Circle of Cornelis Gysbrechts

A Trompe L’Oeil with a Letter addressed to Monsieur Hans Pfilander, an Almanac for 1683, a Pair of Scissors, their Leather Etui and a Key


Oil on Canvas


Trompe L'Oeil


47.8(h) x 35.8(w) cms


Dated 1682


On his departure from Copenhagen, Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts is believed to have travelled to Stockholm. There he painted a large letter rack, dated 1673 (in the collection of Stockholms Riddarhus), and he also very likely fulfilled commissions for the Swedish king.

The inscription (in Swedish) on the almanac translates roughly as follows:

Upon the year after the Birth of Christ
Calculated and painted
M.[Monsieur] Stephan Furman
Printed by Dawid Ranspe

Almanacs of the 17th Century were essentially calenders, often richly illustrated and with the addition of a calculation of the astronomical and astrological aspects for the year to come. Our picture is dated Anno 1682, which would suggest that M. Furman's almanac had just been printed and bound and would be published in time to cover the year 1683.

The letter is inscribed (in Latin as was costumary between learned gentlemen at the time). The title of Monsieur was adopted throughout Scandinavia and would have been pronounced in the local accent:

Nº 3
A Monsieur -
Monsieur Hans Pfilander

Se presentemus a ['let us present to']
Cito ['in haste'] Norcoping

The letter accompanying the almanac is made out to a Hans Philander residing in Norrköping, the second largest town in Sweden at the time. This is a made up name that was first used as a pseudonym by the German satirist Johann [Hans] Michael Moscherosch (1601-1669), who in 1643 published a famous satire entitled 'Wunderliche und wahrhafftige Gesichte Philanders von Sittewald', or 'Peculiar and True Visions of Philander von Sittewald'. The popularity of this work and the widespread familiarity with this name are proven by the fact that the Danish/Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), in 1723 ie much later, would drop the name into his satirical comedy Jacob von Tyboe.

With this in mind, it is tempting to speculate that the artist behind this work is identical with the now unknown Swedish artist M. Stephan Furman, who proudly claimed to have illustrated or, perhaps significantly using his own words, painted the almanac. The proven presence of Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts in Sweden around the time of the picture's creation, very much in the manner of Gysbrechts, might suggest that its author was, if not an actual student of the master, then certainly someone who was heavily influenced by his style of trompe l'oeil painting. Either that or Gysbrechts himself painted the picture, copying the words from a Swedish almanac that he saw there.


Private Collection, UK