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F.P.[rims], "Aloude portrettengalerie. Philips Van de Werve en Isabelle Charles", in Zondagsvriend, no. 399, 28 September 1939, p. 1215, no. 399;
M. van Huffel, Het Monumentale Familieportret in de Zuidnederlandse Schilderkunst van de Zeventiende Eeuw, unpublished thesis, Louvain 1985, vol. 1, pp. 203-9, no. III, 13;
Y. Schmitz & A. Bousse, Les van der Werve. 800 Ans d'Histoire, Brussels 1988, p. 297, reproduced p. 298;
H. Vlieghe, Flemish Art & Architecture 1585-1700, Cambridge 1998, p. 145, reproduced fig. 193.
This is arguably Pieter Thijs' finest group portrait, painted in the early 1660s when he was at the height of his powers, and probably in 1661 when he was Dean of the Antwerp Guild. Its composition recalls Van Dyck's large family-group portraits painted in his late English period, which Thijs would have seen when he went to England in 1639 to become a pupil of Van Dyck's. The figures in the present picture are also strongly Van Dyckian, especially the two children.
The still life and parrot are by another hand; probably, as Fred Meijer has suggested on the basis of first hand inspection, by Pieter Boel (Antwerp 1622-1674 Paris).
The Van de Werves were among the oldest of the Antwerp noble families. Several generations produced Burgemeesters (Mayors) of Antwerp, including Jan van de Werve in 1515, and Arnold van de Werve in 1531. Simon van de Werve saw service in the army of Alexander Farnese during the Siege of Antwerp in 1584-5, and carried a banner at the funeral of the Archduke Albert in 1621. His son Philips van de Werve was born on 24 December 1628, and is probably the 'Philippus van de Werve, Antverpiensis, minorennis' who was enrolled in the University of Leuven on 30 September 1649. The Charles family was a prominent Catholic family since the end of the 16th century. We do not know the exact date of birth of Françoise Charles, but she was baptised in Antwerp on 25 January 1635, the daughter of Gaspard Charles, Lord of Nieuwenhove and Dijkgraaf Général (in which capacity he was charged with the construction of the Ferdinandusdijk at Mortsel, near Antwerp), and of Marguerite Dansaert. Philippe van de Werve and Françoise Charles (d. 1718) were married in the Sint-Jacobskerk in Antwerp on 28 November 1655, and they had ten children. The two included in the present portrait are likely to be the two eldest sons: Philippe-Ferdinand (1656-1686) and Jean-François (1657-1710); identifications further supported by the inscriptions on the reverse of the canvas. Since they appear to be about four to five and three to four years old respectively, this picture should be dated circa 1660-1.
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