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All That Glistens

Daniel Bretschneider the Younger
act. 1623–58
Festive Gathering and Figures in a Gallery
oil on glass, mica and copper, with a cut perspective corner
8 x 9⅝ inches
20.3 x 23.7 cm
Lent by a private collection, New York

Painted on multiple translucent layers of mica, glass and enamel plates, this intriguing diorama depicts a fictitious palace in which many elegant figures are in conversation or playing music. The bottom left corner of the picture is partially silvered, which appears like a reflective, shimmering body of water that is animated by a fountain and a few swans. Several other kinds of birds, including a peacock, a falcon, a crane and a chasing hawk can be spotted, in addition to at least three different types of dogs.

Daniel Bretschneider the Younger was a painter and printmaker active in Dresden in the first half of the seventeenth century. His works can be found in public collections such as the Dresden Armoury, Museum Naturalienkabinett Waldenburg (Inv. NAT 0165), Detroit Institute of Art (Inv. 1994.22) and the Art Institute of Chicago (Inv. 1942.142) – almost all distinctively executed on a layers of glass and mica, a naturally occurring crystal that can be delaminated into incredibly thin and durable sheets that range from translucent to opaque in appearance.

Our picture is most comparable to a slightly larger composition in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. no. SK-NM-8041; fig. 1). Signed and dated ‘D.B. 1634’, it was given to the museum in 1885 by Abraham Bredius, the renowned Dutch art historian and director of the Maurishuis (1889-1909). In both pictures the viewer’s eye is pulled into the scene by the diagonals of the floor tiles leading up to the colonnade in the upper right corner of the composition, achieved by the layering of multiple copper plates. The convincing spacial quality is enhanced by the delicate layering of foliage in the background, painted on mutiple pieces of glass. ❖

Fig. 1 Monogrammist D.B., Festive Gathering and Figures from a Commedia dell’Arte in a Gallery, 1634. Rijksmuseum, inv. SK-NM-8041

with Alan Jacobs Gallery, London

Dr. and Mrs. Ronald Lawrence, acquired directly from the above, February 1985

New York, Sotheby’s, 22 October 2021, lot 166

Private collection, New York

EXHIBITIONS

Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988 (as by Hendrik van Steenwijk the Younger)

Installation view of the present painting in All That Glistens
More from the exhibition