Gerson Digital : Poland


5.3 The Second Pott Auction 1763

As already mentioned, there was also a second Pott auction, one that took place a year later, in 1763. Presumably, despite his financial problems, Pott had managed to hang on to the works in his collection to which he was most attached. However, the bankruptcy of 1763 put an end to this tactic, necessitating him to let his favorite art works to be auctioned. They included several Dutch works, which we shall see fetched high prices. On 24 November 1763 they were sold in his residence at 33 Hundegasse (Ogarna), a different address from that for the auction of 1762. Pott must therefore have moved there sometime after 12 May 1762, or else it must have been a second dwelling in his possession. Von Holst, who mentioned the address, named nine paintings that were included in the auction, again including, as with the earlier auction, some prices and names of buyers.1 They were:

  • Cornelis Ketel (c. 1584), The Penitant Peter and David Humbling Himself (Petrus buβfertig und David sich demütigend)
  • Rembrandt, The Bloody Robe of Joseph is Brought to Jacob (der blutige Rock Josephs wird Jacob gebracht)
  • L.[aurent] de la Hire, Hilly Landscape with Goats (Hügellandschaft mit Ziegen)
  • Abr.[aham] Mignon, Flower Piece (Blumenstück)
  • ‘Holbein’, 4 panels (Moses, Aaron, David, Nathan)

As with the earlier auction of 1762, there is not enough information to allow these works to be identified. Thus the four paintings of the prophet Moses, his brother, the high priest Aaron, King David and the prophet Nathan are attributed to Holbein. This could refer to no fewer than four members of the Augsburg Holbein family, namely Sigismund Holbein (c. 1465/1470-1540), his brother Hans Holbein I (1460/1465-1524), or the latter’s sons Ambrosius (1493/1494-after 1519) and Hans Holbein II (1497/1498-1543). However, paintings with these subjects do not occur in the collective oeuvre of these artists. This is presumably an attribution that must be interpreted in the light of an ever-increasing 18th-century interest in ‘Altdeutsche’ paintings which, as Von Holst observed, caused great numbers of works to be attributed to masters such as Cranach and Dürer.2 In the case of the hilly landscape with goats by Laurent de la Hire (1605/1606-1656/1657), it is not just the lack of dimensions but also the vague indication of the subject matter that presents a problem. Several landscapes by De la Hire are known, but these generally function as settings for some biblical or mythological subject. One work that depicts a hilly landscape and features a flute-playing shepherd as well as few goats is a painting in Musée Fabre in Montpellier.3 However, an identification of this work as the one in the Pott collection is purely hypothetical.

Abraham Mignon

A little more is known about the flower piece by Abraham Mignon. Von Holst mentioned the sum that it fetched, fl. 760, and the name of the buyer, G. Schwartz, adding that it was the most expensive piece to be sold at auction in Danzig of that time. With G. Schwartz, Gottfried Schwartz (1716-1777), who is mentioned by Von Holst, was undoubtedly intended. His collection was auctioned after his death on 12 August 1777 at 42 Langgasse (Długa). However, Von Holst observed that this auction did not include the paintings in Schwartz’s personal collection.4 Chodyński reports that Schwartz, who was burgomaster of Danzig in the year of his death, owned the largest art gallery in Danzig of the 18th century. This collection comprised hundreds of works of mixed quality and continued to grow through acquisitions at auctions until the death of Schwartz in his residence at 42 Langgasse (Długa).5

A good overview of the collection is offered by a description by the peripatetic Swiss astronomer Johann III Bernoulli (1744-1807), who visited it after Schwartz’s death on 12 July 1778. Bernoulli’s description clearly shows the enormous scope of the collection, more than 460 pieces! Bernoulli was shown around by Daniel Gralath the Younger, one of the executors of Schwartz’ testament and saw the painting by Abraham Mignon, which he described as: ‘A flower piece (outstanding) by Abraham Mignon’ (Ein Blumenstück [vortrefflich] von Abrah.[am] Mignon).6 As Bernoulli informs his readers, the heirs had originally intended to auction off the entire collection in The Netherlands, but D. Schwartz, a brother of Gottfried and a resident of Berlin, decided to keep the paintings, so that they were still in his residence on the Langgasse at the time of Bernoulli’s visit.7 Nothing else is known about the provenance of Mignon’s flower piece. In the 1973 monograph by Magdalena Krämer-Noble, the painting is classed with the lost works.8

