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: On Jacob van Loo’s Portrait of a Young Woman


Willem L. Van de Watering



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
It is easy to underestimate both the importance and the number of portraits within the corpus of seventeenth-century Dutch (or more specifically, Northern Netherlandish) painting. Portraits tended to remain within the families of the sitters and were passed down from generation to generation without being mentioned in wills. Although this period is generally considered the golden age of Dutch portraiture, most of these works remained hidden from public view until early in this century, when old family collections began to be dispersed. Since that time portraits have come to light in greater numbers, but the genre has not aroused as much interest among collectors and scholars1 as have, for example, those of still life or landscape.This erroneous impression is corrected if one refers to the files of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (the Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague). Here documentation on paintings has been classified in subject groupings: history, genre, landscape, architecture, marine, portrait, and still life. The relative sizes of these categories probably reflect the proportional numbers of paintings in a fairly representative way. Looking at the R. K. D.'s files, one has the impression that during the seventeenth century portraits were hardly less in demand than history pieces (comprising religious, mythological, and allegorical subjects, as well as scenes from literary sources) and the still lifes, which are so much sought after now. The art of portrait painting was lucrative not only in important centers such as Amsterdam, Haarlem, and The Hague; even such small towns as Gouda, Gorcum, Middelburg, and Zwolle, where the demand for pictures must have been small, supported at least one conterfeiter (portrait painter). It is astonishing to see how, within a territory as small as that of the Republic of the United Netherlands and in an even more limited area consisting of the provinces of Holland and Utrecht, a number of strikingly different local schools—not only in portraiture but really in almost all fields—developed. The differences are not always apparent, as far as portrait painting is concerned, as much in style as in the characters and spirits of the various towns.As a result of this, distinct local schools of portraiture can be identified, and although there is a distance of only some fifteen miles between Amsterdam and Haarlem, portraits by Haarlem artists are remarkably different from those by their fellow painters in Amsterdam. Outstanding personalities determined both style and character of the art of portrait painting in these towns: in Haarlem, Frans Hals, Johannes Verspronck, and Jan de Bray; in Amsterdam, Nicolaas Eliasz and Thomas de Keyser, and later Rembrandt and Bartholomeus van der Helst.The Portrait of a Young Woman (figure 1), which entered the collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1972, has been given a variety of attributions during its known history, which goes back as far as the second quarter of the nineteenth century, and can probably be traced back five decades further.2 Sold in 1835 as a work of Gerard ter Borch, it was exhibited under that name at the Guildhall, London, as late as 1903. Then the connoisseurs Abraham Bredius, Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, and the still very young Frits Lugt independently recognized in the portrait the hand of an Amsterdam artist and attributed it to Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-1670). Curiously enough, although they unanimously chose this name, they all maintained some doubts. Did the portrait not have, besides the characteristics of the Amsterdam school of portraiture, something extra? It was the sense of intimacy, of human warmth, together with the sitter's dignified aloofness, that no doubt had influenced previous generations to ascribe the painting to ter Borch. At this time only a very few distinguished collectors and dealers of refined taste were acquainted with the art of Johannes Vermeer van Delft, who had not yet been rediscovered by Thoré-Burger. In 1903, Bredius recorded the “soft, verschmolzene” quality, which he considered characteristic of the works of van der Helst rather than those of ter Borch, and both Hofstede de Groot and Lugt noticed the painting's relationship to the art of Vermeer. Hofstede de Groot situated the painting “between Vermeer and van der Helst;” Lugt wrote in his copy of the exhibition catalog: “Heeft qualiteiten van den