Drawing of Alma-Tadema Found on Brussels Flea Market
The Fries Museum in Leeuwarden has bought a drawing by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912). It is most likely a portrait of his cousin Sientje Tadema. The work was offered to the museum by someone who found it at a flea market in Brussels. The drawing will be on display from 20 April in the exhibition Collected Work: Friesland's Rich Collection.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, portrait of his niece Sientje Tadema © Fries Museum
An inhabitant of Antwerp discovered the drawing of the 19th century painter at a flea market in Brussels. He then asked the Fries Museum if there was any interest in buying the work from him. Curator of ancient art Marlies Stoter researched the work and recognized the master's hand by the combination of very refined lines and strongly set pencil lines in the dark areas of the drawing.
It is not known how much the buyer paid for it at the flea market, but the Fries Museum was able to take over the drawing for 1,800 euros. The drawing has been added to the collection, where Alma-Tadema is well represented with 18 paintings and about 90 works on paper.
Famous in England and America
Alma-Tadema was born in 1836 as Lourens in the Frisian town Dronrijp. After his education at the art academy in Antwerp, he left for London, where he was naturalized and started to call himself Lawrence. Soon he was discovered by the general public and his fame was unprecedented, especially in England and America. The artist is best known for his beloved representations of classical antiquity. An exhibition about Alma-Tadema in the Fries Museum in 2016 was a resounding success with 158,000 visitors. His talents as a portrait painter have not so far been highlighted in this way.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, In a Rose Garden, ca. 1890 © Christie’s
In the period in which he studied at the Academy of Antwerp, Alma-Tadema regularly draws and paints portraits of people from his immediate surroundings. The purchased portrait, signed with L. Tadema, depicts most probably his cousin Sientje Tadema. The museum deduces this from, among other things, a piece of an envelope found in the frame.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Woman and Flowers, 1868 © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Fries Museum owns a large group of drawings from Alma-Tadema's earliest youth, as well as several portraits of family members and pencil sketches for his paintings from his London period. In terms of atmosphere and style, the purchased portrait matches the group portrait of Alma-Tadema's family in Leeuwarden.
After a paper restoration the work was added to the exhibition Collected work: the rich collection of Friesland, which opens on 20 April in the Fries Museum. With the exhibition, the museum shows how it buys, receives, (lends), restores and sometimes has to say goodbye to works of art and objects. Visitors discover that the museum has been collecting Friesland's stories for almost 150 years and how much this collection is in motion.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, In the Tepidarium, 1881 © National Museums Liverpool