Jan Pieter van Baurscheit

Jan Pieter van Baurscheidt

Triton

Jan Pieter van Baurscheit the Younger was born in Antwerp in 1699. His father, Jan Pieter van Baurscheit the Elder, was an important architect and sculptor. Jan Pieter the Younger joined him in his workshop and studied with him; he joined the guild of St Luke as a “beltsnyder” at an early age in 1712-13. When his father died in 1728, he took over the workshop. At first he mostly worked in the Northern Netherlands; by the end of the 1730ʹs however, he’d received several big commissions in the Southern Netherlands as well. In 1741 he was appointed director at the Antwerp art academy, where he also taught. Although he was trained as a sculptor, after his fathers death he mostly worked as an architect; important commissions included Hotel de Fraula in Antwerp, the city hall in Lier and the Osterriethhuis, also in Antwerp.

Nevertheless, the van Baurscheit workshop continued to produce sculpture of a very high quality, to decorate the interiors and gardens of all these castles, city palaces and country houses. Several designs for these sculptures by van Baurscheits hand have survived; most are kept in the Antwerp Cabinet of Prints. As an architect, van Baurscheit adopted the rococo style; as a sculptor however, he remained true to the baroque legacy of his father and many Flemish sculptors before him, such as François Duquesnoy.

This is very clear in the present large putto, which has mostly retained the style and feel of the seventeenth-century Flemish baroque. It is very close in style to the set of four putti (dated 1733), also by van Baurscheit, depicting four of the five senses, now in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Antwerp). Iconographically, the putto represents a Triton blowing on a shell and holding a – now missing – trident in its right hand. Other ‘marine’ features are the chain of shells across its chest and the dolphin at its feet.

After van Baurscheits death, most of his estate was bought by his former pupil Engelbert Baets. Intriguingly, the inventory of the latter’s estate, drawn up in 1796, mentions ‘Eenen Triton met Pedestael, seamen hoog 4 voet 6 duym’ (a triton sculpture with pedestal, altogether about 140 cm high). Although it cannot be known whether this was the current work, it remains an exciting possibility.

Artist: Jan Pieter van Baurscheit the Younger (Antwerp 1699 - 1768)
Medium: terracotta
Dimensions: height 100 cm