Abraham Meertens

A menagerie with birds; a study for a wall decoration

Abraham Meertens was born in Middelburg in 1747. Although it is not known who taught him, he was greatly greatly influenced by Aert Schouman, who spent some time in Middelburg in the 1760’s. Meertens was one of the co-founders of the Middelburg drawing academy and became its director later on. He mostly painted studies of animals, especially birds, many of which he probably studied in the menagerie of Prince Willem V, Stadhouder of the Dutch Republic, at Kleine Loo. Meertens also made the illustrations for a book, De Zeeuwsche Oudheden, which was published at Middelburg in 1780.

The size and style of the present watercolour gives the impression that it was intended as a design for an interior, probably a wall-hanging. Several large-scale wall panels by Meertens are known; other sketches for similar panels have also survived. Our study shows a menagerie of birds, several of which are interacting in a lively and amusing manner, in a park-like setting. Here, the influence of Meertens’ contemporary Aert Schouman – he was slightly older – instantly becomes evident. This large signed and dated sketch, full of exquisite details, may be considered Meertens’ most accomplished known work.

Artist: Abraham Meertens (Middelburg 1747 - 1823)
Medium: ink and watercolour on laid paper
Dimensions: 533 x 406 mm
Signed: 'A Meertens 1790', bottom right