Lot 50
  • 50

FERDINAND BOL | Self-portrait

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
790,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Circle of Ferdinand Bol
  • Self-portrait
  • oil on canvas
  • 93 x 83.5 cm.; 36 5/8  x 32 7/8  in. 


With M. Knoedler & Co., New York, in half share with Curt Benedict, Paris, 1956–70;1 From whom acquired on 13 February 1970 by Paula de Koenigsberg, Buenos Aires, for $2210;

Nicolas de Koenigsberg;

By whom offered, New York, Sotheby’s Parke Bernet, 4 June 1980, lot 50 (as Portrait of a gentleman, said to be the artist), bought-in and sold after the sale for $35,000 to David Cross; 

Anonymous sale, Zurich, Galerie Koller, 25–26 May 1984, lot 5059, reproduced pl. 36;

With Douwes, London;

Where purchased in 1986 by the present owner.


Oshkosh, Wisconsin, The Paine Art Center and Arboretum, Dutch art of the 1600's, 24 September – 30 October 1968, no. 5, reproduced (as self-portrait, c. 1640/45); Montreal, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Rembrandt and His Pupils, 9 January – 23 February 1969 and 14 March – 27 April 1969, no. 24, reproduced (as self portrait);

San Diego, The San Diego Museum of Art, From Rembrandt's Studio: The Prints of Ferdinand Bol, 5 December 2009 – 7 March 2010, reproduced (as self-portrait, 1647);

Amsterdam, Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck. Rembrandt’s Master Pupils, 13 October 2017 – 18 February 2018, no. 61 (as self-portrait, c. 1647).


A. Blankert, Ferdinand Bol 1616–1680: Een Leerling van Rembrandt, dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht, 1976, pp. 199–200; A. Blankert, Ferdinand Bol (1616–1680), Rembrandt's Pupil, Doornspijk 1982, pp. 58, 64, 66, 118, no. 62, reproduced fig. 62 (classified under 'Portraits and Troniën' under those 'Known as 'Early Self-portraits''; not a self-portrait; as dating from 1647);

E.E. Kok, Netwerkende kunstenaars in de Gouden Eeuw, De successvolle loopbanen van Govert Flink en Ferdinand Bol, Hilversum 2016, pp. 61–62, reproduced fig. 30c (as self-portrait, 1647);

N. Middelkoop et al., Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck. Rembrandt’s Master Pupils, exh. cat., Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam, and the Amsterdam Museum, Zwolle 2017, pp. 50, 149–50, 231, no. 61, 242 n. 24, reproduced in colour on the cover (detail), the inside cover, pp. 6 (detail), 53, fig. 59, 149, fig. 190 (as self-portrait, c. 1647);

S.S. Dickey (ed.), Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck, New Research, Zwolle 2017, reproduced in colour on the inside cover;

G.C. Kenney, The Illustrated Bartsch, Ferdinand Bol, vol. 51, Norwalk 2017, reproduced as frontispiece.

Catalogue Note

Ferdinand Bol, who was among the most talented artists to work in Amsterdam with Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), painted this self-portrait leaning on a stone balustrade in about 1647. Taking a work by his teacher as his starting point, he has given the composition its own distinctive character. Bol was arguably at his most original in the genre of portraiture and an imaginative interpreter of his own self-image. Here Bol places himself in the pictorial tradition of the elegant gentleman–artist of elevated status. This painting is one of the last of Bol’s self-portraits in private hands.  Inspired by the painted and etched self-portraits of Rembrandt, this work pays homage to his master’s celebrated Self-portrait of 1640 (National Gallery, London; fig. 1), which in turn draws its inspiration from Titian, and perhaps even more so to Self-portrait leaning on a stone sill of 1639, executed in the medium of etching and drypoint (fig. 2).2 The half-length pose; details of dress, such as the embroidered border across the upper arm; the beret; the ample sleeve overhanging the ledge; and the bold use of empty space around the figure, are all elements found in Rembrandt’s print. While this formative influence is not surprising, the subtle changes that Bol introduces – notably the inclusion of an ungloved hand, its fingers skilfully foreshortened – hint at his ambitions in the field of portraiture. His dexterity as a painter is also in evidence here, not only in his ability to convey tonal range – for instance in the subtle modelling of the face – but also in the rich velvety textures of the clothing and the glimmer of gold. 

Ferdinand Bol was born in Dordrecht to Balthasar Bol, a prosperous surgeon, and is thought initially to have been apprenticed to Benjamin Gerritsz. Cuyp (1612–1652), whose style was strongly influenced by Rembrandt’s early work. When Bol was nearly twenty years of age he left for Amsterdam, where he entered Rembrandt’s studio, undoubtedly drawn there out of admiration. Apprenticed to his famous master between 1635 and 1641, Bol remained there until the age of twenty-five, when he established himself as an independent artist.

