CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Mauritshuis Acquires Painting by Adriaen Brouwer

The Mauritshuis has acquired a painting by the Flemish artist Adriaen Brouwer. Superbia depicts a man curling his mustache with a pair of scissors. It is a rare representation of the Latin concept of ‘Superbia’, which means pride or vanity.

The small panel depicts a man with a red beret curling his mustache using a pair of scissors. The man is shown looking into a mirror, like a snapshot from everyday life. He seems particularly preoccupied with his image, seeking to demonstrate his importance. The paint application is thin, and the background is left smooth and even. The clothing is minimally detailed, with only a few white paint strokes here and there on the collar and cufflinks.

The painting is part of a series of seven panels, often depicting a rustic figure (a total of six men and one woman) representing one of the seven deadly sins. The series was split up around 1800, and the whereabouts of five paintings are unknown. Another panel from the series (Luxuria) has been in the Mauritshuis collection since 1897. It portrays a somewhat disheveled man with his hand in a partially open vest, referencing sexual lust among other things.

Seals on the reverse of Superbia showing coats of arms from Spanish regions (photo: Mauritshuis).

On the back of both panels at the Mauritshuis, identical coats of arms were discovered, with consecutive numbers in the same handwriting: 114 and 115. Research conducted by Olivier Mertens, a specialist in heraldry, revealed that these seals with coats of arms from Spanish regions (such as Castile, León, Aragon, and Sicily) and Austria belonged to Don Juan José van Austria (1629-1679), an illegitimate son of the Spanish King Philip IV. This indicates that the series by Brouwer traveled from Antwerp to foreign countries as early as the seventeenth century, and then became dispersed around 1800.