Delftschen Vermeer—Metzu? van der Helst?”3 After that, the painting went under the name of van der Helst for several years; also Isaac Luttichuys (1616-1673), whose works have a softer quality than those of van der Helst, seems to have been suggested as the possible author. Some twenty years ago, Sturla J. Gudlaugsson4 connected the portrait for the first time with Jacob van Loo.In fact, there are several connections between the painting and van Loo's oeuvre—which occasionally has Vermeerlike qualities and influenced the work of the Delft master, as has been pointed out—which not only justify the attribution, but also make it fully convincing in our opinion.Jacob van Loo, the son of an obscure painter named Jan van Loo and the founder of the dynasty of French painters, of which his grandsons Jean-Baptiste (1684-1745) and Charles-André, called Carle (1705-1765), became the most celebrated, was born in 1614 in the small town of Sluis, just north of the boundary between the Northern and Southern Netherlands. From 1642 onwards, or earlier, he worked in Amsterdam, and from 1662 till his death in 1670 he lived in Paris.5 His father undoubtedly gave him his first training as a painter. Other teachers have not been recorded, but from the style of his earlier works it may be assumed that he received further training from such masters as Thomas de Keyser (1596/1597-1667) in portraiture, and Jacob Backer (1608-1651) in figure painting. The works of his older colleagues Pieter Codde (1599-1678) and Dirk Santvoort (1610-1680) seem to have influenced his earliest conversation pieces, originating from before 1640. A series of dated pictures—portraits, history, and genre pieces—starts in the year 16446 and terminates in 1668.7 The portraits executed during the two decades he worked in Holland show the influence of or affinity to the styles of such masters as Thomas de Keyser, Bartholomeus van der Helst, Isaac Luttichuys, and Ferdinand Bol. His best genre paintings are examples of the high quality typical of the group of artists of which Gerard van Zyl, Gabriel Metsu, Gerard ter Borch, and Pieter de Hooch are the most famous.In October 1653, painters, poets, and followers of the arts, about a hundred in number, joined to celebrate St. Luke's feast in Amsterdam, and in the next year a brotherhood of painters, sculptors, and their patrons was instituted, which gave occasion to new festivities. In connection with these, the poet Jan Vos wrote a poem in which he mentioned some eighteen Amsterdam artists. From the fact that Jacob van Loo's name appears in it, together with those of Rembrandt, Flinck, Emanuel de Witte, van der Helst, Kalf, Bol, and others, one may conclude that he was among those Amsterdam artists who at that time were most highly esteemed, at least in their own circle.8That he stood in high favor as a history painter may be deduced from the fact that Constantyn Huygens, the erudite secretary to the Stadtholder Frederick Henry (and, after this prince's death in 1647, to the Princessdowager Amalia van Solms), put his name on a 1649 list of artists under consideration to decorate the new Huis ten Bosch Palace near The Hague.9 When the various commissions were finally given, however, neither van Loo nor Jacob Backer, whose name also appeared on the provisional list, was included. Nor was van Loo among the artists who worked on the decorations of the new Amsterdam Town Hall (now the Royal Palace), which was designed by Jacob van Campen and begun in 1648. No records have as yet come to light indicating that he or other artists participated in any competitions which might be expected to have taken place for the commissions to decorate the new Town Hall, but it may be concluded that it was for this reason that in January 1652 Jacob van Loo and other painters who had been living in Amsterdam for several years, such as Bol, Flinck, Nicolaas de Helt Stockade, and van Bronchorst, bought citizenships in that city.10 In 1657 van Loo painted an Allegory of the Distribution of Food to the Poor for the Oude-Zijds-Huiszittenhuis, a workhouse in Amsterdam.11The fact that he was favored with the commission for two large group portraits of the regents and regentesses of the Aalmoezeniers Arm-en Werkhuis of Haarlem demonstrates his recognition also as a portrait painter,12 the more so since in that city Hals, Verspronck, and Jan de Bray were still active at that time.Returning to the Minneapolis Portrait of a Young Woman, we must first answer two questions: when was the portrait painted, and how does it relate to other works by the artist? As a rule the date of a portrait is determined by the sitter's costume and accessories. The costume represented