Cornelis Ketel

The second Pott auction also included two paintings which according to the catalogue were by the hand of Cornelis Ketel, namely a penitent Peter and a David who humbles himself. Von Holst identified these two works as rendered around 1584 for the Uphagen brothers, adding that they are still to have been in the hands of the family in 1617.9 Von Holst’s source was Het Schilderboeck by Karel van Mander, specifically Hans Floerke’s 1906 translation of the second edition of 1617.10

Although the identification is not necessarily incorrect, closer examination reveals that Van Holst’s data is not altogether reliable. The Schilderboeck does indeed mention works that Ketel rendered around 1584, but Van Mander calls the brothers Ophogen instead of Uphagen. In addition, Van Mander writes about two independent commissions. First Ketel made ‘a Paul with eyes raised, as large as life down to the knees, done after life of Rutger Jansz. for Hans Ophogen’ (een opsiende Paulus, soo groot als t'leven, tot aen de knien, naer t'leven van Rutger Iansz. gedaen voor Hans Ophogen).11 Van Mander then mentions: ‘For whose brother, Thomas Ophagen, he made the same once more, adding five other images, being: Peter lamenting his betrayal of Christ: the converted sinner Magdalen: the Publican; Saul falling on his sword: Judas hanging himself: which six pieces are still in Danzig, in the home of mentioned Thomas Ophoghen, and are very well handled and wonderfully painted in every aspect of art’ (Voor wiens broeder Thomas Ophogen hy de selve noch eens maeckte, met noch vijf beelden daer toe, te weten: Petrus beclaghende dat hy Christum versaeckt hadde: de bekeerde Sondersse Magdalena: de Publicaen: Saul vallende in zijn sweerdt: Iudas hem selven verhanghende: welcke ses stucks noch zijn tot Dantzick, ten huyse van den voorschreven Thomas Ophoghen, en zijn in allen deelen der Const seer wel ghehandelt, en heerlijck gheschildert).12

These two works cannot have been the single one made for Hans Ophogen, especially since Hans did not live in Danzig but in Amsterdam. A merchant by profession, he was living on the Fluwelen Burgwal in 1585. From 1592 until 1601 he was the landlord of the Hof van Holland in the Kalverstraat, where he lodged important guests of the city of Amsterdam.13 The two works were therefore done for Thomas Ophogen and were part of a series of six. Van Mander does not discuss a ‘David who humbles himself’, but this could have been an error on the part of whoever compiled the catalogue of the second, 1763 Pott auction. Finally, it is not certain that the two works were still in the possession of Thomas Ophogen/Uphagen in 1617, as Von Holst indicates. Van Mander died in 1606, and the text of the edition used by Floerke is identical on this point to that of the first edition of 1604. In addition, all we know about of Thomas Ophogen is that he was known to be a merchant, that he lived in Danzig, and that he was still alive on 3 March 1604.14 Nor is anything else known about these two works. Another painting by Ketel, which has The Suicide of Saul (I Sam. 31:1-5) as its subject and could have been part of the series of six, is currently in the museum in Kaunas (Latvia) [1].15

Cornelis Ketel
The suicide of Saul (I Samuel 31:1-5), c. 1584
canvas, oil paint 118 x 110 cm
on the back : Ce portrait a ete peint par pierre Paul Rubens, Ao 1585. / a apartenu au Duc Frederic de Mantones /.../ a moi / LG Konigs march / 1751.
Kaunas (Litouwen), Nacionalinis M.K. Ciurlionio dailés muziejus, inv./ MŽ-1353

The so-called Rembrandt

The last of the known works of the second Pott auction provided the impetus behind the present article. It was the item included as a Rembrandt at the second Pott auction, as mentioned by Gerson in his ‘Ausbreitung’.16 The painting has an unusual place among the works of the first and second Pott auctions to be mentioned by Von Holst. Not only are the proceeds and name of the buyer known, but the catalogue of 1763 also gives a detailed description of the painting and specifies its carrier and dimensions. We therefore know that the painting fetched fl. 140 and was bought by P. Uphagen, the mentioned Peter Uphagen.

