Lot 6
  • 6

Frans van Mieris the Elder

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Frans van Mieris the Elder
  • A trony self-portrait of the artist, bust-length, wearing a turban crowned with a feather, and fur-trimmed robe
  • oil on oak panel, oval


Jan van Beuningen, Amsterdam;
From whom purchased by Pieter de la Court van der Voort (1664-1739), Amsterdam, before 1731, for 120 Florins ("door myn vaader gekofft van Jan van Beuningen tot Amsterdam");
In Pieter de la Court van der Voort's inventory of 1731;
His son Allard de la Court van der Voort, and in his inventories of 1739 and 1749;
His widow, Catherine de la Court van de Voort-Backer;
Her deceased sale, Leiden, Sam. and Joh. Luchtmans, 8 September 1766, lot 23,  for 470 Florins to De Winter;
Gottfried Winkler, Leipzig, by 1768;
Probably anonymous sale, “Twee voornamen Liefhebbers” (two distinguished amateurs), Leiden, Delfos, 26 August 1788, lot 85, (as on copper), sold for f. 54.4 to Van de Vinne;
M. Duval, St Petersburg (?) and Geneva, by 1812;
His sale, London, Phillips, 12 May 1846, lot 42, (as a self-portrait of the artist), sold for £525;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 21 February 1903, lot 80, (as a self-portrait of the artist);
Max and Fanny Steinthal, Charlottenburg, Berlin, by 1909 and probably acquired in 1903;
Thence by descent.


Berlin, Königliche Kunstakademie, Illustrierter Katalog der Ausstellung von Bildnissen des fünfzehnten bis achtzehnten Jahrhunderts aus dem Privatbesitz der Mitglieder des Vereins, 31 March – 30 April 1909, cat. no. 84, as ‘Brustbild eines mannes mit Turban’ (lent by Steinthal).


Possibly mentioned by Z.C. Uffenbach, Merkwürdige Reisen durch Niedersachsen, Holland und England, vol. III, Ulm 1754, p. 421 (when visiting the De la Court collection in 1711);
Historische Erklaerungen der gemaelde, welche Herr Gottfried Winkler in Leipzig gesammlet, Leipzig 1768, cat. no. 432 (as dated 1667);
E.W. Moes,  Iconographia Batava, vol. II, Amsterdam 1905, p. 103, no. 31;
W. Kurth (advised by W. von Bode),  Die Kunst im Hause Steinthal 1889-1914, privately printed, Berlin 1914; 
C. Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und Kritisches Verzeichnis…,vol. X, Esslingen 1928, pp. 64-5, no. 240;
H. van Hall, Portretten van Nederlandse beeldende Kunstenaars, Amsterdam 1963, p. 211, no. 7 (as a self-portrait by the artist and dated 1667, from the Steinthal collection);
O. Naumann, Frans van Mieris (1635-1681) The Elder, Doornspijk 1981, vol. 1, p. 207, no. A. 19, vol. 2, p. 84, cat. no. 70 (as dated 1667), and also probably cat. no. 70a;
C.W. Fock, "Willem van Mieris en zijn mecenas Pieter de la Court van der Voort", in Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, vol. II, 1983, p. 280, no. 14.

By Bause, when in the collection of Friedrich Winkler.
By Klauber after a drawing by Michaeloff, 1812, when in the Duval collection.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden, who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's. This miniature is on a quite thick little oak panel, bevelled all round, with various seals on the back. The panel has stayed firm and unmoved over time and the paint has remained secure. Some minute horizontal craquelure has developed some time ago near the lower edge, perhaps partially in the old varnish. A few smears higher up are superficial. The magnificent condition of this portrait shows its perfectly unworn intact original finish. The quality of the description in the folds of the shirt, the fronds of the feather catching the light, the folds of the neck as well and the expression perfectly caught, every detail is miraculously intact and unworn. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This lost painting was known to Otto Naumann through earlier literature and provenance, and from the reproductive engraving after it, made by Klauber when it was in the collection of Duval in 1812 (see fig. 1).1  Although faithful in outline to the original, Klauber’s print does not capture Frans van Mieris’ own features, and the identity of the subject as a self-portrait was thus obscured.  In Pieter de la Court’s inventory of 1731 it is described as Een Persiaantje met een tulbant (“a Persian with a turban”) and in the 1739 inventory as een persiaantje, but in Allard de la Court’s inventory of 1749, written in his own hand, it is described at greater length:  Hooffd ‘t kopje soo wonderlyk fraay en konstig, tooveragtig van de Oude Frans van Mieris geschilderd als ooit iets van hem is gesien ….(“ Head-study so wonderfully beautiful and artistic, so magically painted by Frans van Mieris the Elder as ever has been seen by him …”).   By the 1846 Duval sale it was described as a self-portrait, a description repeated in the 1903 sale catalogue, but in the Berlin exhibition of 1909 it reverted to portrait, bust-length of a man in a turban.   While in the Steinthal collection it was mis-attributed to Ary de Vois, and at one point the same picture was listed twice, as by Van Mieris and as De Vois. 

