Frans van Mieris the Elder
- 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
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.
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.
"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."
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.