member of the La Fargue family of artists from The Hague; three of his brothers and one sister were also artists.1 Probably entirely self-taught, he applied himself at first to the making of painted wall hangings, some of them commissioned by the art dealer Gerard Hoet (1698–1760). He soon specialised in painting and drawing town views and landscapes with topographical elements. While his paintings – mostly relatively modest in size and influenced by seventeenth-century painters such as Jan van der Heyden – are rather static, his drawings are much more spontaneous and show greater orginality.

The signature on the verso of our drawing ‘La Fargúe v.d.’ (an abbreviated form of ‘ad vivam delineavit’) is La Fargue’s usual form of signing drawn works.2 Charles Dumas has observed that this work shows the influence of watercolours by Aert Schouman (1710–1792), especially the loose application of washes in the sky.3 No other views such as the present sheet are known by the artist, but from the reference in the sale catalogue of the collection of Theodorus van Duysel of 1784 it is known that he must have made at least two such works.

The inscription on the recto of the drawing refers to Jean de La Chambre II (1648–1685) of Haarlem.4 No paintings by this artist are known, and his drawings are exceedingly rare – only about half a dozen are known, all preserved in museum collections, for example his Landscape with Fowl in the British Museum, London (see last fig.).5 Paulus Constantijn’s drawing is certainly similar to De La Chambre’s known works, but why the inscription occurs on the present drawing is not clear. ‘Natekeningen’, copy drawings by eighteenth-century artists after works by their seventeenth-century predecessors, which were highly fashionable during the eighteenth century, are not known by members of the La Fargue family. It may be that this is a unique 'natekening' by Paulus Constantijn after a now lost work by De La Chambre, but the inscription may also have been added by a collector or dealer who believed he possessed a work by De La Chambre – or wished potential buyers to believe so.

Paulus Constantijn’s younger and less talented brother, Karel La Fargue (1738–1793), might have been inspired by drawings such as the present work by his brother. Although he started producing original works, from the 1760s he became highly active as a forger of drawings, producing works in the style of a great variety of Dutch seventeenth-century artists.6 Unlike the present sheet, which is signed by Paulus Constantijn on the verso, Karel’s drawings were not credited in this way and were intended to deceive. Karel may have been driven to this doubtful practice by the financial difficulties the La Fargue family found itself in during this period – in January 1785 the family’s belongings were confiscated and sold for a mere 190 guilders.7

The attribution of this drawing has been confirmed by Drs Charles Dumas, who believes this to be an early work by the artist. I am extremely grateful to Mr Dumas for his extensive comments on this drawing (email correspondence of 18 February 2014 and 29 May 2014).

SOLD TO A PRIVATE COLLECTOR, EUROPE

1. For the artist, see: C. Dumas, Het verheerlijkt Den Haag: achttiende-eeuwse aquarellen en tekeningen door de familie La Fargue en haar tijdgenoten, The Hague 1984.

2. See for instance his signature on  the Winter View near Voorschoten, see C. Dumas and R.-J. te Rijdt, Kleur en Raffinement, tekeningen uit de Unicorno collectie, exh. cat. Amsterdam (Rembrandthuis) and Dordrecht (Dordrechts Museum) 1994-95, cat. no. 58, pp. 123-24, repr.

3. For instance Schouman’s Dutch Landscape with Water Birds, see Dumas and Te Rijdt, op. cit., cat. no. 53, pp. 116-18, repr. (colour).

4. For De La Chambre, see: M. Royalton-Kisch, 'Fowl play? From van Borssom to Quina and La Chambre', Master Drawings, 1998, 1, pp. 49-50, figs. 8-9.

5. Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, 264 x 201 mm, British Museum, London, inv. no. 00.11-252, Royalton-Kisch, op. cit., fig. 9.

6. No less than 179 forgeries by Karel La Fargue were identified by Charles Dumas and Michiel Plomp in their groundbreaking article: ‘Karel La Fargue (1738 – 1793) as a forger of seventeenth-century Dutch drawings’, Oud Holland, 112, 1998, pp. 1-76.

7. Dumas and Plomp, op. cit., p. 7.

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Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (1728–1782)
Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (1728–1782)
Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (1728–1782)
Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (1728–1782)
Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (1728–1782)
Paulus Constantijn La Fargue (1728–1782)
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