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Godfried Schalcken
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Made, The Netherlands
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
The Hague
A gifted painter during the Dutch 17th-century Golden Age, Godfried Schalcken is known for his genre scenes and portraits, illuminated by candlelight and painted in meticulous detail in the manner of the Leiden fijnschilders [fine painters]. His works included allegorical, religious and history paintings as well, and these also often used artificial light to achieve dramatic effects. Schalcken was born in 1634 in Made, in the Dutch province of Brabant near Dordrecht, where his father was a clergyman. The family moved to Dordrecht in 1654 after his father was appointed Rector of the Latin School there. According to an early biographer, Schalcken was the pupil of Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678) from 1656 until 1662; Hoogstraten had been a pupil of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). In 1663 Schalcken moved to Leiden to study with Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), another former Rembrandt pupil. Schalcken had returned to Dordrecht by 1665, when he is listed as a member of a militia company. His earliest surviving paintings reflect Dou’s influence, with careful detail and the use of candlelight. A few etchings have been attributed to him, mostly portraits, including one of Dou; scholars suggest that these date from the late 1660s. Nicholas Maes (1634-1693) was the leading portrait painter in Dordrecht at this time, and when he relocated to Amsterdam in 1673, Schalcken soon became Dordrecht’s most popular portrait painter. His painting style became freer than that of his mentor Dou. He married Françoise van Dimen of Breda in 1679. During the next decade Schalcken became internationally known for his effective use of natural and artificial light in works depicting a variety of subjects. His clientele included wealthy patrons in the Statholder’s court in The Hague and collectors in Paris and Germany. Schalcken’s apprentice from 1683 to 1689 was Arnold Boonen (1669-1729), who continued the tradition of nocturnal genre scenes, and went on to become a leading portrait painter in Amsterdam. The genre and portrait painter Carel de Moor II (1655-1738), also a pupil, went on to a successful career in Leiden. Schalcken apparently moved to The Hague in 1691, when he joined the Confrerie Pictura, the association of painters in that city. At the invitation of the Dutch Statholder, Willem III of Orange (1650-1702), who in 1689 had become became King William III of England, Scotland and Ireland, Schalcken went to London in 1692, staying in England for five years. He painted a number of portraits of the King and members of the royal court, as well as genre scenes. One remarkable portrait is of King William (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, ca. 1695) wearing armor and holding a candle whose light illuminates his face. Scholars interpret the candle and armor to mean that the King dedicated himself to the death to serve his subjects. Schalcken had used his candlelight specialty the previous year when asked to add to Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici’s collection of artists’ self-portraits. Schalcken recommended to the Duke’s agent that the Duke request a candle-lit self-portrait. The result hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Schalcken had returned to The Hague from London by 1698, apparently a wealthy man, and became a citizen of the city in 1699. He lived there for most of the rest of his life. Johan Wilhelm, the Elector of the Palatine (1658-1716), purchased many of his works from this period, particularly ones on religious subjects. Schalcken was in Düsseldorf working for the Elector in 1703. He is recorded as being in The Hague in 1704 and 1705, and died there on November 16, 1706. His works were widely collected throughout the 18th century. (TNB 11/2012) Selected bibliography: Hecht, Peter. De Hollandse fijnschilders van Gerard Dou tot Adriaen van der Werff [Dutch fine painters from Gerard Dou to Adriaen van der Werff]. Exhibition catalog, pp. 182-216. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1989. Hecht, Peter. “Candlelight and dirty fingers, or royal virtue in disguise: some thoughts on Weyerman and Godfried Schacken,” Simiolus 11 (1980), p. 23-38. **Sutton, Peter C. and Jane Iandola Watkins, et al. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Exhibition catalog, pp. 299-302. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984. Wright, Christopher. The Masters of Candlelight: an Anthology of Great Masters including Georges de la Tour, Godfried Schalcken, Joseph Wright of Derby. Landshut, Germany: Arcos Verlag, 1995.