Bol’s earliest signed and dated portraits were made from 1642 onwards. Bol’s etched self-portrait also dates from that year.3 Some of his male portraits blur the distinctions between portraiture and tronies. A popular genre of anonymous bust- or half-length figures painted from life and usually dressed in exotic or historicizing costumes, tronies became one of Bol’s specialities. In his catalogue of Bol’s work, published in 1982, Albert Blankert questioned the traditional notion that this and five other works discussed below are self-portraits, preferring instead to see the historicizing aspect of these paintings. He argued that Bol was primarily concerned with representing ‘the artist’ rather than someone’s specific appearance. However this view is not shared by more recent writers on Bol. 

Erna Kok in her analysis of Bol’s self-portraits considers him to have painted at least seven.4 His earliest known painted self-portrait is a work of 1646 now in the Dordrechts Museum.5 Between 1647 and 1648 Bol went on to paint four variations on a similiar theme, elaborating on the same basic pose: Self-portrait in a feathered hat, c. 1647 (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid); the present work; Self-portrait with a curtain and a scroll, c. 1648 (The Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts); and Self-portrait with gorget and drawing, 1648 (The Leiden Collection, New York).6 Only in one later self-portrait painted in 1653 on the occasion of his marriage to Elisabeth Dell – Self-portrait with palette (pendant to his portrait of her) – does Bol represent himself as a painter with the materials of his profession (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, on loan from the Schroeder Collection).7 The artist’s physiognomy in this painting is most like his depiction of himself in the painting now at Springfield. There he painted himself lifting a curtain; whereas here his hands are at rest posed in the same aristocratic way as the sitter in a probable self-portrait dated 1647, now at the Toledo Museum of Art, with which it can be closely compared.8 Blankert considered this and the work in Toledo to be the most lively paintings in Bol's series of related half-length portraits of flamboyantly attired young men.9   

Rudi Ekkart and others maintain that Bol’s intention in painting self-assured portraits of himself at the start of his career was as a form of self-promotion. Moreover in so doing, Bol was emulating Rembrandt’s success. As Kok points out, by presenting a confident self-image Bol was able to demonstrate his abilities and ambitions, with the intention of attracting new clients.

Bol’s reputation as a portraitist grew significantly during the course of the 1640s culminating in 1649 – two years after this was painted – in his first major commission, a group portrait of The Governors of the Amsterdam Leper Hospital (Amsterdam Museum).10 Not long after, in 1652, he painted what is widely considered to be his finest portrait, that of an eight-year old-boy only recently identified as Frederick Sluijsken, the son of a wine merchant. This work, which epitomises Bol’s skill in the field of portraiture, achieved a record price for the artist.11 In 1669, the year of Bol’s second marriage, he was to paint his final image of himself. With Self-portrait with Cupid (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam),12 Bol asserted his identity as a prosperous citizen of Amsterdam, having fulfilled the ambitions in evidence in this early portrait.

1 Information from Getty archives, Knoedler Book 10, Stock no. A6389, p. 179, row 43, for $2210; sale recorded in Book 11, p. 46, row 39. 'A6389' inscribed on the reverse of the painting. 

2 Bartsch no. 21.

3 Reproduced in Amsterdam 2017, p. 212, fig. 298.

4 Kok 2016, pp. 61–67; see also Blankert 1982, nos 60–65, 103 and 151. In Amsterdam 2017, p. 244 n. 41 Kok excludes Blankert’s no. 61 as a self-portrait, revising her opinion of it as a self-portrait since Kok 2016, p. 62.

5 Inv. no. 887-372; oil on canvas, 102 x 85.5 cm.; reproduced in colour in Amsterdam 2017, p. 72, fig. 90.

6 Reproduced in Amsterdam 2017, p. 73, fig. 92; p. 53, fig. 59 (the present work); p. 52, fig. 58; and p. 73, fig. 93. The latter was sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 28 January 2010, lot 162, for $578,500.

7 Reproduced in Amsterdam 2017, p. 74, figs 94–95.

8 1980.1347; 100.6 x 89.1 cm.; Blankert 1982, no. 61, reproduced pl. 61; Kok 2016, p. 62, fig. 30d.

9 Blankert 1982, p. 58.

10 Inv. no. SA 7295; oil on canvas, 224 x 310 cm.; reproduced in colour in Amsterdam 2017, p. 171, fig. 221.

11 F. Grijzenholt and E.E. Kok, ‘A rare case of evidence: Ferdinand Bol’s Portrait of an Eight-year-old Boy (1652) identified’, in Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck, New Research, S.S. Dickey (ed.), Zwolle 2017, pp. 114–31, reproduced on p. 114, fig. 6.1; Sotheby’s, London, 8 July 2015, lot 11, for £5,189,000.

12 Inv. no. SK-A-42; oil on canvas, 128 x 104 cm.; reproduced in colour in Amsterdam 2017, p. 59, fig. 67.