The painting is described as: ‘Jacob and Lea before their hut, sitting under an arbor, the first turns the eyes heavenward with folded hands, Lea sits in stooped position next to him; the small Benjamin peeks with curious eyes over the door behind them; two sons of Jacob stride before him, one of them holds the bloody robe of Joseph spread out in his hands, the passions in this piece are very naturally depicted, by Rembrandt, on canvas, 4 feet 3 inches high and 5 feet wide’ (Jakob und Lea vor ihrer Hütte, unter einer Laube siβend, der erstere schlägt mit gefalteten Händen die Augen gen Himmel, Lea siβet in gebeugter Stellung neben ihm; der kleine Benjamin gucket mit neubegierigen Augen hinter ihnen über die Thüren; zwoen Söhne Jakobs treten vor ihn, einer von denenselben hält den blutigen Rock Josephs ausgebreitet in seinen Händen, die Leidenschaften sind in diesem Stück sehr natürlich abgebildet, von Rembrandt, auf Leinwand, 4 Schuch 3 Zoll hoch und 5 Schuch breit).17 Von Holst tried to identify the picture on the basis of this information. As he indicated, it cannot have been one of the two paintings with this subject by Rembrandt, as was assumed by Hofstede de Groot.18 Von Holst therefore concluded that it must have been a since lost work. The present writer has made a renewed attempt at identification of the picture. Using the Iconclass code for the subject, 71 D 128, he encountered a painting in the documentation of the RKD that corresponds to the piece in question. It is a painting that is today given to Rembrandt’s student Jan Victors (1619-1676).19 Remarkably there exist three versions of this work, so that it could be a painting that was auctioned in London (Christie’s) on 9 July 2008 as coming from the collection of Hans-Adam II Prince von und zu Liechtenstein [2], one that was twice auctioned in 2005 [3], 20 or even a version of lesser quality, probably a copy, auctioned in 1993 [4].21

Jan Victors
Joseph's bloodied coat shown to Jacob (Genesis 37:32-35), first half of the 1650s
canvas, oil paint 134,4 x 172,8 cm
Christie's (London (England)) 2008-07-09, nr. 120

Jan Victors
Joseph's bloodied coat shown to Jacob (Genesis 37:32-35), first half of the 1650s
canvas, oil paint 135 x 172 cm
Sotheby's (Amsterdam) 2005-11-15, nr. 70

after Jan Victors
Joseph's blood-stained coat is shown to Jacob (Genesis 37:32-35), after c. 1655
canvas, oil paint 131 x 149,3 cm
Sotheby's (London (England)) 1993-04-21, nr. 234


1 Van Holst presumably did not include all works but only the most important, which is also true for the first Pott auction of 1762. That Von Holst names works of art from various auctions and travel descriptions organized by name of artist, gives reason to believe that he only mentioned those paintings for which the maker was known or that were given to an artist in the catalogue.

2 Von Holst 1934, p. 65.

3 Oil on canvas, 59 x 78 cm, signed and dated 1647, inv. no. 837.1.50. See Tokyo 2005, p. 30, no. 3 (Japanese text), p. 156, no. 3 (French text).

4 Von Holst 1934, p. 64 (the Mignon painting) and p. 69 (date and place of auction).

5 Chodyński 2002, p. 183.

6 Bernoulli 1779-1780, vol. 1, 1779, pp. 287-294 (description of the collection), esp. p. 289 (the Mignon painting).

7 Bernoulli 1779-1780, vol. 1, pp. 287-288.

8 Krämer-Noble 1973, p. 75, cat. no. C15. The painting is not included in Krämer-Noble’s revised catalogue raisonné of 2007.

9 Von Holst 1934, p. 62.

10 Von Holst 1934, p. 60, n. 12.

11 Van Mander 1604, fol. 275 v.

12 Van Mander 1604, fol. 275 v.

13 See Van Mander/Miedema 1603/18-1994-1999, vol. 5, p. 131 and Rijkhoff 2008, p. 80. In Rijkhoff 2008 Hans Ophogen is mentioned as an owner of art.

14 Winkelman 1983, vol. 4, GS 184, p. 525. Ophogen is here mentioned in a bill of protest.

15 See the text of Gerson 1942/1983 as annotated by R. van Leeuwen above.

16 Gerson 1942/1983, p. 505.

17 Von Holst 1934, p. 62. The dimensions given by Von Holst, probably in local elbow (łokieć gdański), correspond with 122,8 x 144,5 cm (communication J. Tylicki).

18 Hofstede de Groot 1907-1928, vol. 6 (1915), Rembrandt, Nicolaes Maes, pp. 15-16, cat. nos. 15-16. Cat. no. 15 in Hofstede de Groot as a Rembrandt owned by the Earl of Derby, it is today attributed to Gerbrand van den Eeckhout and was auctioned in London (Christie’s) on 13 December 2000, no. 53 (RKDimages 102377).

19 Sumowski 1983-1994, vol. 4 (1983), p. 2600, under no. 1739.

20 The work was first auctioned in New York (Sotheby’s) on 27 January 2005, cat. no. 148, ill. in color, and later that year, on 15 November, in Amsterdam, again with Sotheby’s, cat. no. 70, ill. in color.

21 Auctioned in London (Sotheby's) on 21 April 1993, no. 234, ill., as circle of Jan Victors.

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