Inscribed at top left, in pen and black ink: "Anno 1546. Verginck dese poorte tot Mechelen door het opspringen vant boscruyt/ den vierde dag as [illegible] vergte voor tien [illegible] /Hans Bols fecit"; at top right, in pen and black ink: "Santpoorte tot Mechelen"; inscribed on verso in black chalk, "H. Bol". Translation of inscription: Sandpoorte to Malines/ In 1546, this gate to Malines collapsed after the gunpowder explosion on the fourth day [illegible - vergte?] before ten [illegible]
According to the inscription, this drawing depicts the Sandpoorte, or Sand Gate, to Mechelen (in French, Malines) which collapsed after a gunpowder explosion. The date of 1546 refers to the year of the explosion, which occurred on August 7-8 when lightening struck gunpowder stored in the gate, killing 300 people and wounding 150 others. A comparison to other representations of the Sandpoorte confirms that the drawing does indeed depict the structure. At the time of the explosion, the Reformation was dividing the city, and the entire region, along religious lines. Pamphlets were issued in Dutch, French, and German as both Protestants and Catholics held up the disaster as proof of God's fury against the opposing group. (Craig E. Harline and Eddy Put, A Bishop's Tale: Mathias Hovius among his flock in seventeenth-century Flanders, New Haven, 2000, p. 10.) For a reprint of the pamphlets, see Robert Foncke, Die Explosion des Mechelner Sandtores (1546) in Flugschriften der damaligen Zeit, Antwerp, Paris, Amsterdam, 1932. Only twelve at the time, Bol was born in Mechelen and later became a master in the city's Guild of Saint Luke. Stefaan Hautekeete, author of the catalogue raisonné of drawings by Bol, believes that the drawing is likely by the artist, although he has not had to the opportunity to see the original. Hautekeete also notes that the handwriting does not belong to Bol. He suggests it may belong to Gerard ter Borch the Elder, an artist who annotated a number of Bol's works. Another possibility is that it is in fact a copy by an unidentified artist named Aelbrecht who made many copies after drawings by Bol. The fine handling of the wash evokes the watercolor tradition prevalent in Mechelen where Bol was trained.
McCrindle, Joseph F., former owner.