Museum purchases unique 16th-century drawing

Pieter Aertsen, The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia, c. 1560, drawing in pen in brown on paper, 119 x 260 mm. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Pieter Aertsen, The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia, c. 1560, drawing in pen in brown on paper, 119 x 260 mm. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has acquired a unique drawing by the 16th-century artist Pieter Aertsen. ‘The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia’ is one of the few known drawings by the master and is the first of his works on paper to be acquired for the extensive collection of drawings housed in the museum.

The Amsterdam-based artist Pieter Aertsen (1507/8-1575) gained great popularity through his combination of religious images and kitchen interiors, market scenes or lavish still lives depicting fruit and vegetables. It made him one of the most famous painters of his era. Aertsen also made a number of drawings, of which only eighteen are known to exist worldwide.

‘Lange Pier’
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has now succeeded in acquiring one of Aertsen’s drawings. While the museum possesses one of the most important collections of 16th-century Dutch art in the world, including four paintings by Aertsen, until now it did not have one of his drawings. The acquisition of ‘The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia’ fulfils a long-harboured desire. Stylistically, the pen and ink drawing is in keeping with Aertsen’s other drawings, which are characterised by their smooth, elegant style. His elongated, mannerist figures earned Aertsen his nickname, ‘Lange Pier’.

Greek tragedy
The drawing is one of the two mythological images that Aertsen is known to have made. It depicts a scene from the tragedy ‘Iphigeneia in Aulis’, written in 406 BC by the Greek dramatist Euripides. Iphigeneia was to be sacrificed by her father Agamemnon, leader of the Greek armies, to placate Artemis (Diana), the Goddess of the Hunt. At the last moment however, Iphigeneia’s terrible fate was averted by Artemis herself, who made her invisible and carried her off unseen. The drawing depicts the moment when Agamemnon raises his sword to run his daughter through.

Technical details
Pieter Aertsen (Amsterdam, 1507/8-1575)
The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia, c. 1560
Drawing in pen in brown on paper
119 x 260 mm

The drawing was acquired from a Berlin-based art dealership during the annual Salon du Dessin art fair in Paris. The acquisition was financed with funds from a bequest by Mrs N.C. van Riemsdijk-Borsje (2006), intended for the museum’s collection of Old Masters.

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