'An interior scene with a seated man and woman and two children playing and fighting' c1520

Anonymous, Antwerp School

Pen and ink heightened with white on slate-blue prepared paper, 25.3 x 22.5cm

This drawing, although beautiful, has suffered damage over the years. There has been some pigment loss due to creasing and water damage for example.

It has been attributed to Antwerp-based artist Dirck Jacobsz Vellert. He is perhaps most famous as a designer of stained glass and his designs for the monumental windows in King's College Chapel, Cambridge for Henry VIII. Although he was praised during his lifetime, his name and works were largely forgotten by the 17th century. The arched top to this drawing may be the rim of a circular edged design that has been clipped.

However, Vellert's designs were usually on cream paper and only rarely did he use white heightening. He certainly never used it as distinctively as on this drawing. Here, enhanced by the blue of the paper, it simulates the shimmering surfaces of reflected light in a darkened interior from the fire, at which the man warms one of his hands behind his back. The elaborate costume and drapery is also more typical of some Antwerp Mannerists of the 1520s and 30s. Vellert also concentrated on religious themes, rather than this obscure, puzzling subject.

It is unclear whether this is a secular subject or drawn from biblical or classical history. The man's gesture with his left hand, palm down, may be warding of the child at his feet or rejecting the woman's suggestion as she points to another (bed?) room. A toy cart is ignored by the children who prefer to fight with each other. This suggests that a possible title could be 'the ill-disciplined household'. Such a moralistic subject would have appealed to certain sections of contemporary Antwerp society.

Purchased with the help of the Art Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund.