Jacob de Wit (1695–1754)

Jacob de Wit (1695–1754)

Jacob de Wit (Amsterdam 1695 – 1754 Amsterdam)

An Allegory of Music

Pen and black ink, brownish-grey wash, heightened with white (partly oxidized), double framing lines in pen and grey ink, on light brown paper, 110 x 69 mm (4.3 x 2.7 inch); laid down onto a collector’s mount with framing lines in pen and black ink and green wash

Signed ‘J.d.wit / inv’ (pen and black ink, centre right)

Private collection ‘Monsieur J.J.S.’, Paris, until 2014


Jacob de Wit was born in Amsterdam and received his early training when he was only nine years old from the painter Albert Spiers.1 At the age of thirteen he left for Antwerp to study with Jacob van Hall and became an admirer of Rubens and Van Dyck. De Wit quickly developed into the leading decorative painter in Amsterdam. From 1717 on De Wit had so much work on his hands ‘that he scarcely knew were to begin’, according to the artist’s biographer Jacob van Gool in 1750.

One of De Wit’s specialties were grisaille paintings, giving the illusion of marble reliefs. These grisailles are knowns as ‘Witjes’, after the artist to whom they had brought such fame. Many of the houses along the Herengracht and Keizersgracht canals of Amsterdam are still adorned with ceiling paintings and wall panels by De Wit. Together with Cornelis Troost, De Wit is rightly considered among the most important and gifted artists of the Dutch eighteenth century, the Silver Age.

This charming and well preserved drawing, showing a putto playing a viola da gamba and other putti singing and directing while holding oblong music books, is possibly a design for one of the artist’s grisaille paintings. A comparable rapidly executed drawing in the same technique of an Allegory of Viticulture, is preserved in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.2


1. For the artist, see: A. Staring, Jacob de Wit: 1695–1754, Amsterdam 1958, J. Huisken, Jacob de Wit: de Amsteltitiaan, Amsterdam 1986 and G. van den Hout and R. Schillemans, Putti en Cherubijntjes: het religieuze werk van Jacob de Wit (1695–1754), Haarlem/Amsterdam 1995-96.

2. Pen and black ink, brown wash, heightened with white, 167 x 121 mm, inv. no. RP-T-1888-A-1550.

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Jacob de Wit (1695–1754)
Jacob de Wit (1695–1754)
Jacob de Wit (1695–1754)
Jacob de Wit (1695–1754)
Jacob de Wit (1695–1754)
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