Tag: Toledo Museum of Art

Thomas de Keyser (c.1596 – 1667)

Thomas de Keyser (c.1596 – 1667)

Thomas de Keyser (c. 1596–1667) was a Dutch painter, stone merchant and architect. His father was the famous Amsterdam architect and sculptor, Hendrick de Keyser (1565 – 1621). Thomas was buried on this day June 7th, 1667, in the family vault in the Zuiderkerk (Southern Church) in Amsterdam.

Thomas de Keyser excelled as a portrait painter and was the preeminent portraitist of Amsterdam’s burgeoning merchant class until the 1630s, when Rembrandt eclipsed him in popularity. From then on, Thomas’ style of painting became out of fashion and he received less commissions. This forced him in 1640 to return to the stone trading family business. His father was also the municipal stonemason of the city of Amsterdam.

The men on the 1627 painting above were the board and syndics of the Amsterdam guild of gold- and silversmiths. They controlled the quality of the raw material and of the finished products of the guild members. These group portraits were ordered by board members of the guilds and displayed in the guild’s hall, showing off success and authority. Thomas de Keyser put them together in a less static and almost informal manner, a composition that later will be followed by Rembrandt. The syndic on the right is Jacob Everts Wolff. He has a silver belt in his hand and seems to make an eloquent speaking gesture of persuasion, as if to say, “Trust us.” On the left is the dean of the guild, Loef Vredericx, of whom an individual portrait can be seen hereunder.

Thomas de Keyser (c.1596 – 1667), “Portrait of Loef Vredericx as an Ensign” (1626), 93x69cm, Oil on Panel, Mauritshuis, The Hague.

This is the portrait of Loef Vredericx, from the Mauritshuis in the Hague. In his daily life Loef was silversmith and dean of the guild. But here he is portrayed in the honourable position of Ensign of the Amsterdam civic militia. Although a full-length portrait, the size is relatively small and will have fitted better in the Amsterdam house of Loef Vredericx. Reducing the scale of such portraits to make them suitable for their patrons’ urban homes is one of Tomas de Keyser’s innovations within Dutch portraiture.

Thomas de Keyser (c.1596 – 1667), “Portrait of a Silversmith, probably Christian van Vianen” (1630), 64x54cm, Oil on Oak Panel, Auctioned at Sotheby’s 2015, current whereabouts unknown.

This is full-length portrait of another silversmith. Thomas de Keyser transformed Dutch portraiture from a static, formal approach towards a more informal and personal representation of the sitter, bridging portraiture and domestic genre scenes. It’s as if we interrupted this young silversmith while he was studying the design of the salt cellar. The identity of this silversmith has been debated ever since. It could be Christian van Vianen, who was the most innovative and celebrated silversmith in The Netherlands in those days. The large ornamental salt cellar on the table has a close resemblance to similar designs by Christian van Vianen.

Thomas de Keyser (c.1596 – 1667), “Officers and other Civic Guardsmen of the IIIrd District of Amsterdam, under the Command of Captain Allaert Cloeck and Lieutenant Lucas Jacobsz Rotgans” (1632), 220x351cm, Oil on Canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

This is a group portrait of very large size, more than 2 x 3 meters. It’s a portrait of the Officers and Civic Guardsmen of the IIIrd District of Amsterdam, under the Command of Captain Allaert Cloeck and Lieutenant Lucas Jacobsz Rotgans. Joining these guards was a privilege for the rich well-connected members of the Amsterdam merchant families. Although they were indeed a police force and had to safeguard their part of the city, being a member had a high social and networking purpose. And you had to be rich to join, as it’s on a voluntary basis and you had to pay for your own uniform and weapons.  And occasionally paying for a group portrait!

Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), a family (portrait) reunited!

This is the story of a rich merchant family from 17th Century Haarlem in The Netherlands. Or it’s actually the story of a portrait of that family. Gijsbrecht and Maria van Campen celebrated in 1624 their 20th wedding anniversary, by ordering a family portrait from the famous Dutch painter Frans Hals. They wanted to be portrayed in grand style, together with their 13 children. And that became a big painting of nearly 4 meters long. Almost too big to fit in any house. Oh, small detail indeed, after the painting was finished, child nr 14 was born. It’s a daughter, and she conveniently got photoshopped into the painting in the bottom left corner. Not by Frans Hals but by Salomon de Bray (1597 – 1664), another famous painter from Haarlem.

Proposed reconstruction of the original Van Campen Family portrait (1624) as painted by Frans Hals (1582 – 1666).

Frans Hals was a popular portrait painter, who lived and worked in Haarlem. He depicted his clients in an informal realistic and relaxed way, but certainly grand and with elegance. Exactly how a liberal “new-rich” successful merchant wants to be depicted. It should be old-style “royal”, but in an informal modern way. Think how the European royal families of these days like to be photographed: royal and grand, but informal at the same time!

Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), “Van Campen Family Portrait in a Landscape” (1624), 151x164cm, Oil on Canvas, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio.
Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), “Children of the Van Campen Family with a Goat Cart” (1624), 151x108cm, Oil on Canvas, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.

The picture with the parents and their 14 children as shown here above is a reconstruction. Of the original painting, three pieces still exist: “Van Campen Family in a Landscape” in the Toledo Museum of Art, “Children of the Van Campen Family with a Goat Cart” in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and “Head of a Young Boy” in a private collection. For the first time in two hundred years, the three surviving pieces of this monumental family portrait are on view side by side at an exhibition in the Fondation Custodia in Paris (until August 25, 2019.

Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), “Head of a Young Boy” detail from “Van Campen Family Portrait in a Landscape” (1624), Private Collection.

The descendants of the Van Campens decided to cut their family portrait into pieces and sell it as separate “Frans Hals” paintings. The original painting was rather big and difficult to fit in any decent house and almost unsellable in its original format. And by cutting in into pieces, one actually creates even more paintings by the famous Frans Hals! Now, after a few hundreds of years, those three individual paintings have been puzzled together to reunite the parents and children Van Campen in one family portrait. In modern times, you sometimes edit someone out of a picture. But here we are happy to put a family with 14 children together again. The original piece with the portrayal of the two children in the bottom right corner is still missing. If you happen to know the whereabouts of these two kids, please do contact me or the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.

Reconstruction of “Van Campen Family Portrait in a Landscape” (1624) by Frans Hals. The child at the bottom left was added by Salomon de Bray. The part in grey is still missing.