here, a plain black gown with lace bodice, is found in paintings from about 1650 onwards; the headgear and type of collar worn by the Young Woman are also typical of the period.13 There may be slight differences in the collar and cuffs in subsequent years; they are seldom totally smooth and without frills, as they are in the Minneapolis painting and in the portraits by Ferdinand Bol (dated 1652, figure 2)14 and Rembrandt (dated 1656, figure 3).15 Usually both collar and cuffs are lace-trimmed, in either a single band or several rows; double collars also occur, and often a colored knot is added at the center of the collar. The costume described remained in vogue, with changes in detail, till about 1655-56, when collars became longer and enwrapped women's chests like cylinders. The lifetime of a fashion style depends in part on the age and social status of the wearer. The fashion shown here may therefore have been in use long after 1655 by elderly or conservative women—conservative either by nature or for social reasons, as is demonstrated in van Loo's group portrait of the Haarlem regentesses of 1659 already mentioned (figure 4). The fan which our Young Woman holds in her right hand is an attribute found in quite a number of portraits and is depicted in a similar way in works of van der Helst, among others.The Portrait of a Young Woman can therefore be only roughly dated. It should, however, be dated somewhat later—evidently not prior to 1655—than has previously been suggested.16Looking for works in the oeuvre of van Loo that seem to support the attribution (insofar as it is not confirmed merely by the reference to the sale of 178617) we can consider three pictures: the famous and unique Study of a Nude Woman in the Louvre (figure 5);18 the Portrait of a Woman Holding a Scarf (figure 6),19 fully signed and dated 1657; and the Portrait of a Woman With a Vase of Flowers (figure 7).20 Although only one of these three pictures is signed, there can be no doubt about the authorship of the others. The Study of a Nude Woman was sold as a work of “J. van Loo” at an auction in Paris in 1790 and was acquired for the Louvre in 1797.21 The attribution of the Portrait of a Woman with a Vase of Flowers is due to the late Sturla J. Gudlaugsson, former director of the R. K. D.22Comparing these three paintings to the Portrait of a Young Woman, one notices first of all the similar technique: the soft, sensitive brush handling and the treatment of the light. In particular it is obvious that the hands in all four works must not only be by the same artist, but of the same stylistic period in his oeuvre, if indeed not of the same year. Given the date on the Portrait of a Woman Holding a Scarf, that year must be 1657.The identity of the Minneapolis Young Woman is unknown. She was no doubt a lady of the comfortable classes in Amsterdam. If she was married at the time the portrait was painted, it is likely that there was a counterpiece depicting her husband. Regrettably, there is no coat of arms shown, nor do we know of a name associated with the painting in its history; it must be feared that the subject will remain unidentified.Willem L. Van De Watering is a member of the staff of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (Netherlands Institute for Art History) in The Hague. A scholar in the field of seventeenth-century Dutch painting, he compiled the latest critical oeuvre catalog of Johannes Vermeer's paintings in Dr. Albert Blankert's monograph on the artist, which has recently been published in English. He is currently writing an article on Pieter Duyfhuysen and is preparing a monograph, including a catalogue raisonné, on Jacob van Loo. Any information from readers that may bring to his attention paintings or drawings by Van Loo which he may not yet have come across would therefore be welcome.Endnotes
  1. As may be judged from the very small number of scholarly handbooks published, of which not a single one discusses Dutch portrait painting in its entirety: Alois Riegl, Das holländische Gruppenporträt (Vienna, 1931), 2 vols.; Ary Bob de Vries, Het Noord-Nederlandsch portret in de tweede helft van de 16e eeuw (Amsterdam, 1934); A. Wassenbergh, L'Art du portrait en Frise au seizième siècle (Leyden, 1934); A Wassenbergh, De portretkunst in Friesland in de zeventiende eeuw (Lochem, 1967).
  2. See Provenance below, page 41.
  3. Copy preserved in the library of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague. “Has qualities of the Delft Vermeer. Metzu? Van der Helst?”
  4. Note in S. J. Gudlaugsson's handwriting on back of photograph sent to him by the art dealer John Streep, New York, 1956. R. K. D. files, The Hague.
