Theodor Matham was trained by his father, the draftsman and engraver Jacob Matham, in the traditions of drawing and printmaking established by Jacob’s stepfather, Hendrick Goltzius. Theodor’s graphic work consists mainly of portraits, but he also engraved a few title pages and reproductive prints after antiquities and Dutch, Flemish, German, and Italian paintings. His rare drawings include merry company scenes in interiors, landscapes, and views of Paris and Rome.
Man with a Roemer and Pipe, formally signed, dated 1633, and meticulously executed with a pen in a technique that mimics engraving, belongs to a kind of virtuoso showpiece known by the German term Federkunststück (“pen-art piece”) or the Dutch penwerk, perfected by Goltzius in works such as Young Man Holding a Skull and a Tulip (1614; Fig. 1). Theodor’s drawing imitates the swelling and tapering lines and systematic parallel and crosshatched strokes punctuated by short dashes that Goltzius invented in engravings of the 1580s, and which he adapted in his Federkunststücke from the early Mercury of 1587 to the late Young Man Holding a Skull and a Tulip. Christian Tico Seifert eloquently summarized the conceit that so impressed Goltzius’s contemporaries: “The greatest technical virtuosity, paired with the invention of the image, combined in a unique work a drawing of an engraving that never existed.” Jacob Matham produced a considerable number of these finished penwerken. To his children’s generation, however, this type of laborious technical performance must have seemed old-fashioned, and the Harvard work is the only known example by Theodor. It may be significant that it was not executed in Haarlem but in Paris, where Matham worked from (at the latest) 1629 until 1633, or in Rome, where he traveled in 1633. There he participated in Joachim von Sandrart’s project to engrave the antiquities in the collection of Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani.
The drawing depicts a man whose wrinkles and puffy eyes attest to a long career of consuming the wine and tobacco he displays to us in a large roemer and clay pipe. Like the youth in Goltzius’s pen piece (see Fig. 1), he wears an ensemble of sixteenth-century clothes and accessories. While in Goltzius’s drawing the fancy costume underscores the vanity of the young man, whose other attributes recall the transience of human life, in the context of the Harvard work, the absurdly outmoded garb marks the toper as a satirical figure. Texts inscribed beneath images of drinkers in prints by and after Theodor Matham deliver mixed messages about the blessings or evils of wine. An engraving by Matham after his own design, published circa 1629–33 in Paris, shows a half-length figure of a young man who tips his empty wine glass to indicate his need for a refill. The French verse below asks, “What are the rubies that rank among the precious stones compared to these delicious drops [of red wine], which, like gifts from the gods, can bring humans back from the dead?” In the Netherlands in the 1620s, Matham executed an engraving after a picture by Hendrik Terbrugghen that shows a man lifting a roemer with one hand and holding a violin in the other. The caption beneath a copy after this print (Fig. 2), perhaps executed by Matham himself during his sojourn in Paris, reads simply, “Ie veux mourir au Cabaret / Entre le blanc et le cleret” (I wish to die in the tavern / between the white wine and the red). The same French phrase appears beneath an image by the Amsterdam printmaker Cornelis Danckerts I (1603–1656) of a merry drinker with a full glass in one hand and a bottle in the other. The aging bon vivant in the Harvard drawing, with his timeworn features and equivocal smile, may be resigned to the same fate—to expire “in the tavern between the white wine and the red.”