Active The Hague 1683 - 1686 and again until 1733
A young Boy with a Candleholder and Candle in his Hand
Jacob Schalcken began his career as a pupil of his uncle Godfried Schalken (1643 - 1706). In 1717 he was elected to the Guild of St Luke in The Hague where he appears to have lived for his entire life.
He was to paint portraits, some genre scenes, and especially candle-lit scenes like those of his uncle. Nocturns were extremely popular in the Dutch Republic and on occasion Godfried Schalcken copied the figures from noctures by other European artists including Rubens, Jacopo Bassano, and El Greco. The young Jacob would surely have been exposed to the greats of the European Baroque in his uncle's studio through prints of their work.
Works by Jacob are rare and it seems likely that his paintings may be mistaken for those by his uncle. Indeed, after Godfried's death his widow, Francoisia van Diemen, continued to sell his paintings for years. It is probable that some of these were painted by Godfried's students including Jacob, though they were often 'signed' by the deceased artist.
This work is based on a painting in a Dutch private collection dated between 1695 and 1700 by the artist's uncle Godfried Schalcken, probably painted during a stay in England (see fig. 1). In both paintings the candlelight glitters in the mischievous eyes of the young men while the flame wafts towards their faces suggesting that they are walking. The shiny scalloped candleholder is likely brass, and one thumb is hooked over the side. It has been speculated by Guido Jansen that the scene by Godfried is set outdoors. This appears to be the case in the present picture with the right half of the background revealing clouds tinted by the last rays of sunlight and the left half suggesting a stone wall. The details are convincingly rendered by both uncle and nephew who achieve their desired effects with swift and efficient brushstrokes.
Anja Sevcik and Guido Jansen have both independently endorsed the attribution to Jacob Schalcken on the basis of digital images. Sevcik has also kindly pointed out the existence of a similar signed work by the artist in a private collection, also inspired by one of his uncle's compositions.
Figure 1 see image above: Godfried Schalcken, Laughing Young Man with a Candle, c. 1695-1700, oil on canvas, 55.5 x 46.6 cm, private collection.
Private collection, UK.