  5. For a discussion of Jacob van Loo's paintings see Arthur von Schneider, “Jacob van Loo,” Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 59, (1925-26), pp. 66-78, ills. A. Bredius published documents relating to van Loo's having been charged with manslaughter, which was the reason for his departure to France, in the article “Waarom Jacob van Loo in 1660 Amsterdam verliet,” Oud-Holland 34 (1916), pp. 47-52.
  6. Portrait group said to depict Rutger van Weert and his wife and children; oil on canvas, 25-1/2 x 29-1/2. Formerly Willibald Duschnitz collection, Vienna.
  7. The date is found on an engraving by Jacobus Houbraken (1698-1780), made from a drawing by Hendrik Pothoven (1725-1795) after the painting by Jacob van Loo representing the Dutch statesman Coenraad van Beuningen (1622-1693). Van Beuningen was Dutch ambassador to the French court from 1664 to 1669. The present location of the original portrait is unknown.
  8. C. Hofstede de Groot, Arnold Houbraken und seine “Groote Schouburg,” (The Hague, 1893), pp. 446-447; and more recently Katharine Fremantle, “Cornelis Brisé and the Festoon of Peace,” Oud-Holland 69 (1954), pp. 222-228.
  9. Princess Amalia had the palace erected in honor and memory of her husband. It was designated by Pieter Post in collaboration with Jacob van Campen. On the architecture see D. F. Slothouwer, De paleizen van Frederick Hendrik (Leiden, 1945), pp. 179-224 and p. 315, where Huygens's list is given. For a discussion of the paintings see J. G. van Gelder, “De schilders can de Oranjezaal,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 2 (1948-1949), pp. 119-164, where Jacob van Loo is noted in passing in connection with Huygens's lists (pp. 126 and 128).
  10. See A. Blankert, Ferdinand Bol, 1618-1680, eem leerling van Rembrandt (Utrecht University thesis, 1976), p. 56.
  11. Signed and dated 1657; oil on canvas, 66-1/2 x 39-3/8. Two more allegories, which completed the series, were executed by Jan van Bronchorst (1603-1661/1662) and Cornelis Holsteyn (1618-1658) respectively. All three are now in the Amsterdams Historisch Museum, Amsterdam, inv. nos. B 3039, A 994 and A 3022.
  12. The Portrait of the Regents painted in 1658, oil on canvas, 40-1/2 x 60-3/8; the Portrait of the Regentesses signed and dated 1659, oil on canvas, 40-1/4 x 56-1/2; both are now in the Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, nos. 196 and 197 in the catalog of 1924.
  13. The same costume, including cuffs, collar, and headgear, appears in a portrait of a lady also by Jacob van Loo, and allegedly dated 1650. Until it was lost during the Second World War it belonged, together with a counterpiece, to the Stadtmuseum in Danzig, p. 8, no. 89 in the catalog of 1902.
  14. Oil on canvas, 28-1/16 x 22-3/4. Coll. Ian Hamilton, Lowood, Melrose, Scotland.
  15. Oil on canvas, 26-3/8 x 22. National Gallery of Art (Mellon Collection), Washington, D.C. p. 86, no. 75 in the catalog of 1949.
  16. See The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 60 (1971-1973; catalog of accessions for the year 1972), p. 94, where a date of ca. 1650 is suggested.
  17. See Provenance below, page 41.
  18. Etude de femme nue, vue à mi-corps, unsigned, but purchased as a work of Jacob van Loo in 1797; oil on canvas, 26-3/8 x 20-1/2. Musée du Louvre, Paris, Catalogue des peintures . . . . III. Ecoles Flamande, Hollandaise, Allemande et Englaise, 1922, p. 138, no. 2452.
  19. Oil on canvas, 19-1/2 x 16-1/4. Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan sale, New York (Parke-Bernet Galleries), 6 December 1939, no. 193 (ill.).
