John Vanderbank

Don Quixote Addressing the Goatherds


Not on display

John Vanderbank 1694–1739
Oil paint on oak
Support: 406 × 295 mm
frame: 558 × 449 × 77 mm
Purchased 1967

Display caption

The panel is one of nearly forty similar scenes from 'Don Quixote' which Vanderbank painted during the 1730s. They are related to but not direct replicas of the more than sixty illustrations, begun in 1723, which the artist drew for an edition of Cervantes's novel published by Tonson in 1738. It is not clear why Vanderbank painted this set over so long a period, but contemporary observers like George Vertue noted that he led a dissipated life and was constantly in debt. Vertue noted, however, that he was fortunate enough to have a landlord willing to have his rent paid in anything the artist cared to paint, in particular 'Storys of Don Quixot'.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T00937 Don Quixote Addressing the Goatherds 1730

Oil on oak panel, 407×295 (16×11 5/8) inscribed ‘J. Vanderbank fecit 1730’ b.r.
Purchased at Christie's (Grant-in-Aid) 1967
PROVENANCE ...; ?James Toovey; ...; sold anon., Christie's 28 July 1967 (383) bt Tate Gallery
LITERATURE Vertue III, 1934, pp.44, 98; Waterhouse 1953, pp.135, 139 n.4; Andrew Causey, ‘Don Quixote through a Painter's Eyes’, Illustrated London News, 28 October 1967, pp.38–9; H.A. Hammelmann, ‘Eighteenth-Century English Illustrators: John Vanderbank 1694–1739’ The Book Collector, XVII, 1968, pp.289–93, 297–8; John Ingamells, ‘John Vanderbank and Don Quixote’ City of York Art Gallery Quarterly Preview, XXI, July 1968, pp.763–7; H.A. Hammelmann, ‘John Vanderbank's “Don Quixote”’, Master Drawings, VII, 1969, pp.3–15, pl.3b; Hammelmann 1975, pp.81–2, 85; Waterhouse 1978, p.181

An old inscription on the back of the panel reads ‘Vanderbank Senior pinxit anno 1730’. Vertue, in 1730, noted ‘living near Cavendish Square. Mr. John Vander-bank drawings for the History of Don Quixot - & paintings on Pannels. - several heads very well painted from the life -’ (op. cit., p.44), and in 1739, recording his death ‘in Hollis Street near Cavendish Square’, mentions that ‘to the last years of his life he had the good fortune to have a Friend for his Landlord - who never took any money for his rent ... let him paint anything what he would for it - (Storys of Don Quixot)’; he also suggests that the landlord took all the works remaining in his house at Vanderbank's death (op. cit., pp.97–8).

This panel is one of a series of paintings by Vanderbank illustrating Cervantes's Don Quixote, a project that seems to have occupied the artist from 1723 onwards. They are related to two sets of drawings in the British Museum, to a further set in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, and to the sixty-eight engravings illustrating a de luxe edition of the book published in 1738. The first set of drawings in the British Museum are in pen and wash over pencil and measure between about 189×134 (7 1/4×5 1/4) and 209×168 (8 1/4×6 5/8); they bear signatures and dates covering each year from 1726 to 1730, are numbered from 1 to 62, and lack the frontispiece and six other of the engraved designs; one design was not engraved. The second more finished series was that used for the engravings and is bound into an extra-illustrated copy of the 1818 four-volume edition of Don Quixote in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. The drawings are in pen and wash finished in Chinese white (which has oxidised in some cases) and measure approximately 247×190 (9 1/2×7 1/2) on paper 267×201 (10 1/2×7 15/16). Most are signed and dated 1729, some more specifically with dates in August and September of that year. There are drawings for all sixty-eight plates with five exceptions. The third equally finished series is also executed in pen and wash over pencil finished in Chinese white. The drawings range in size from about 295×218 (11 1/8×8 5/8) to 259×378 (10 3/8×14 1/4) Only twenty-five examples, in the British Museum, are known. The sketch for the frontispiece is signed and dated 1729 and one other drawing, exceptional in format, 1735. The engravings first appeared in the four-volume edition published in the original Spanish by J. & R. Tonson in London in 1738, and were reissued by the same publishers in the two-volume translation by Charles Jarvis in 1742. Nearly all of the subjects were engraved by Gerard Vandergucht, though two are by Claude du Bosc, one by Bernard Baron and one is anonymous, and the tailpiece was engraved by Paul Fourdrinier. Originally Hogarth was to have had a share in the engravings and executed six after his own drawings, but these were not used. Plate 2, showing Don Quixote in his study, was engraved by George Vertue and is dated 1723, as are two wash drawings, rather different in character from the others, in the Witt Collection, Courtauld Gallery, and on the London art market in 1967 (L.G.Duke; ...; Sotheby's 20 November 1986, lot 15 repr.); none of the other plates are dated, but were presumably executed c.1729–30.

In the case of the subject of the Tate Gallery's pictures, ‘Don Quixote addressing the Goatherds’, there is an extra preliminary drawing on the verso of the drawing from the first series in the British Museum (1862-10-11-809; repr. Hammelmann 1969, This is in pen alone and shows Don Quixote addressing two figures only, seated beneath a tree on the left; Sancho Panza drinks from a flask on the right; there is no hut. The recto (repr. Hammelmann 1969, is inscribed ‘Jo. V. Invent 1729. 7’ and contains most of the same features as the oil but is less densely composed with more sky and foreground. The donkey is shown on its own by the tree on the right while the standing figure forms part of the group of five figures on the left; the other four figures are generally similar to those in the oil but differently placed.

