13.9 Concluding Remarks
When Gerson noted in his Ausbreitung that ‘Ovens processes a lot of foreign, Dutch and Flemish influences in his works’, he certainly will have had the German oeuvre of the artist in mind.1 The paintings dealt with in this essay make it clear that Ovens was inspired by compositions and motifs of artists from the Low Countries – either from his immediate circle like his probable teacher Govert Flinck or Jan Lievens, or from luminaries such as Anthony van Dyck or Jacob Jordaens – during the periods he worked in Schleswig-Holstein. Unlike Rembrandt, Ovens did not directly compete with 16th-century Netherlandish artists or his Italian predecessors. In a few instances he introduced Venetian compositions to Northern Germany based on works of art he encountered in the Dutch Republic.
It turns out that only part of Ovens’ derivations falls under the category of rapen (mindless borrowings). His freer adaptations may almost always be placed under the heading of imitation: respectful transformations of his models, thereby adhering to contemporary Dutch art-theoretical notions. In some cases Ovens modified his Dutch or Flemish examples in ways that suggest aemulatio, a particular form of rivalry in trying to outdo an admired artist.
The fact that the duke of Gottorf – who collected Dutch and Flemish artworks himself – granted privileges to Ovens in 1652, must have had an impact on his self-consciousness and his self-esteem as an artist. He certainly realized his ambition to enlarge his fame and distinction in Schleswig-Holstein as an experienced, knowledgeable and creative artist by imitating and occasionally emulating the paintings of famous masters of the Low Countries.
1 Gerson 1942/1983, p. 213.