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Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort

Family Portrait of a Gentleman and his Wife and Son

Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort

On canvas, 29½ x 41½ ins. (75 x 105.5 cm



Vernon J. Watney (d. 1928), Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, from 1899
By descent to his son Oliver V. Watney (d. 1966), Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
Sale, Christie’s, London, 23 June 1967, lot 21 (1600 gns. to Spiller)
Mrs Nicole Landau, London
With Alan Jacobs Fine Paintings, London, 1972
Private collection, United Kingdom, 1972-2018


A Catalogue of Pictures & Miniatures at Cornbury & 11 Berkeley Square, compiled by V. J. Watney, 1959, no. 17. 



This attractive portrait by the Amsterdam painter Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort depicts an unknown couple and their son, standing before a wooded landscape.  The paterfamilias takes centre stage, striking a self-assured pose, with one arm akimbo, and gazing directly at the viewer.  His other arm is extended towards his wife, who appears on his left, as was customary in seventeenth-century Dutch portraiture. His son, who looks to be about fourteen years old, stands on his right.  The couple is dressed in the restrained, but costly, attire typical of the regent class, thus indicating the family’s wealth and social standing.  The husband is clad in a black suit and velvet-lined cloak, with white ruff and lace-trimmed cuffs: he wears kid gloves, a wide-brimmed hat and sports a moustache and small goatee.  His wife is dressed in a black, patterned silk dress, set off by a large millstone ruff, and lace-trimmed cap and cuffs.  Around her neck and wrist she wears strings of pearls: she holds a black ostrich-feather fan in her right hand, on the index finger of which she wears a wedding ring.  The youngster is kitted out in a grey-brown doublet and breeches, and lace-trimmed collar and cuffs. 

Judging from the style of the costumes, the portrait can be dated to around 1635-40.  The huge, stiffly starched ruff worn by the wife was current with Amsterdam women throughout the 1620s and 1630s, although it would have been considered somewhat old-fashioned by 1635.  On the other hand, the design of her gown, with its full sleeves and relatively high waist-line, came into vogue only in the mid-1630s.  Likewise, her husband’s softer, pleated ruff, of a type called fraise à la confusion, had been around for a while, but the broad, flat collar, trimmed with bobbin lace,  worn by their teenage son, was the height of fashion in the mid-to-late 1630s.  A similar variety of costume styles may be seen in Santvoort’s large group portrait of the family of Dirck Jacobsz. Bas, Burgomaster of Amsterdam, painted around 1635, and now in the Rijksmuseumi.  In that portrait, the older family members are conservatively dressed in costumes that had come into fashion more than a decade earlier, while the younger generation parade themselves in up-to-the-minute styles.  A pair of portraits, painted by Santvoort in 1640, portraying David de Wildt and his wife Elisabeth van der Voordeii, shows the couple attired in very similar costumes to those depicted here.

Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort was born in Amsterdam in 1609 into an extended family of painters. He would have trained initially with his father, the now-unknown painter Dirck Pietersz., and then probably with a portrait specialist. For a brief period at the beginning of his career, Santvoort painted history subjects in a manner strongly influenced by Rembrandt, but he soon turned to painting portraits in a more conventional style.  For a period of about ten years, beginning in 1635, he produced a steady stream of portraits in a variety of formats, including regent pieces, and portraits of individuals, married couples, family groups, and children, a genre at which he particularly excelled.  His outstanding achievement in this field is the pair of pastoral portraits of the children Martinus and Clara Alewijn, in the Rijksmuseumiii.  Although Rembrandt’s innovative portrait style was taking Amsterdam by storm during these years, Santvoort’s portraits evidently appealed to patrons who preferred to have themselves immortalised in a more traditional manner.  Around 1645, Santvoort seems to have given up painting altogether, although he remained active in the art world, serving as dean of the painters’ guild in 1658 and acting as an appraiser of painting.  The reason for this cessation is not known, but he may have been sufficiently affluent not to have needed to paint any more – we know that his family was quite wealthy – or perhaps he applied his energies to some other occupation. 
Santvoort’s approach to portraiture reflects that of the older Amsterdam portraitists Cornelis van der Voort (1576-1624) and Nicolaes Eliasz. Pickenoy (1588-1650/56).  To a large extent, he built upon the achievements of the latter two, who had introduced a greater variety into portrait types, developing new poses and compositions, in response to the needs of a fast-growing clientele of prosperous merchants and city officials.  The polished and elegant portraits of the slightly older Thomas de Keyser (1596/97-1667) also exerted an influence on Santvoort, who adopted the formality of the older generation, while developing his own sober, but delicate and painterly manner.  The meticulous rendering of the clothing seen here, especially the masterly description of the dark fabrics in subtly nuanced tones of grey and black, is characteristic of his style, as are the well-modelled features of his sitters that present a lively likeness. 

