A Gingerbread Seller by Candlelight by Petrus Van Schendel

  • This extraordinary oil on panel by Petrus van Schendel displays his mastery of light and composition
  • The work highlights the stall of a gingerbread merchant illuminated by her candle’s flame
  • His study of the 17th-century Dutch candlelit paintings allowed him to master the technique
  • He is celebrated today as one of the great painters of nocturnal scenes
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 30-9409

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Petrus van Schendel
1806-1870 | Belgian 

A Gingerbread Seller by Candlelight 

Signed and dated “P.van Schendel / fecit 1838” (lower left)
Oil on panel 

Petrus van Schendel’s outdoor market scenes, with their heavy ambiance shrouding his figures in a haze of mystery, are the true measure of his immense talent. A Gingerbread Seller by Candlelight is no exception, showcasing his mastery of nocturne scenes and overall warmth of composition. In this painting, a wizened merchant and her two well-dressed clients are masterfully painted in the light of a candle, whose flame illuminates the scene with a brilliant glow.

Van Schendel is celebrated today as one of the great masters of light and atmosphere. Though he excelled in portraits as well, it is his night time market scenes that have garnered substantial attention and acclaim. This work embodies his mastery of the nighttime scene. While the foreground is illuminated by the golden-yellow light of the candle's flame, the soft blue light of the moon shimmers through the clouds in the upper right of the scene. Van Schendel's attention to detail is most evident in his treatment of the merchant's wares - cookies and biscuits in all shapes and sizes are carefully displayed on the table, while their gold leaf decoration sparkles in the candlelight.

Born in the Netherlands, van Schendel was a student and exhibitor at the Antwerp Academy between 1822 and 1828, beginning his career as a genre and portrait painter. He traveled extensively and lived in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag, finally settling in Brussels in 1845 where he would spend the remainder of his life. It was during this time of constant relocating that van Schendel perfected his nocturnal scenes. His study of the 17th-century tradition of Dutch candlelit paintings allowed him to master the technique of chiaroscuro, or the contrast between light and darkness. This effect gives van Schendel’s work the incredible level of naturalism seen in the current example. 

Van Schendel was a Member of the Academy of Amsterdam, and of Arti Sacrum in Rotterdam. He exhibited at the Salons in Amsterdam, Antwerp and Den Haag between 1827 and 1867, with exhibitions at the Salons in Brussels, Gent and the Royal Academy in London soon after. He was awarded medals at most of these exhibitions, including a Gold Medal from the Brussels Exhibition in 1845. 

Dated 1838

Panel: 30 3/4” high x 24 1/2” wide
Frame: 37 1/4” high x 31 3/8” wide

Petrus van Schendel: Een leven tussen licht en donker, Leiden, 2012, by J.M.M. de Meere, p. 62 (illustrated)
A Gingerbread Seller by Candlelight by Petrus Van Schendel
Maker: van Schendel, Petrus
Period: 1816-1918
Origin: Belgium
Type: Paintings
Depth: 2.25 Inches
Width: 31.38 Inches
Height: 37.25 Inches
Canvas Width: 24.5 Inches
Canvas Height: 30.75 Inches

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