Prayer for the dead in the poorhouse of Volendam 1903

Image description: see below.

JQAW# G_1903_010
Oil on canvas, 198 x 244 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams Volendam 1903
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum Mumbai Sir Dorab Tata Collection 33.38

Group portrait of six people gathered around a laid out, open coffin, saying the prayer for the dead. Only the foot part of the coffin is visible, in front of it a wicker chair on which the coffin rests. The scene is indirectly illuminated by a candle (not visible) at the head of the coffin. The group of people with hands folded in prayer consists of four white-haired men, one holding a prayer book, and two women wearing Volendam costumes with white bonnets and white shawls. The interior is represented by wooden walls on which there is a picture and a silver holy water font. Through an open door one looks into a kitchen with a window to the outside. The colors used are muted and in shades of brown and dark blue with a few white color accents.

Despite the somber subject matter, this is an effective genre painting from the Volendam period that is particularly striking for its extreme large format, Rembrandesque color scheme, and sophisticated indirect lighting. Contrary to Benzit's claim that the painting was intended for the mortuary chapel of the Volendam cemetery (no such chapel exists in Volendam), the painting was probably always intended for exhibition and sale. First exhibited in 1903 in Vienna at the Künstlerhaus, it was acquired in 1906 on the occasion of an exhibition in London for the art collection of the brothers Sir Ratan(ji) (1871-1918) and Sir Dorab(ji) Tata (1859-1932), by the latter. Sir Ratan bequeathed about 120 of his paintings in his will to the newly established Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, and later Sir Dorab bequeathed another 50 works to the same museum, including the Adams painting, which is prominently placed in the museum but hung awkwardly (the painting is behind glass and numerous gallery windows are reflected in it).


1903 Künstlerhaus Vienna (EL 47 #1337); awarded the small gold state medal in 1904.

1905 IX. Intern. Art Exhibition, Glaspalast, München; awarded the Golden State Medal.

1906 Imperial Austrian Exhibition, Earls Court, London (purchase by Sir Dorab Tata).


1906 Sir Dorab Tata, London.
1932 dedication to Prince of Wales Museum Mumbai. Since then exhibited there in the Sir Dorab Tata Gallery, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum Mumbai.