These two paintings display narrow streets in a medieval atmosphere, cobbled in their middle, animated by rare characters either static or in conversation, in daylight. The theme is rare and deserves attention but the technique is unsophisticated. Both are signed with the monogram JV.
A street scene at dusk, oil on board 39 x 29 cm signed VREL, was sold for £ 840K including premium by Sotheby's on July 4, 2018.
A corpus of about 38 works is currently attributed to Jacobus Vrel. The first name Jacobus appears on one of these works. The name Vrel is the most frequent but appears on only three works. There are other spellings : Frel, Frell, Wrel, Vrelle, Vreelle. Some are dated, between 1654 and 1662.
An anthroponymic study did not bring any information. The artist did not reveal his real name. We are not in the same situation as for Sharaku : Vrel's rough technique could be from a dilettante. The appearance of similar details in various street scenes suggests that all these views are imaginary. The intimate style of the interior scenes perhaps imitates de Hooch.
The initials JV made it confusing with Johannes Vermeer. It is more rewarding to own a Vermeer than to own a Vrel. Thoré-Burger once found a signature of Vrel under an apocryphal signature of Vermeer.
This artist has yet existed. The dendrochronology confirms the dates. There is one and only one document in period, recording three works by Vrel in the inventory of the collection of the Archduke of Austria in 1659.
The monographic exhibition currently being prepared by the Munich Pinakothek, the Fondation Custodia and the Mauritshuis will certainly reopen the debate on the authentic perimeter of the highly enigmatic Jacobus Vrel.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Lot 30 SOLD for $ 1.22M
Lot 31 SOLD for $ 860K