A Fine Line: Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

A Fine Line: Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 28. Half-length portrait of a gentleman (Aelbert Cuyp?).

Bartholomeus van der Helst

Half-length portrait of a gentleman (Aelbert Cuyp?)

Auction Closed

July 7, 10:53 AM GMT


25,000 - 35,000 GBP

Lot Details


Bartholomeus van der Helst

Haarlem circa 1613 - 1670 Amsterdam

Half-length portrait of a gentleman (Aelbert Cuyp?)

Black chalk

184 by 150 mm

This accomplished portrait is surely by the same hand as a drawing in Stockholm1, which is also a dashing, half-length portrait of a young man, turned to the side but looking towards the viewer, drawn in the same broad, slightly waxy black chalk, on a sheet of paper of exactly the same size and texture. The hatching, outlines, and spirit of both drawings are extremely similar, and both show the same faint indications of framing lines, drawn by the artist just inside the borders of his image. They could almost have been made as a pair.

In 1908, Joseph Meder first noted that the Stockholm drawing is closely linked with a painted portrait by Bartholomeus van der Helst, in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, and therefore attributed the drawing too to Van der Helst.2 The Mauritshuis painting is universally accepted as a portrait of the celebrated painter of rural subjects, Paulus Potter.3 There are, however, only two other drawings that can, by virtue of their connections with paintings, be securely attributed to Van der Helst4, which led Ben Broos to propose, in the catalogue of the 1995 exhibition devoted to Potter's work, that since the painted portrait of Potter was executed in 1654, the year of his death, the Stockholm drawing might in fact be a self-portrait, drawn by Potter himself, which Van der Helst used, after his fellow artist's death, as the basis for his painting.5 

The stylistic evidence does not, however, seem to support Broos's theory. The broad, dynamic handling of the chalk seen in this drawing and its companion in Stockholm is totally unlike anything to be found in the securely attributable drawings of Paulus Potter, but is, on the other hand, rather close to the style of a fragmentary study by Van der Helst for a group portrait that he painted in 1655.6 Meder's attribution of the Stockholm drawing to Van der Helst seems much more convincing, and should also, by extension, be applied to the present drawing, which can therefore be considered an important addition to the tiny group of drawings by this great master of Dutch portraiture.

As regards the identity of the sitter, there are fairly strong similarities with the features of another celebrated Dutch artist, Aelbert Cuyp, and it is intriguing to speculate that these three very different painters might actually have encountered each other in The Hague, Leiden or Haarlem in the years around 1650, when they all worked in the area.   

1. Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, inv. no. 1872/1863

2. The Hague, Mauritshuis, inv. nr. 54; J. Meder, 'Eine Portraitzeichnung Paulus Potters von Bartholomeus van der Helst', Oud Holland 26 (1908), pp. 18-20

3. J. van Gendt, Bartholomeus van der Helst, Een studie naar zijn leven en werk, Amsterdam 2011, pp. 242-3, no. 72

4. Van Gendt, op. cit., p. 374, nos. T1, T2  

5. B. Broos, in Paulus Potter, Paintings, Drawings and Etchings, exh. cat., The Hague, Mauritshuis, 1995, pp. 174-5, cat. 40

6. Formerly art market; Van Gendt, op. cit., p. 374, no. T2