Jacob Cats
Altona 1741-Amsterdam 1799
A Young Man skating with a Tent in the background

PROVENANCE: Carl Mayer von Rothschild (Frankfurt 1788-1855 Naples), and thence by descent.

Signed and dated J: C inv/ 1776 (verso) and signed on the mount J: Cats/ fec 1776

Black chalk, pen and brown ink and watercolour, pen and brown ink framing lines

83 x 56 mm. (3 x 2 in.)


Jacob Cats was a painter and draughtsman, and he owes his fame largely due to his activities as a landscape artist. Indeed the art connoisseur C. Josi (1765-1828) (Lugt 573) commented on Jacob Cats watercolours: His compositions are done with a great facility. His rural scenes are rich, charming and natural. Jacob Cats was the son of Johannes Cats, a Dutch book dealer, who moved back to Amsterdam from Germany following the death of his second wife. Jacob trained as a bookbinder, and as an engraver, first under Abraham Starre and later with Peter Louw. Cats had further training with the pattern designer Gerard van Rossum, and he became a wallpaper painter in the Amsterdam factory of Jan Hendrick Troost van Groenendoelen. Cats established his own wallpaper factory with financial assistance from his relative Willem Writs, Jan de Bosch and Johann Goll van Franckenstein the elder.

The size of our drawings is not unusual for the artist and is very comparable to Winter Landscape with Skaters, measuring 101 x 76 mm, which was on the art market in 2003 and another of Skating in Winter a watercolour that was from the collection of Bernard Houthakker.1

The tent with the Dutch flag in the back has nothing to do with the army. It is a 'koek-en-zoopie tent', where one can buy cookies (snacks), pea soup and warm chocolate. It is a typical Dutch phenomenon in wintertime and still exists in Holland today.

The winter subject matter was one that appealed to Jacob Cats and there are many examples of his winter scenes. 2

Our drawing was once in the collection of Carl Mayer von Rothschild, who was a German born banker in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the founder of the Rothschild banking family of Naples. Born Kalman Mayer Rothschild in Frankfurt am Main he was the fourth of the five sons of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1743-1812) and Gutl Schnapper (1753-1849). He would become known as Carl by the family, except the English relatives who called him Charles. He was trained in his fathers banking business and lived at home until the age of 29 when he acquired a house in Frankfurt, in preparation for his marriage to Adelheid Herz (1800-1853). In an effort to expand the family business across Europe Carls brothers were sent to different European cities to establish a banking branch. Carl was sent to Naples where he establish C.M. de Rothschild & Figli, to operate as a satellite office to the Rothschild banking family of Germany. Carl proved himself a strong financial manager and establish a good working relationship with Luigi de Medici, and his bank became the dominant banking house in Naples. In 1822 he was granted the title of Baron or Freiherr by Austrias Francis I. In 1829 he was appointed consul-general of Sicily. In 1837 Carl built the Villa Gnthersburg on a large country property outside Frankfurt.

1.Anonymous sale, Sothebys Amsterdam, 4 November 2003, lot 88, and Sotheby Mak van Waay, 17 November 1975, The collection of the Late Bernard Houthakker, lot 227.

2.See Een Kunstkast gaat open. Tekeningen uit de verzameling Teding van Berkhout, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, 15 September1995-7 January 1996, number 47, Winter, and another watercolour of February: Men Cutting Ice, Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 14 November 1983, lot 14.