This case concerns the disappearance of the right panel of the diptych ‘Pascuum of Satanas’, more commonly referred to today as ‘Fields of Hell’ (1703 oil on wooden panels 56″ x 128″). It was by the Dutch artist Hans Van Vfeete (Leyden 1654 – St Louis 1738/9). Van Vfeete was known to have studied in the studio of Jan Steen and based his powerful diptych on Steen’s ‘The Merry Family’, but with a much more sinister and disturbing message. For years powerful clerics and other educated men refused to even discuss the implications of this extraordinary work.
Johann Philipp Trump (1667–1707) a native of Kallstadt, Germany was a winegrower and art collector who through the Dutch Reformed Church acquired the dyptich. American members of the family include the Heinz and Trump lines.
The last Van Vfeete work to be sold was a domestic study titled ‘English Chamber Pots’ – bought by A. van der Hoop from John Mathew Beetsoff, London, in 1833. Van Vfeete recorded only 31 finished oil paintings, 10 watercolours and 65 drawings and ‘acquaints’. Superstition and gossip spawned a rumour about ambiguous fortune following those who collected Van Vfeets’s works. (See report in ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’, London July, 1812 -‘Cursed Work of Dutch Master’). The paintings were rarely displayed to the public gaze. A recent estimate of a single panel of the diptych based on inflation and the current interest in mystical works of the eighteenth century has valued the work, not in the millions, but in the ‘hundreds of millions’ …. It is thought the piece is almost certainly lying undiscovered in either America or rural France although some proclaim it is hidden in a secret vault in Kallstadt, Germany, the home village of the Trump or ‘Drump’ family.
The diptych ‘Pascuuum of Satanas’ was Vfeet’s largest and most perplexing piece. Only one panel was recovered after the original theft of the painting in 1885, and that was extensively damaged by the warehouse fire of 1889. Acccording to early descriptions (Boston Weelky Recorder) of the missing panel it is of ‘breathtaking beauty’ or ‘ultimate evil’ depending on the ‘moral purity of the spectator’. All that remains are the fragments shown on the web site. The search for the second panel was largely forgotten until a PhD student researching the background of a female circus acrobat referred to in JORIS-KARL HUYSMAN’S ‘Against Nature’ unearthed a revealing document(the attachment on the Ablindeye site is the relevant translated excerpt).
Van Vfeete was, according to other Jan Steen pupils, one of the school’s most promising students and he was admitted to the Leyden Guild at the record early age of 17 years and 9 months. Soon thereafter, tragedy entered his life: his sister, aged four, drowned in a pail while attempting to recover a small frog; his mother, who he also adored, was mistaken for a witch and strangled. Grief stricken, he joined the Puritans in Bristol and travelled with them to the New World in the ‘Americas’. It was, however, after he grew disillusioned by the strict Puritan rules regarding the painting of religious scenes, and the making of idols, that he left the society and painted his famous diptych.
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