Egbert van Heemskerck the Younger was an English painter of Dutch origin working in London. His Anglo –Dutch satirical low-life tavern scenes and doctor’s interiors must be seen within that contemporary, early Hanoverian society and artistic world that produced the likes of William Hogarth.
In 17th and early 18th century interior scenes of doctors, but also of quack doctors and even alchemists, a huge stuffed fish is hanging from the ceiling. Our doctor-pharmacist has an unseen number of four sturgeons.
About Egbert van Heemskerck II
Probably Haarlem circa 1676 - 1744 UK
Painter of humorous low-life tavern scenes, doctors at work and Quaker assemblies.
Pupil of his father, Egbert I. Confusion still reigns between the artistic production of father and son, although the differences between both should be clear.
Both specialized in humoristic, funny genre scenes of the lower classes of society, often in comic, sometimes even vulgar situations. Often these scenes are located in taverns.
- Egbert I (Haarlem 1634 - 1704 London) was active in Haarlem from 1646 to 1663, and in the following years in various Dutch cities. He was influenced by Adriaen Brouwer, Jan Miense Molenaer, Adriaen and Isaac van Ostade and by Jan Steen. Around the middle of the 1670s he moved with his family to England, where he lived in London and Oxford until his death in 1704.
- Our painter, Egbert II, was a pupil of his father, by whom he was strongly influenced: he adopted some similar compositions with updated costumes. He is said to have become at a later age an actor and singer at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in Clerckenwell (London).
About 17th century interior scenes with doctors and alchemists
Interior scenes representing doctors, alchemists, pharmacists, dentists and quack doctors at work were popular subjects of Dutch and Flemish genre scene painters.
Their interiors can be recognized by a single large, stuffed fish, usually a sturgeon (which in those days still lived in our waters), in some cases even a crocodile or iguana, hanging from the ceiling. In our painting four fishes hang from the ceiling, which is really exceptional. Today in Hammarby near Uppsala, in the summer house of the famous Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) still hangs a strange fish. Linnaeus is the father of biological classification of plants and animals, That fish was a present from his pupils who, as a joke, had assembled different animals to produce one large species, unknown to their professor.
Many interior scenes show a physician inspecting a urine flask. The patient, a young, pale woman, is suffering from lovesickness, which the painter is then laughing about. In an open book in a painting by Jan Steen, in the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, one reads in Dutch ‘Medicine is of no avail, for the condition is lovesickness’. These scenes were inspired by contemporary theatre plays.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a pleasant historical flashback of three hundred years into the life of a village doctor.