  20. Oil on canvas, 23 x 18-1/2. Swiss private collection.
  21. A story has come down to us that Amsterdam painters, among them Willem Strijcker, Ferdinand Bol, Govert Flinck, Nicolaas de Helt Stockade, and Jacob van Loo, had a model, a pinmaker's daughter named Catarina Jans, who used to pose for them in the nude. (On July 27, 1658, these painters stated before an Amsterdam notary that Catarina Jans “had posed mother-naked, on various occasions, and that the deponents had drawn and painted from her.” For the original Dutch text see A. Bredius, Künstler-Inventare, [The Hague, 1917], p. 1255.) On the basis of the date suggested here for the Louvre Study of a Nude Woman one is tempted to identify the woman represented in that painting with the artist's model Catarina Jans.
  22. Gudlaugsson thought the still life to be the work of Antonie de Lust. Several signed still life paintings, mostly flower pieces, by A. de Lust are known, but none of them is signed with a full first name or dates. Stylistically these works belong to the third quarter of the seventeenth century. Walther Bernt, Die niederländischen maler des 17. Jahrhunderts (Munich, 1969), vol. 2. No. 707, identifies the artist, in our opinion incorrectly, with an Antony Hendriksz Lust who was the teacher of Gerrit Willemsz Horst [see A. Bredius, “Gerrit Willemsz Horst,” Oud-Holland 50 (1933), pp. 1-8]. The date of 1626 seems to be too early for an artist of whom a considerable number of works have come down to us that must be dated at least a generation later. Nor can it be proved that our A. de Lust is identical to a painter de Lust (first name unknown) who lived in Lyon in 1656. This otherwise unknown artist might well be either Jan Baptist de Lust or Guilleaume de lust, who are recorded in Antwerp in 1649-1650 and in 1658-1659 respectively, and who both also happened to be still life painters. (See Ph. Rombouts and Th. Van Lerius, De Liggeren en andere historische archieven der Antwerpsche Sint Lucasgilden. . . (The Hague, n.d.), vol. 2, pp. 208-209, 292, and 300.)History of the Painting
    Possibly sale [John Bertels (Brussels)?], Paris (Paillet), 27-28 March 1786 [Lugt no. 4009], no. 66 bis, as by Van Loo, de Hollande . . . Un autre Portrait de femme, pareillement intéressant. Hauteur 20 pouces, largeur 17 pouces, T[oile]. Sold for fr. 80-10 to “Lauvrence” (=Lawrence? Or Lavreince?).Sale Paulus van Romondt et al., Amsterdam (Jero. de Vries), 11-14 May 1835 [Lugt no. 13933], no. 320, as by G. Terburgh. Eene zittende Vrouw, houdende een waaijer in de hand, zeer fraai [A woman seated, holding a fan in her hand, very fine]. Hoog 5 p[alm] 1 d [uim], breed 4 p [alm] 1 d [uim]. Paneel. Sold for f. 45, to “Burton.”Author's note: From notes found in the auctioneer's copy of the catalog, preserved in the library of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague, it appears that the painting was the property of a certain “Cramer” when offered for sale. The identity of this collector is still to be established. The old Dutch measures el, palm, and duim were still used after about 1816 for some time as the equivalents of meters, decimeters and centimeters respectively, although, it should be noted, their original values did not correspond with the metric system.Sale Aug. Quir, Schmetz (Aachen), Francfort o/M (Rud. Bangel), 7 March 1892 [Lugt no. 50557], no. 138 (ill.), as by Gerard Terburg. Bildniss einer jungen Frau mit goldgestickter Haube und grossem Kragen. Holz 51/41. Sold for Mk 910 to “De Kuyper” (probably the Rotterdam dealer Jos. De Kuyper).Collection Sir George Donaldson, Hove, Sussex, England, in whose possession as by G. ter Borch (see Exhibitions, below).Art dealer Julius Böhler, Munich, 1912, as by B. van der Helst.Collection George D. Pratt, New York, as by B. van der Helst.Sale George D. Pratt (New York) et al., New York (Parke-Bernet Galleries), 21 October 1942, no. 121 (ill.), as by Bartholomeus van der Helst . . . Portrait of a young woman . . . Cradled panel: 20 x 16-1/2 inches.Art dealer E. Hirschl, New York, 1947 (as by Isaac Luttichuys?).Collection Bruce B. Dayton, Minneapolis, as by . . . Collection The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, inv. No. 72.78 (presented by Bruce B. Dayton, 1972), as Delft school, ca. 1650.Exhibitions