The Pierpont Morgan Library drawing (repr. Hammelmann 1969, pl.2a), which is inscribed ‘J. Vanderbank.Fecit. 1729’, omits the tree and donkey on the right and replaces them by a solitary standing figure holding a staff as in the oil; the figure with a crook directly facing Don Quixote is now seated. The engraving, plate 8 in both the 1738 and 1742 editions and inscribed ‘Jno: Vanderbank invt. et Delin:’ and ‘Ger VanderGucht Sculp.’, is practically identical and is in the same direction.

It was at this point that Vanderbank seems to have painted another small oil picture of the subject (repr. Hammelmann 1969, p.2b). This was sold anonymously at Sotheby's on 13 May 1920 (in 169), bought ‘Aldham’, and again in the Miss Alice Sophie Heldmann sale, Puttick and Simpson at Worton Court, Isleworth, 13–14 March 1939, 2nd day (in 296), bought Leighton. The hut is now shown with a gable end and again there is no tree on the right; the extreme left-hand figure is an old man instead of the young plump-faced youth wearing a hat of the engraving and earlier drawings.

The drawing from the larger series in the British Museum (1862-10-11-872; 265×256 (11 1/16×10 1/4); repr. Hammelmann 1969, pl.3a) is closest to the Tate Gallery's oil and probably just precedes it: at the point where the drawing has an extra figure standing behind the group on the left with his hand on the nearest support of the hut, the oil shows signs of such a figure having been painted out. The composition of the oil is more compressed than in the drawing but both differ from the other oil, and the engraving and Morgan Library drawing, in that there are both a tree and a standing figure with a staff on the right, and also in the form of the hut, which now has a broad eave sloping down towards Don Quixote. Like the other oil, but not the engraving, the extreme left-hand figure is an old man.

At least thirty-three companions to the Tate Gallery's panel are known. When sold in 1939 the other version of T00937 was framed together with seven scenes related to the engraved plates 15, 19, 27, 38, 39, 57, 65 and one other unidentified scene; another frame contained nine further scenes (plates 4, 9, 11, 37, 46, 47, 64, 67, 68), and the lot was completed by a further scene framed on its own. When the same group of works was sold in 1920 they were described as sixteen panels and three canvases; from photographs it is possible to identify one of the canvases as being related to plate 64 but not the other two. Some of the pictures were signed and dated 1731, 1734 and 1735 or 1736. At present this group is only known from photographs taken in 1939.

Fourteen more scenes were sold at Sotheby's on 15 March 1967 (128), bought Marshall Spink. Twelve are on panel and relate to plates 3, 12, 21, 23, 33, 35, 44, 45, 51, 53, 58, 63, while two on canvas relate to plates 42 and 60. Two examples are dated 1730 and one 1733, and eight were reproduced in the Illustrated London News, 28 October 1967, pp.38–9, 46. They are now distributed between the City of Manchester Art Gallery (plates 3 and 23), the Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino (plates 12 and 44), the City of York Art Gallery (plate 21), the Iveagh Bequest at Marble Hill, Twickenham (plates 42 and 63), and private collections. All came from the collection of the nineteenth-century bookseller James Toovey. Another set of four panels was sold at Christie's 19 July 1985 (lot 91A, repr.).

In addition to these three groups a variant of the second Huntingdon Library Picture, also on panel, was sold at Christie's on 14 June 1968 (127), bought Gooden and Fox. Earlier sales include six unidentified panels sold at Christie's 29 June 1956 (11), bought W.M. Sabin and Sons. Two further panels, ‘The Bather alarmed’ and ‘Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’, both signed and the latter at least also dated 1730, were in the Seward sale, Robinson and Fisher, 18 March 1926 (181). Another sale at Christie's, 18 March 1913, included eleven unidentified panels as lot 119, bought Heigham, together with two larger canvases, 1225×1005 (49×39 7/8), of ‘Don Quixote meeting the Princess’ and ‘The Companion’, as lot 118, bought Baron de Quinto. These were probably the thirteen Don Quixote scenes, undescribed, sold at Christie's 3 June 1909 (8), bought Renton; they were also from the Toovey collection, which may also be the source of the Tate Gallery picture.

What prompted the oil paintings is not certain. They are not direct replicas of the drawings or engravings, nor do they form a necessary link in the evolution leading from the smaller, sketchier drawings through the more finished drawings to the engravings. The length of time taken over the venture, from the first dated drawing of 1723 to the publication of the engravings fifteen years later, may have led the impecunious artist to exploit his material in independent pictures, perhaps for a decorative scheme; besides the two large canvases sold in 1913 the known pictures fall into two main groups, one being of the same upright format as T00937, the other of the same height but nearer square. Vertue's note, given above, suggests that he may have given them to his landlord in lieu of rent.

The scene depicted comes from Don Quixote, Book 1, Chapter 3, when Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are lodging with some goatherds for the night. Inspired by a handful of acorns Don Quixote addresses them on the Golden Age and the necessity of knight-errantry in a period of decline; meanwhile Sancho Panza concentrates on food and wine.

The compiler is indebted to the late Hanns Hammelmann for help on this entry.

Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988

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