This painting is first and foremost a Trony, that is to say a study of a figure in a fanciful and exotic costume.  The Trony was a pictorial type popularized by Rembrandt and Lievens in the 1620s and '30s, and essayed by many other Dutch 17th-century artists.  It was especially popular in Leiden, where Gerrit Dou, with whom Van Mieris studied, was a major practitioner of the genre.   While Rembrandt’s studies of himself in exotic dress are generally classified as self-portraits rather than Tronies, with Van Mieris’ works the distinction is blurred, as it is to some extent in those of Dou.2   In the present picture, as in other Tronies, Van Mieris presents us with a figure whose physiognomy is a clear caricature of his own features, which we are intended to recognise.  Apart from a handful of formal self-portraits, in other works more usually classified as self-portraits, he also usually incorporates items of fancy dress, and continues to stress the comic and caricatural aspects of his own physiognomy, just as Rembrandt exaggerated the dramatic nature of his features and facial expressions in his early painted and etched self-portraits.   A further parallel is found in the works of Van Mieris’ contemporary Jan Steen, who often incorporated his own physiognomy in highly caricatural form in multi-figured genre compositions (and occasionally in history paintings), while his fewer single-figure self-portraits also show him in a comic light, his trowel-like nose theatrically enlarged. 

Although the De la Courts were great patrons of Frans van Mieris’ son Willem, they did not acquire this work from him, nor had they commissioned it from Frans directly, but as Allard de la Court’s inventory of 1749 states, his father Pieter had acquired it from Jan van Beuningen, for 120 florins.  This may have been the banker and merchant Jan van Beuningen (1667-1720) who lived on the Herengracht in Amsterdam but died in Curaçao, where he was Governor. 

We are grateful to Otto Naumann for his help in cataloguing this painting.  Dr Naumann has pointed out that his no. 70 and no. 70a are probably one and the same picture.

Max and Fanny Steinthal

Max Steinthal joined the Deutsche Bank in 1873 as its youngest ever director, and served the bank for over 60 years.  He is perhaps best remembered today for organising the financing of Berlin's elevated metropolitan railway, which opened in 1902.  He and his wife Fanny were collectors in a broad range of areas, filling their house in Charlottenburg with painting, sculpture, prints and Bohemian glassware.  They were advised by Wilhelm von Bode in their Old Master purchases, many of which, including the present lot, and the Frans Snyders sold by the Heirs at Sotheby's in London in December 2004, were bought on the art market in London.

In 1935, because of Nazi persecution of the Jews, Max Steinthal was forced to resign from the Board of the Deutsche Bank, and lived out his days with Fanny, homeless and penniless, in a Berlin hotel.  Much of their collection was appropriated by the Nazi authorities.  Some of it was returned after the war, only to be confiscated again by the DDR authorities.  Some parts of the collection were restituted in the last decade, and highlights were exhibited in the Jewish Museum in Berlin in 2004 in an exhibition entitled Max Steinthal: Ein Bankier und Seine Bilder.

The present picture, and two further paintings in the Day Sale (lots 137 and 353), avoided seizure by the Nazis and were kept in the family, having been removed from Berlin in the care of Max and Fanny's daughter Eva Steinthal, firstly to England, then Belgium. 

1.  See under Literature, 1981.
2.  The problem was discussed by Quentin Buvelot in his catalogue entry for Van Mieris’s Man in Oriental Dress in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, in the 2005-6 Frans van Mieris exhibition catalogue: Q. Buvelot, Frans van Mieris 1635-1681, Zwolle 2005, pp. 166-8, no. 34, reproduced.