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D2448. Polychrome Figure of a Seated Bagpipe Player

Delft, circa 1760

Marked IP for Jan Pennis, owner of ‘De Twee Scheepjes’ (The Two Little Ships) factory from 1723-1763. Incised with DH

The blue-eyed youth wearing a dark manganese hat with subtle yellow rim and flower decoration modeled on his blue hair, wearing a green jacket with iron-red cuffs and yellow buttons, blue breeches and manganese shoes, his face and hands are set with blue lines that emphasize the folds in his skin, seated on a blue-striped barrel with iron-red hoops, playing a yellow bagpipe.

Height: 28 cm. (11 in.)

The Vanhyfte collection,
Aronson Antiquairs, Amsterdam, 2003;
Private Collection, Kapellen, 2023

The figure belongs to a small group of figures bearing the inscription of DH. A Madonna with child figurine in the collection of the Rijksmuseumin Amsterdam with inventory number BK-1973-207 is inscribed with D:H and dated 1749 in the base. A second one in Aronson 2005, p. 50, no. 48, is an example of a polychrome figure of a Burgher, marked IP for Johannes Pennis, the owner of De Porceleyne Schotel (The Porcelain Dish) factory from 1723 until 1763, with DH inscribed on the base. The origin or meaning of the initials remains unknown.

The figure of the seated bagpiper is based on a bronze model by Giambologna, whose original inspiration may have been an engraving entitled, The Bagpiper from 1514 by Albrecht Dürer (1471- 1528). The similarities between the two suggest that the sculptor may have possessed a copy of the print. A gilt bronze of this model of the bagpiper, 12 cm. (4 3/4 in.) high, dating to circa 1580-1600 and probably executed by Antonio Susini, is in the Bargello Museum in Florence. This particular example, considered one of the finest, is probably one of the first casts after a prime example in silver, and still has the second pipe of the instrument, omitted on later bronze versions and on the Delft figures as well. According to Avery the Seated Bagpiper was “initially produced in precious metal, probably for mounting on an ebony cabinet.”

The bagpipe was originally used as an instrument for shepherds in South West Asia. The Romans spread its influence, playing bagpipes in their theaters and in the army. Eventually, the church took notice of the instrument, perhaps due to its resemblance to the sound of an organ. A smaller version of the bagpipe, known as ‘musette de cour’ gained prestige for a while, especially in France and the Dutch Republic. The status of the bagpipe is illustrated in paintings of angels playing the instrument, for example Musical Angels, by Francesco Botticini, circa 1475- 1497. Due to unknown reasons, the status of the bagpipe returned to that of rural instrument, connected to shepherds and farmers. The instruments are often depicted on paintings of seventeenth century folk festivals and peasant weddings. This figurine belongs to a category of Delftware figurines that were made from the mid- eighteenth century onwards. This figural group referenced themes of love and humor, whose literal meanings have been lost over time and are therefore difficult to interpret. In art, the bagpipe often has an erotic meaning, in general referring to earthly vanity and sinful pleasures and more specific to the male genitalia.

The same figure, wearing different colored clothing, is depicted in Aronson 1996, ill. 19. A comparable model with other decorations is illustrated in Lavino 2002, p. 173 and in Aronson 2003, p. 53 two resembling models are depicted, one inscribed with ‘Nim Wegen’ and the other with ‘Vroeg Bedorven’.

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