    Exhibitions of a selection of works by early and modern painters of the Dutch school, Art Gallery of the Corporation of London, Guildhall, London, 28 April–25 July 1903, no. 165, as by Gerard Terburg (lent by George Donaldson, Esq.).Winter exhibition of works by the old masters . . . , Royal Academy of Arts, London, 3 January–12 March 1910, no. 105, as by Bartholomew van der Helst (lent by Sir George Donaldson).Bibliography
    [N.N.], “The Dutch exhibition at the Guildhall. Article I. The old master,” The Burlington Magazine 2, no. 4 (June 1903), p. 56: “Neither does a Portrait of a Lady worthily display the magic and refined art of Terborch, for the painting is careful even to timidity. Better by far is the Portrait of a Young Woman, which, in spite of an unequal tussle with the restorer, still presents some of his most charming qualities. Both the head and hands are in his best manner, and the black dress with its semi-transparent frills is full of such delicate painting as characterizes The Portrait of a Gentleman in the National Gallery.”A. Bredius, “De ‘Dutch Exhibition’ in Guildhall,” De Nederlandsche Spectator, no. 24 (June 1903), p. 188: “Een uitmuntende Metsu . . . behoort ook al aan den Heer Donaldson. Zijn merkwaardig portret eener jonge vrouw, (No. 165) schijnt mij echter zeer ten onrechte aan Ter Borch toegeschreven. Het heeft niet diens meer strakke teekening, maar daarentegen al het weeke, “verschmolzene” der vroegere werken van B. van der Helst. Het is maar op een derde levensgtrootte, ongewoon voor dezen meester, maar zijn penceel m.i. zeer duidelijk verradend.” [Author's translation: “An excellent Metsu . . . also belongs to Mr. Donaldson. To me, however, his remarkable portrait of a young woman (No. 165), seems to be attributed to ter Borch without any justification. It does not have his firm-lined drawing, but on the contrary all of the soft, “verschmolzene” qualities of the earlier works of B. van der Helst. It is only a third of life size, unusual for this master, but in my opinion clearly revealing his brush.”]C. Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts (Esslingen/Paris, 1912), vol. 1, p. 130, no. 417, as by G. ter Borch. See author's note to the preceding reference.J. J. de Gelder, Bartholomeus van der Helst (Rotterdam, 1921), p. 207, no. 536, as by van der Helst, and pp. 225-226, no. 781, where he refers to a note of Hofstede de Groot, according to which the picture was attributed to B. van der Helst by Bredius and Friedländer, but in his (i.e. Hofstede de Groot's) opinion was probably not by him; in the hands there was, the note continues, something reminiscent of Metsu.
Referenced Works of Art
  1. Jacob van Loo
    Dutch, 1614-1670
    Portrait of a Young Woman
    Oil on panel, 20 x 16-1/2
    Gift of Bruce B. Dayton, 72.78
  2. Ferdinand Bol
    Portrait of a Woman
    Collection of Mrs. Ian Hamilton, Lowood, Melrose, Scotland
  3. Rembrandt van Rijn
    Woman Holding a Pink
    Andrew Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art
  4. Jacob van Loo
    Regentesses of the Haarlem Workhouse, 1659
    Frans-Halsmuseum, Haarlem, reproduced by courtesy of the museum
  5. Jacob van Loo
    Study of a Nude Woman
    Musée du Louvre
  6. Jacob van Loo
    Woman Holding a Scarf, 1657
    Location unknown; photo courtesy of the Frick Art Reference Library
  7. Jacob van Loo (figure) and Anthony de Lust (still life)
    Woman with a Vase of Flowers
    Private collection, Switzerland
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Source: Willem L. Van de Watering, "On Jacob van Loo's Portrait of a Young Woman," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 63 (1976-1977): 32-41.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009