Judging from the composition of the present painting, the canvas has been trimmed at some point in the past.  Originally, the sitters would probably have been presented at three-quarter length, an intimate format favoured by the merchant class in Amsterdam. 


Baptised in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam on 6 December 1609, Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort was  born into an old Amsterdam family of painters.  It was perhaps obvious that he, too, would pursue an artistic career.  His father was the painter Dirck Pietersz., called Bontepaert, by whom no works are known today, while his mother was the granddaughter of the painter Pieter Aertsen (c. 1508-1575), and the daughter of the painter Pieter Pietersz. I (c. 1540/41-1603); her brother was the painter Pieter Pietersz. II (1578-1631) and her sister married The Hague portraitist Evert Quirijnsz. van de Maes(1577-1646/47).  Dirck and his painter-brother Pieter Dircksz. (c. 1604/5-1635) both adopted the name Santvoort.  Their younger brother, Abraham Dircksz., also described himself as a painter at the time of his marriage in 1644, but is only known today as an engraver and minister of the Reformed Church.  Dirck Dircksz. would have trained first with his father and then possibly with a portrait specialist, such as his uncle van de Maes in The Hague, or one of the Amsterdam portraitists, such as Cornelis van der Voort or Pickenoy.  By 1636, Santvoort was a member of the Amsterdam guild of painters.  In 1641, he married Baertjen Remmers Pont, with whom he had two sons both of whom were given the name Rembrandt. 

The family seems to have been quite wealthy.  Santvoort’s father Dirck Pietersz. left the considerable sum of 58,000 guilders on his death, while the artist himself was able to bring  14,116 guilders to his first marriage.  His grandfather Pieter Pietersz., who died in 1603, owned a house on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal at the corner of the Molensteeg, which was apparently inherited by Santvoort, since several documents indicate that he was living there in the 1640s and early 1650s.  Later he moved to the St. Anthoniebreestraat, where he is mentioned in 1657 as living in a house called ‘de Pinas’.  After the death of his first wife, Santvoort married Trijntje Rieuwertsdr. in 1657.  Although Santvoort appears to have given up painting around 1645, he retained a prominent role in the art world, serving as dean (hoofdman) of the guild in 1658 and acting as an appraiser of paintings in 1678.  Santvoort was still living in the house in the St. Anthoniebreestraat when he died in 1680 (iv).   

i Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort, The family of Dirck Jacobsz. Bas, c. 1635, canvas, 136 x 251 cm,  Amsterdams Historisch Museum, inv. no. SB5815 (on loan to the Rijksmuseum). 
ii Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort, Portrait of David De Wildt and Portrait of his wife Elisabeth van der Voorde, 1640, both on oval panels, 92 x 68 cm, present whereabouts unknown.  Photographs recorded in the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History. 
iii Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort, Portrait of Martinus Alewijn, 1644, canvas, 124 x 91 cm, and Portrait of Clara Elwijn, 1644, canvas, 122 x 89.5 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. nos. A. 1310 and A. 1311. 
iv For more biographical information on the artist, see: Eric Jan Sluijter, Rembrandt’s Rivals: History Painting in  Amsterdam 1630-1650, 2015, pp. 293-296. 

Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort

1609 – Amsterdam – 1680

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