Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

De Gheyn II’s studies of the natural world are some of the best examples of his facility as a draftsman. In this drawing, the artist adhered to contemporary conventions of scientific illustration by portraying the dragonfly from three principal positions—the front, rear, and side. Rather than placing the specimen haphazardly on the sheet, De Gheyn created a balanced composition by arranging the three views around a blank rectangular space in the center. Working in brown ink over a preliminary study in black chalk, he delicately pictured the glossy sheen of the insect’s body and the two pairs of transparent finely veined wings. The drawing’s mimetic effect is further underscored by subtle shadows that the dragonflies cast onto the surface of the sheet. Both a spectacular work of art and an intricate depiction of a zoological specimen, this drawing attests to the affinity of art and science in the early Dutch Republic.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
TL41760.3
People
Jacques de Gheyn II, Dutch (Antwerp, Netherlands 1565 - 1629 The Hague, Netherlands)
Title
Three Studies of a Dragonfly
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
c. 1600
Culture
Dutch
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brown ink over black chalk on cream antique laid paper
Dimensions
15.2 x 18.9 cm (6 x 7 7/16 in.)
Provenance
[Christie's, London, 3 May 1979, lot 46], sold; to Maida and George Abrams, Boston, 1979.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, Massachusetts
Object Number
TL41760.3
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

The Draughtsman at Work. Drawing in the Golden Century of Dutch Art, checklist (unpublished, 1980), no. 12

I. Q. van Regteren Altena, Jacques de Gheyn: Three Generations, M. Nijhoff Publishers (The Hague, Boston and London, 1983), vol. 2, cat. no. II 900a, p. 140; repr. vol. 3, p. 182, pl. 359a

A. Th. van Deursen and Emil Karel Josef Reznicek, Jacques de Gheyn II: Drawings, exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 1985), under cat. no. 81, p. 79

Institut Néerlandais, Le Héraut du Dix-Septième Siècle. Dessins et gravures de Jacuqes de Gheyn II..., exh. cat., Institut Néerlandais (Paris, France, 1985), sub. cat. no. 32

William W. Robinson, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., H. O. Zimman, Inc. (Lynn, MA, 1991), cat. no. 8, pp. 34-35, repr.

William W. Robinson, Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 29, repr.

Bobbie Leigh and Rebecca Dimling Cochran, "The Top 100 Collectors in America", Art & Antiques (March 2003), vol. 26, no. 3, entire issue, repr. p. 22

Susan Dackerman, ed., Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2011), cat. 44 p.206-207, repr.

Exhibition History

The Draughtsman at Work. Drawing in the Golden Century of Dutch Art, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 11/21/1980 - 01/04/1981

Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 02/23/1991 - 04/18/1991; Albertina Gallery, Vienna, 05/16/1991 - 06/30/1991; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 01/22/1992 - 04/22/1992; Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/10/1992 - 12/06/1992

Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, British Museum, London, 06/13/2002 - 09/22/2002; Institut Néerlandais, Paris, 10/10/2002 - 12/08/2002; Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/22/2003 - 07/06/2003

Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/06/2011 - 12/10/2011; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston, 01/17/2012 - 04/08/2012

32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/08/2017 - 01/17/2018

The Art of Drawing in the Early Dutch Golden Age, 1590–1630: Selected Works from the Abrams Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/09/2017 - 01/14/2018

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu