Jacob van der Ulft
Gorinchem 1627- Noordwijk 1689
Scene in a Prison with Figures playing Cards

PROVENANCE: Jonathan Richardson Senior (1665-1745) (Frits Lugt 2184); Jonathan Richardson Junior (1694-1771) (Frits Lugt 2170); W.D. Austin; Christies, London, 30 March 1971, lot 121; With Colnaghi, London, 1970s; Private UK Collection till now.

Signed lower left corner indistinctly, in pen and brown ink, van Ulft, black chalk, pen and brown ink and watercolour, heightened with white and gold

101 x 142 mm. (4 x 5 in)



The primary support is laid onto an 18th century gold washed mount, possibly that of one of the Richardsons. There is minor oxidizing in the white highlights, visible in the white leggings of the seated figures. There are 2 very minor losses to the paper, in the lower left corner and in the left hand margin, about half way up the drawing. The condition of the watercolour and ink and paper are otherwise very good. There are modern (20th century) pencil inscriptions on the back of the secondary support. The collectors stamp of both Richardsons are applied twice to the drawing.

Jacob was the son of a glazier, a profession in which he was to work. He seems to have been a self-taught painter and draftsman, and was influenced by the amateur artists Constantijn Huygens Jr (1628-1697) and Jan de Bisschop (1628-1671). The former was secretary to the stadholder William III and the latter was a lawyer. Another characteristic Ulft had in common with Jan de Bisschop, according to his biographer Houbraken, was the fact he never travelled to Italy. Ulft was indebted to Huygens for the various administrative positions he held in Gorinchem, which included alderman of the city and a regent of an orphanage. In 1679 he fled to The Hague, in connection with his misappropriation of council funds, a crime for which he was sentenced to prison.

Drawings by van der Ulft usually represent landscapes, and are drawn in pen and brown wash, however a number of figure drawings by the artist are known: a comparable one was on the market at Glerum in Amsterdam, 5 September 2004, lot 65, Three Figures in a Classical Setting, measuring 120 x 97mm, this work also uses watercolour and pen and brown ink. Another biblical drawing of Figures for The Kitto Bible drawn by van der Ulft was exhibited at the Huntington Library in 1969/70. 1

Another drawing, this one gouache on vellum, was sold at Sothebys London, 7 July 2011, lot 21, The Tower of Babel this latter drawing has a large number of figures and is coloured in wash and gouache, like the present drawing.

1.European Drawings from the Kitto Bible, November 1969-Febrary 1970, Marcel Roethlisberger, number 34. I would like to thank Erik Lffler for his assistance on the provenance and the comparisons for our drawing.