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Adriaen van Stalbemt
(1582 - Antwerp - 1662)

“An Allegory of the four Elements”

Oil on panel
49 x 77 cm
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Van Stalbemt was a versatile artist who was active as a painter as well as a printmaker. He was mainly known for his landscapes which typically included religious, mythological and allegorical scenes. Adriaen van Stalbemt was born on 12 June 1580. However no baptismal records from Antwerp’s churches for the artist exist as his family was Protestant. After the fall of Antwerp in 1585, his family moved for religious reasons to Middelburg. Here he probably received his artistic training.
He returned to Antwerp after 1609, probably after the entry into effect of the Twelve Years’ Truce, which heralded a cessation of hostilities between the Habsburg rulers of the Southern Netherlands and the Dutch Republic. He was admitted in 1610 as a master of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke. In 1616 Hans Mesmaeckers was registered as his pupil. In 1617 he was elected dean of the Guild. He established himself as a painter of landscapes but was also a capable staffage and animal painter.

In 1633 the artist was active in London for about ten months. Cornelis de Bie reported that King Charles I of England had invited the artist to England. During his stay he painted two landscape views of Greenwich with King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria (still in the Royal Collection).

According to Dr. Ertz this painting was painted in Antwerp around 1620. The state of preservation of this painting can be described as very good. The entire composition impresses with its radiant colourfulness. Adriaen van Stalbemt was – unlike his great role model Jan Breughel the Elder – was not only active as a landscape painter, but also as a figure painter. While the landscapes of his extensive work are inspired by rolemodels, he is independent and unmistakable as a figure painter. This is clear in the faces with the pointed noses and the often slightly opened mouths. The models and inspiration for this painting were the series of elements that Jan Breughel the Elder created with Hendrick van Balen or Hendrick de Clerck (see lit. fig. 148-151). The landscape is based on Jan Breughel the Elder and Abraham Govaerts, while the figures, in spite of all Stalbemt’s characteristics, are based on Frans Francken the Younger. Although the subject of allegory as a whole has occupied him again and again throughout his creative period, so far only 5 other paintings with this particular theme have come to our attention. Four of them date from the period from 1600 to the 1620s and are listed in the book about this painter (cf. Lit. Cat. 123-125a). Due to the stylistic similarities, we date the painting to be examined to around 1620.


Private collection, United Kingdom;
Bonhams, London, 2006 (as circle Abraham Govaerts);
With P. de Boer, Amsterdam;
Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam;
Private collection, The Netherlands.


This work is accompanied with an expertise by Dr. Klaus Ertz on 23rd of October 2021.