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Dutch School, early 17th century
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Dutch School, early 17th century

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Portrait of a little girl standing in an interior dressed in a richly embroidered dress with white lawn pinafore and open lace collar; her head-dress is in white lace with a large white feather. She stands by a table with a red tablecloth with some sweet-meats by her left hand, and a bunch of roses in her right hand. Around her waist is a chatelaine with a gold rope-work belt from which hang a pair of gilt scissors, a scraper and a pomander; her shoes are red-brown.

 

Oil painting on canvas 37 x 24 ½ inches / 95 x 62 cm and contained in a bolection moulded black frame with gilt sight-edge, overall size 42 x 29 ½ inches / 108 x 75 cm

 

Provenance: Private collection France until 2010

 

This utterly charming child portrait is of a type which enjoyed a great popularity in newly-independent Holland in the early years of the 17th century. As Spanish hegemony was overthrown by the Seven United States of Holland, great strides were made on the economic and trade fronts, leading to an upsurge in wealth among the mercantile and middle classes. This economic growth was mirrored throughout the arts, giving rise to the so-called Golden Age of Netherlandish painting.

The new Merchants were keen to memorialise themselves and their families, and the production of portraits by native artists grew very rapidly. For the first time, babies and young children were recorded in all their finery, symbols of parental pride and pride, too, in their growing material wealth. It is no surprise that the little girl who smiles sweetly and confidently in this present painting is dressed opulently (not to say wholly impractically for a two-year-old !) but she also wears miniature versions the rich gold symbols of the wealthy women of the age in her rich domestic jewellery.

Many of these paintings were executed in the Friesland area of north Holland, in the area around the prosperous seaports of Groningen and Leeuwarden, where the leading painter of children was the talented but obscure Adriaen van den Linde, of whose work we know quite a lot but the facts of whose life are few. The school he started, and to which the present painting belongs, has so far been little studied by art-historians, and for the moment much remains to discovered and the oeuvres of the various artists remain to be elucidated.