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Jan Asselijn (Dieppe before 1615-Amsterdam 1652). View of the Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli

Jan Asselijn (Dieppe before 1615-Amsterdam 1652). View of the Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli. Pen and grey ink, brush and grey wash; 165 x 251mm., 6 1/4 x 9 15/16 in.

Jan Asselijn (Dieppe before 1615-Amsterdam 1652). View of the Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli. Pen and grey ink, brush and grey wash; 165 x 251mm., 6 1/4 x 9 15/16 in.


Jan Asselijn (Dieppe before 1615-Amsterdam 1652)
View of the Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli
Pen and grey ink, brush and grey wash; 165 x 251mm., 6 1/4 x 9 15/16 in.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

In technique and style this sheet belongs to a group of drawings, consisting largely of views of Italian landscape and ruins, which has been associated with the Dutch Romanist artists, above all Jan Asselijn, Thomas Wijck (Beverwijck bei Haarlem 1616-Haarlem 1677) and Willem Schellinks (Amsterdam, 1627 [?]-1678 Amsterdam). The distinction between their hands is still not fully established. However, the work of Anne Charlotte Steland-Stief and others over the past three decades has clarified the problem somewhat. The generational difference between the agitated, almost romantic, work of Schellinks and the work of Asselijn is more obvious than that of Wijck, who was closer to Asselijn in age. In this drawing one must focus on the differences between Wijck and Asselijn.

Steland has isolated a group of eleven drawings which are preparatory studies for three sets of prints by Gabriel Pérelle (Hollstein, I, Jan Asselijn, pp. 43ff, 5-32; Steland, 1989, pp. 204ff.). Her premise is that the closer a drawing resembles this group in technique, style and paper, the more certain its attribution to Asselijn. However, one must remember that they are finished modelli for the prints. Some are even incised for transfer to the plate. The present sheet, in any case, matches them closely in many features. Secure drawings by Asselijn show a crisp, sharp outline of architectural forms, even if the actual outlines are discontinuous, and are accented by scallops and zig-zags. Within this structure Asselijn enlivens his light and shade with subtle washes and vigorously contoured strokes of the brush.

The forms of Wijck in contrast are more open. While his pen and brush follow many of the same routines as Asselijn’s, their effect is more fluid and atmospheric. The edges of walls and roofs, for example, are defined with the same meandering fine pen line, but the line does not convey the crisp intersection of planes as in Asselijn. It is dissolved in the bath of light and functions more as an enlivening rhythm within the sensuous washes. A characteristic example is the contrast between Wijck’s signed pen and brown wash drawing of an Italian courtyard in the Pierpont Morgan Library (acc. no. 1969.8) with Asselijn’s View of the Colosseum in Brussels (Steland, no. 39, fig. 5; Kat. 1913, no. 90), or another View of the Colosseum in the Teyler’s Museum, Haarlem (Steland no. 72, fig. 23; Kat. 1904, P. 93), both studies for Pérelle’s prints and therefore securely attributed. The present sheet appears much closer to Asselijn than to Wijck. It is somewhat looser than Asselijn’s highly finished Aqueduct at Frascati (executed for Pérelle) in the Morgan Library (Acc. no. 1969.8),[1] but it seems more astringent than Wijck’s most characteristic sheets. It matches exactly Asselijn’s more relaxed drawings for Pérelle, like the View of the Temple of Hadrian’s Villa in the Rijksprentenkabinett (Steland no. 5, fig. 16; Inv. no. 1969:14A).

Furthermore the paper, which is cool white, rather lightweight, with narrowly spaced laid lines, resembles that of the secure Amsterdam sheet mentioned above  The watermark on the present drawing may also be close to the “Krone mit Lilienwappen” on the Amsterdam drawing as well as on another View of the Temple of the Sybil in the Gabinetto nazionale delle stampe in Rome (Steland no. 136, fig. 18; N. 503 [338]). One other drawing of strikingly similar handling is worth noting: the study of the Arco degli Argentarii in the Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen (Steland, no. 141, fig. 44; Inv. no. J. Asselyn 4; Kat. 1869, no. 39).

The present drawing has been examined by Marijn Schapelhouman, Martin Royalton-Kisch, and (in photographs) Anne Charlotte Steland and George Keyes. While the latter are inclined towards Wijck, Schapelhouman attributes the drawing confidently to Asselijn.

Two other views of the Temple of the Sybil attributed to Asselijn exist in the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt (Steland 50, 51, figs. 20, 21; Inv. no. AE 603, 604).

Bibliography: unpublished
Related Literature: Anne Charlotte Steland, Jan Asselijn (Diss. Freiburg im Breisgau 1965), Amsterdam 1971

_________________, Die Zeichnungen de Jan Asslijn, Friedingen 1989

_________________, “Zum Zeichnerischen Werk des Jan Asselijn – Neue Funde in Forchungsperspektiven,” Oud Holland, 94 (1980) 213ff.

_________________, “Zu Willem Schellinks Entwicklung als Zeichner,” Niederdeutsche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte, 25 (1986).

On the temple of the Sybil at Tivoli, see Delbrück, Hellenistische Bauten in Latium, II, 11ff.

[1]Felice Stampfle, Rubens and Rembrandt in their Century, Flemish and Dutch Drawings of the 17th Century from the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1979, pp. 122f. no. 94 (ill.).