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Claude de Jonghe c.1605 – 1663
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Claude de Jonghe c.1605 – 1663

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A pastoral landscape with a view of the Thames Valley and Caversham Bridge

 

Oil painting in blue and white monochrome on canvas size 14.5 x 22.5 inches, and contained within a good carved and gilded antique frame.

 

Provenance: Acquired by the last owner circa 1955and subsequently with Christopher Gibbs

 

Literature: cf. John Hayes, Burlington Magazine, XCVIII, 1956, pp.3ff.

 

This is an exceptionally rare English topographical view painted during the time of the English Civil War by Claude de Jonghe, a painter from Utrecht who is documented in England during the second quarter of the 17th century. His best-known works are his views of London Bridge, which he painted on more than one occasion (the best example being that at Kenwood House, Iveagh Bequest, signed and dated 1630. (Panel 20 x 66 inches; from the Marquess of Exeter collection (before 1843) and sold at Christies to Agnews for Lord Iveagh 9th June 1888 lot 288).

De Jonghe’s painting technique is highly idiosyncratic, and it is hard to establish who his Master might have been. He was accepted as a member of the Utrecht Guild of St. Luke by 1626, when he may be presumed to have been in his early 20’s. Other sources suggest (far less probably) that he was accepted to the guild in 1633. Wurzbach records him as moving to London shortly afterwards. He is recorded in Canterbury in 1627 (qv. Catalogue of the Kenwood collection, 3rd edition, page 52). A view of London Bridge dated 1630 is recorded (Ellis sale, London 1876, £525.), and again in the sale of the paintings of J. Heugh in London in 1878 (sold for £787). He was certainly back in Utrecht in 1643 where he married Juliana van Pisa on the 18th July that year. Other views of the Bridge and the Thames are recorded as dated 1639 and 1650.

 

The following note is summarised from Caversham Bridge 1231-1926 by A.L.Humphreys, published 1926.

 

The first documentary mention of a bridge over the river Thames at Caversham in the Thames Valley is in 1231, when it was recorded that there was a wayfarers’ chapel of St Anne on the bridge, visible in the present painting. The bridge was partly demolished after the Battle of Edgehill in October 1642.

King Charles I was at Woodstock by 23rd October, passing on to Oxford and aiming for Reading via Caversham Bridge. the King sent despatches to the Mayor of Reading saying that he had received information that the bridge at Caversham was “lately broken down”, and demanding immediate repair. It is likely that destruction was wrought by Henry Martin, Parliamentary leader in Reading.

On April 28th 1643 Charles marched for Wallingford, and lost a short action at the bridge. In August 1642 the Town Council agreed that the bridge must be repaired and amended, and in May 1644 they instructed carpenters to repair and make up the bridge, though a military ordnance of that August issued a warrant for “the speedy making up of a drawbridge on Caversham Bridge. Worked continued sporadically until February 1646, when John Hancocke agreed for 5 years to repair and maintain “the drawbridge bar and the long bar on the north side being partes of Caversham bridge” It is thus likely that both at Wallingford as well as at Caversham that some of the arches were removed and a drawbridge installed in their stead for better security, which may well account for the curious lack of conformity in the shape of the old bridge – though, on the other hand, barges were noted as getting through before the Civil War.

The painting may therefore be dated to after the breaking of the bridge in 1642 and before de Jonghe’s departure from England the following year. The style of the painting accords with the signed and dated 1645 painting by Claude de Jonghe “Idyllic landscape” with Edward Speelman in 1973. The present painting gives a more detailed conspectus of the buildings at the north end of the bridge apparent in other, later, variants of this view, and correlates accurately with such pictures as that of Joseph Farington (1747-1821) of c.1780 and that of William Havell (1782-1857) of 1818. The painting, then gives a topographically accurate depiction of the bridge shortly after the running-repairs of 1642; it is thus perhaps the earliest known view of this strategically important Thames crossing, at the date of its most historic juncture. This first bridge was wholly demolished (revealing its mediaeval foundation) in 1868.