We are grateful to Ann Jensen Adams for confirming the attribution to Thomas de Keyser, on the basis of photographs.
This charming portrait of a young boy belongs to a small group of full-length portraits of children in interiors executed by the Amsterdam artist Thomas de Keyser in the 1620s and 30s, which were to prove extremely influential upon the development of Dutch portrait painting in the second quarter of the seventeenth century. In each portrait the sitter is placed in a rich interior, informally posed, looking confidently out at the viewer. The first of this series is de Keyser’s splendid portrait of the Stadholder’s secretary Constantijn Huygens and his clerk of 1627 (National Gallery, London), which seems to have been an immediate success with his patrons in Amsterdam. As Ann Jensen Adams notes (see Ann Jensen Adams, The Paintings of Thomas de Keyser: a Study of Portraiture in Seventeenth Century Amsterdam, Harvard PhD thesis, 1985, I, p.97), de Keyser adapted aspects of courtly painting in England and France for his portraits of the Dutch urban patricians and their children, but when possible filled his interiors with objects that reflected their status and interests. This style and format was a radical departure from the static, formal three-quarter-length portraits of Mierevelt and Pickenoy.
De Keyser works in a delicate, but freer style than the Leiden fijnschilders such as Gerrit Dou (see Lot 16) who have a similar interest in figures in interiors but work mostly on a very small scale. The son and brother of architects, de Keyser had very strong understanding of how figures work in an interior space, as well as a sharp eye for gradations of color, for example the wonderful yellow undergarment contrasted with the deep purple of the young boy’s dress in this portrait. The light on his face and golden curls emphasizes the youthful innocence of this young boy playing with his crossbow and arrow. The rich red table carpet to his right provides a compliment to the young boy’s red beads and emphasizes the taste and luxury of his family surroundings. The carpet must have been a studio prop, as the detailed border recalls a similar but slightly more ornate version of this carpet which appears in several other works by de Keyser including the Portrait of a Scholar, 1631 (The Mauritshuis, The Hague) and in a pair of portraits from 1631 in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.
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