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Thomas de Keyser (Amsterdam 1596/7-1667), ‘Portrait of a gentleman, bust-length‘, oil on panel, 16¾ x 14¾ in. (42.5 x 37.5 cm.)Estimate $200,000 – $300,000. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: with the Stanley Collection.
with Asscher Koetser & Welker, London, 1928.
with Nicolaas Beets, Amsterdam, 1930.
Hans Ludwig Larsen, Wassenaar, by 1936;
Loaned by Susanne Menzel Larsen (1911-2001) to the De Lakenhal Museum, Leiden, July 6, 1939;
Confiscated by the German authorities following the occupation of The Netherlands, after May 1940;
Sale, van Marle and Bignell, the Hague, January 25, 1943, lot 41;
Acquired for the Sonderauftrag Linz by Dr. Erhard Göpel March 1, 1943 (Linz no. 2761);
Recovered by the Monuments Fine Arts and Archives Section from the Salt Mines at Alt Aussee (Alt Aussee no. 2575);
Transferred to the Central Collecting Point, Munich, July 10, 1945 (MCCP no. 3837);
Transferred to the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, February 15, 1946 (NK 1420);
Restituted to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen, 2014.

PROPERTY RESTITUTED TO THE HEIRS OF HANS LUDWIG LARSEN

Literature: A.J. Adams, The paintings of Thomas de Keyser (1596/7-1667): a study of portraiture in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 1985, III, pp. 260-261, no. R-46a, under ‘Rejected paintings’.
Old master paintings. An illustrated summary catalogue. Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst/The Netherlandish Office for the Fine Arts, Zwolle and The Hague, 1992, p. 159, no. 1317.
Jaarverslag Amsterdams Historisch Museum, 1998, [n.p.].

Exhibited: Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, inv. B5401 (on loan from the Instituut Collectie Nederland, Amsterdam).

Notes: Though unrecorded by Rudolf Oldebourg in his 1911 catalogue raisonné of De Keyser’s work, this distinguished portrait has been known to scholars since 1985. Recently the painting hung on the walls of the Amsterdam Historisches Museum as an autograph work by De Keyser, and was published in the Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the Netherlands Office for Fine Arts in the Hague as such. On the occasion of its restitution to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen, the painting was brought to New York, and further study fully supports its status as an autograph painting by Thomas de Keyser, and an important addition to the artist’s early output as a portraitist.

As Ann Jensen Adams has noted, the present sitter shares his braided cloak and finely pleated ruff with the figure in the lovely Portrait of a Blond Youth in the collection of the Earl of Bradford, Weston Park. Both paintings also present the sitter in full profile – a relatively rare format for De Keyser – and employ the same motif of showing the cloak gathered up about the sitter’s chest in his right hand. Like the Weston Park portrait and a second painting showing the same young boy at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (inv. 1899.5), the present work has been tentatively dated to the early 1620s. Such a dating is supported by the tall hat worn by the present sitter, a fashion in vogue in Amsterdam during the first quarter of the 17th century, and the tight, smooth painting of the skin and hair, which suggests the picture was made before De Keyser came into contact with Rembrandt’s broader impasto in the early 1630s.

Like the Hartford and Weston Park portraits, which both show the same boy, the present sitter reappears in a painting of somewhat larger dimensions in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, which also repeats the present composition. Having access only to an old black-and-white image of this work, it is difficult to comment on its authenticity as an autograph painting by De Keyser, and Ann Jensen Adams lists it under “Rejected Works” in her dissertation. However, along with the Hartford/Weston Park paintings, this pair of portraits raises intriguing questions about De Keyser’s working practice in the early and mid-1620s. Like the Pushkin picture, the Hartford and Weston Park paintings measure about 50 x 40 cm., approximately twice the size of the present work.

Another group of pictures, whose dimensions are all almost identical to those of the present work, are datable to the mid- to late 1620s, and include a pair of portraits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (invs. 2005.331.5 and 2005.331.6). Two other sets of portraits showing the same sitters in identical costumes and poses are also known: a pair of pictures in a private collection in Switzerland, and another pair divided between the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania and the former collection of Adolphe Schloss (see W. Liedtke, Dutch Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007, I, figs. 95-100). All six pictures are considered to be autograph works by Thomas De Keyser and all date between c. 1626 to 1628. As Walter Leidtke notes, “[i]t was not unusual for Netherlandish portraitists to supply multiple versions of portraits to patrons, so that different members of their family might have them” (op. cit., p. 398). It is tempting to suggest that the present work and its counterpart in the Pushkin Museum, might have been made for exactly this purpose.

The identification of the sitter has been the subject of some debate. Jensen Adams notes that the man is “said to be Pieter Cornelisz. Boom”, an identification which had been suggested on the basis of an old inscription on the verso of the present panel (fig. 1) and a tenuous link to the profile portrait of a main in De Keyser’s grand Four Burgomasters of Amsterdam Being Informed of the Arrival of Maria de’ Medici in September 1638 (Mauritshuis, The Hague, inv. 78). Aside from the fact that the relevant gentleman in the group portrait has now been re-identified as Petrus Hasselaar, the physiognomic similarities are not convincing. Another man at the far left of the group portrait, now identified as Abraham Pietersz. Boom, has also been suggested as the subject of the present work, but the features of that gentleman bear little relation to those in the present portrait.

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Fig. 1 verso

The most interesting suggestion thus far relates to a drawing attributed to the artist’s brother, Hendrick de Keyser (fig. 2). Now in the Morgan Library, New York (inv. 2001.17), the drawing is clearly related to the present composition, and is recorded as early as the late 18th century in the Amsterdam collection of Ploos van Amstel, where it was listed by the owner himself as showing “de Keyser beeldhouwer” or, “the sculptor De Keyser”, a clear reference to Hendrick who was an important Amsterdam architect and sculptor. The monogram on the drawing which reads “HDK” in ligature is identical to that in Hendrick’s three signed sculptures, and has been shown to be contemporary with the ink on the rest of the drawing (see J.S. Turner, Dutch Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library: Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, New York, 2006, I, no. 110). How, then, could this work be related to the present picture? One possibility is that the drawing is a self-portrait by Hendrick, and that on his brother’s death in 1621, Thomas transformed Hendrick’s likeness in paint to serve as a family memory. This fascinating addition to De Keyser’s oeuvre can be counted among the artist’s earliest known pictures, painted when he was just beginning to establish himself as the leading portraitist in 17th-century Amsterdam.

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Fig. 2 Hendrick de Keyser (?), Portrait of a man in a tall cap, Christie’s, New York, 24 January 2001, Lot 157

Christie’s. OLD MASTER PAINTINGS PART I, 28 January 2015,New York, Rockefeller Plaza

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