Bileam blessing the Israelites (formerly identified as Elijah and the Prophets of Baal); a man kneeling on cushions praying, a man standing behind him and three old men, another three men to l, priests, a bullock and figures behind an altar at r. 1646 Pen and brown ink, with grey-brown wash, touched with white, over red chalk


© The Trustees of the British Museum

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1895,0915.1175

Bibliographic reference
Hind 1915-31 1
Sumowski 1979 continuing 1101
JCR 710
Royalton-Kisch 2010 Hoogstraten.1

Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Drawn by Samuel van Hoogstraten (biographical details | all objects)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Balaam blessing the Israelites; (formerly identified as Elijah and the Prophets of Baal) a man kneeling on cushions praying, a man standing behind him and three old men, another three men to left, priests, a bullock and figures behind an altar at right. 1646

Pen and grey ink with grey wash and red chalk, with some white bodycolour and corrections in pen and brown ink; a patch of green oil paint in the leg of the nearer figure on the left; framing lines in pen and black ink.

Verso: see Inscriptions.

No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed lower right, in pen and dark brown ink: ‘S v Hoogstraten fecit. 1646.’; inscribed verso, lower left, in red ink: ‘N.2646 [Goll's number - see Provenance]’ and in pen and brown ink: ‘8/7 [Röver's number - see Provenance]’; and in graphite: ‘46’ and ‘100’; upper centre: ‘700’ lower right: ‘10’.

Height: 174 millimetres
Width: 309 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 24mm apart)

Good; a small pinhole near the first 'S' of the signature.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Samuel van Hoogstraten, cat. no.1:
The subject is from Numbers, chapters 23-4: the King of the Moabites, Balak, stands in the centre, a pagan sacrificial altar behind him. The prophet Balaam (Bileam), who has been ordered to curse the Israelites, in fact blesses them as instructed by God. The other figures are mostly the princes of Moab.[1]
A preliminary sketch by Van Hoogstraten for this design is now in Berlin.[2] No other related painting or print by the artist is now known, although it is the same dimensions as the drawing representing another Old Testament subject, the 'Finding of Moses', now in the Petit Palais, Paris (Sumowski 1105), with which it shares its provenance from the Röver, Goll van Frankenstein, Verstolk and Leembruggen collections.
A close copy, from the Heyl zu Herrnsheim (L.2879) and Reitlinger collections was in 1989 on the New York art market.[3]

[1] The subject was correctly identified by Robinson, 1869/76 and Sumowski (see Lit. below), but intervening writers followed London, 1915 in describing the scene as 'Elijah and the Priests of Baal on Mount Carmel' (I Kings 18: xxxvi-xxxviii). The latter subject was treated on at least two occasions in drawings by Rembrandt's followers, as noted by Sumowski, 1981 (see Lit. below).
[2] Inv.5664, Sumowski 1100, repr..
[3] Sumowski, under no.1101; 210 x 322mm, formerly attributed to van den Eeckhout; sold at Christie's, New York, 11 January, 1989, lot 170, repr..

Robinson, 1869/76, no.698/710 (probably of Balaam); London, 1915, pp.79-80, no.1, repr. pl.XLVI (represents 'Elijah and the Prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel'); Benesch, 1922, p.42; Berlin, 1930, I, p.157, under no.5664 (related to drawing in Berlin [see above]); Sumowski, 1965[I], p.255, n.2; Sumowski, 1966, p.303 (influence of Elsheimer); Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, under no.185 (perhaps inspired a version by P. Koninck in Slive collection); Sumowski, 1970, p.46; Exh. Hartford-Dartmouth-Boston, 1973-4, p.64, under no.25; Amsterdam, 1981, p.135, under no.37 (earliest dated drawing by the artist); Sumowski, 1990, p.181, n.33; Sumowski, 1979, etc., V, 1981, no.1101, repr. (rejects connection with Koninck proposed in 1969-70).

old testament (all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Col John Wingfield Malcolm (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Baron Jan Gijsbert Verstolk van Soelen (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection John Malcolm of Poltalloch (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Gérard Leembruggen (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Valerius Röver (L.2984; Portfolio 8, no.7: ‘Een Heijdensche Offerhande’ [a pagan sacrifice], listed with other works by van Hoogstraten;* possibly N. Tjark; his sale, Amsterdam, de Leth, 10 October, 1762, lot 159, bt I. de Bosch (in whose sale of 1812 the drawing does not feature); Goll van Franckenstein (L.2987, with number in red, ‘N.2646’); his sale, Amsterdam, de Vries, Brondgeest, Engelberts and Roos, 1 July etc., 1833, portfolio O, no.5, bt Gruyter, f.75; J.G. Verstolk van Soelen; his sale, Amsterdam, De Vries, Brondgeest and Roos, 22 March, 1847, portfolio B, no. 50, bt Roos with no.51 by the same artist, f.195; Gérard Leembruggen, Jz.; his sale, Amsterdam, Roos, Engelberts, Lamma and Roos, 5 March, 1866, lot 313 as from the Verstolk van Soelen collection, bt Engelberts, f.80 for Malcolm, who paid £7-12s-8d; John Malcolm of Poltalloch; purchased with his collection from John Wingfield Malcolm, 1895. *See under Rembrandt cat. no.31 (1848,0911.138), note 2.

Exhibition History
Always as by Van Hoogstraten, 1646:
London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1878-9, no.262 (of Bileam called by Balak to curse Israel);
1895, no.394;
1956, p.33, no.1;
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle (not in catalogue).

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