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Guardroom with Monkeys
(c. 1633 Belgium)
with H. Steinmeyer, Luzern; Reinhardt, New York, 1927; M. Schloss; with Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam, 1936; Looted by the Nazi authorities, July 1940; Recovered by the Allies, 1946; in the custody of the Dutch Government; Restituted in February 2006 to the heir of Jacques Goudstikker.Literature:
Old Master Paintings: An illustrated summary catalogue, Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst (The Netherlandish Office for the Fine Arts), The Hague, 1992, p. 288, no. 2536, illustrated; E.P. van der Ploeg Buijsen, 'Acquisitions for the Mauritshuis over the past two years', Mauritshuis in focus, VI, 1993, pp. 29-30, nos. 2, 9; N. Sluijter-Seiffert, Mauritshuis: Illustrated general catalogue, Amsterdam, 1993, p. 196, no. 1092.Exhibition History:
Bolsward, Stadhuis, Het dier in de Beeldende kunst Bolsward, 17 June-29 August 1953, no. 134; Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, David Teniers de Jonge: Schilderijen, Tekeningen, 1991, no. 6; The Hague, Mauritshuis, on loan.Description:
Pictures of monkeys had been popular from the sixteenth-century and it was Teniers who developed the theme in the seventeenth-century. By the time Teniers painted Guardroom with Monkeys around 1633, monkeys had appeared in images as diverse as playing cards, Dürer prints and paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Indeed, by the early 1630s there had been close to a century of monkey images circulated in the Netherlands and their long association with sinfulness and folly would not have been lost on Teniers' viewers, the educated humanist set of which he was a member. The primary role of the monkey in visual and literary sources of the sixteenth century was to represent the irrational and foolish side of man's nature, but the underlying suspicions about these animals reveal considerably darker connotations. Indeed, Luther believed that they were actually devils and Calvin described them as apostles of the Antichrist. Both the Devil and the Antichrist were referred to as 'apes' (or imitators) of God, diametrically opposed to everything beautiful and good (see M. Sullivan, ‘Peter Bruegel the Elder’s Two Monkeys: A New Interpretation,’ The Art Bulletin, vol. 63, 1981, pp. 116-8). Dürer's engraving, Madonna with a Monkey, suggests this dichotomy by contrasting the Virgin, who sits in an idyllic landscape holding the Christ Child on her knee, with a chained monkey at her feet. Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Two Monkeys (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) of 1562 has been interpreted as a depiction of two specific sins, avarice and prodigality. The two chained monkeys appear within the arched window of a building with thick stone walls overlooking a city. Scattered empty nut shells associate the monkey on the right with prodigality while the monkey on the left, who looks directly at the viewer, appears to hold something to his chest and is, thus, associated with avarice.