Art historian Karolien de Clippel persuasively argues that this composition is an allegorical representation of greed, and that it is part of a series of paintings of the seven deadly sins, which are all represented as single figures engaging in seemingly everyday tasks. Therefore, this is painting depicts no innocent “coin collector” but rather a greedy miser who jealously hoards his capital.
When this painting was given to KAM in 1961, it was attributed to the Flemish artist Adriaen Brouwer (1605–1638). Brouwer studied with Frans Hals (1580–1666), who painted the fabulous portrait of Cornelius Guldewagen.
Late in his career, during the 1630s, Brouwer made works that resemble The Coin Collector: small-scale, sketchy paintings with a nearly monochrome palette of mostly earth pigments such as ochre, umber, and sienna.
However, this is not Brouwer’s work. The Coin Collector is the work of Joos van Craesbeeck (1605/06–ca.1660), a friend and student of Brouwer’s.
It is a superb example of what is sometimes referred to as Flemish monochrome painting. To create it, Van Craesbeeck applied a thin layer of a mid-value earth pigment such as raw sienna to the gessoed panel. This gives the painting a warm orangish-brown tonality. He then loosely painted darker and lighter passages, such as the conical, burnt sienna hat and the brownish-white collar.
The paint applied in mostly thin, transparent layers that convey the movement and speed of the artist’s hand. In some areas, Van Craesbeeck left the underlying layer of orangish-brown untouched (for instance, in the shadow under the brim of the hat or in the fingers lower on the hand) rather than working them up with additional layers of paint.
In these areas, Van Craesbeek suggests forms rather than describing them. His rough, sketchy, and uneven brushstrokes have a rustic quality that compliments the subject. This unpretentious style lends the painting an air of ostensible simplicity and spontaneity, when in fact it required a fair amount of skill and planning.
Author: Maureen Warren, Curator of European & American Art, 2016
Karolien de Clippel, “C3.4 Avaritia (Giergheid)” in Joos van Craesbeeck (1605/06-ca.1660): een Brabants Genreschilder, (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2006) vol. 1, 288-9.
Ibid., “Adriaen Brouwer, Portrait Painter: New Identifications and an Iconographic Novelty” in Simiolus, Vol. 30, No. ¾ (2003) pp. 196-216.