A Portrait of a young Golfer
Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn
Dated centre right: Ano.1626
Oil on panel, 44⅛ x 33½ ins. (112 x 85 cm)
Freiherr Max von Goldschmidt-Rothschild (1843-1940), Frankfurt am Main, by 1925/26 (as Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp)
Forced sale by the above to the city of Frankfurt am Main, November/December 1938
Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main (inv. no. SG878)
Restituted by the city of Frankfurt am Main to the heirs of Max von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, 26 February 1949
Anonymous sale, Musselburgh, Sotheby’s, 13 July 1992, lot 535 (as Jan van Ravesteyn), where acquired by the husband of the previous owner
Private collection, Belgium, until 2019
G. Swarzenski, Vorläufiges Verzeichnis der Ausstellung von Meisterwerken alter Malerei aus Privatbesitz im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, exh. cat., Frankfurt 1925, p. 13, no. 48 (as Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp);
List of objects of the collection of Baron Max von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, MSS, drawn up on 26 February 1949, p. 25, no. 1314;
A.C. Claxton, ‘Medals in portraits of children in seventeenth-century Dutch painting’, in The Medal, Autumn 1995, vol. 27 pp. 17–18, reproduced in black and white p. 17, fig. 8;
J.B. Bedaux and R. Ekkart (eds), Pride and Joy: Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands 1500–1700, exh. cat., Amsterdam 2000, pp. 21, 61–62, reproduced p. 23, fig. 7;
R.K. Bargmann, Serendipity of early golf, London 2010, p. 62;
U. Fleckner and M. Hollein (eds), Museum im Widerspurch: das Städel und der Nationalsozialismus, Berlin 2011, p. 324.
Frankfurt am Main, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Vorläufiges verzeichnis der austellung von Meisterwerken Alter Malerei aus Privatbesitz, 1925-26, no. 48 (as by Jacob Gerritz. Cuyp), lent by Max von Goldschmidt-Rothschild
Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn registered with the Guild of St. Luke in The Hague on 17th February 1598, and remained in the city for the rest of his life. Although very few of his early works survive, he had clearly established himself as a painter of repute by 1604 when Karel van Mander described him in his Schilder-boeck as ‘a very fine painter / and portraitist …. with a beautiful and accomplished technique” (i). He succeeded in maintaining his position as one of the city’s leading portraitists for much of the first half of the seventeenth century, despite stiff competition from Michiel van Mierevelt (1567-1641), who worked in nearby Delft, and later from the Utrecht painter Gerrit van Honthorst (1592-1656), a rising star of the younger generation.
Jan van Revesteyn drew his clientele from the highest circles in The Hague. In the city which was both the seat of government and home to the Stadholder’s court, these were drawn from the ranks of wealthy courtiers, and senior government and military officials, as well as from foreign visiting diplomats and delegates from all over the Dutch Republic. His most prestigious commissions included a series of twenty-five portraits of high-ranking military officers from the Stadholder’s court, now in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, a portrait of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange Nassau, in the Dutch Royal Collection, and several very large group portraits of militia companies. Other highlights of his oeuvre include the Epitaph of Adriaen van Maeusyenbroeck and Anna Elant (ii) and the remarkably original Portrait of Pieter van Veen with his Son and his Clerk (iii). The artist also produced a number of children’s portraits, which are not only among his finest works, but are considered to be among the outstanding examples of the genre.
Van Ravesteyn painted this likeness of an unidentified little boy in 1626. Judging from the child’s appearance, he looks to be about two or three years old. He is shown full length, dressed from head to foot in black and white, standing on a tiled floor, gazing intently at the viewer. In his left hand, he holds a colf stick, whose handle is decorated in a black and white chequered design: the colf ball rests on the floor nearby. A small brightly coloured parrot perches on the arm of the chair beside him, while a black and white, spotted dog sits obediently at his feet. The boy’s drumsticks lie on the seat of the chair, against which leans a fine hobby-horse. A view through to a sketchily drawn adjoining room appears in the right background.
The parents of this youngster clearly attached great importance to the family’s social status. This is conveyed by the expensive attire in which they chose to have him portrayed. He is dressed in a dazzling white costume consisting of a doublet, with a basque and skirt embroidered with a floral motif in black, and a freshly pressed, white linen apron, trimmed with scalloped Flemish bobbin lace. Leading ‘strings’ are attached to the shoulders of the doublet. His cuffs are similarly trimmed in expensive lace, and his neck is encircled by an elaborate ruff, with a narrow lace edging, in an unstarched style called “fraise à la confusion” which was the height of fashion in 1626. A stylish hat decorated with a white ostrich feather adorns his head. Around his wrists he wears triple-strand pearl and jet bead bracelets, and a wide gold chain and medal – a token of wealth - hangs diagonally across his chest.
The choice of accessories confirms that the child represented is a boy. It was customary in the seventeenth century for boys up to the age of about five or six to be dressed in ‘skirts’, and for this reason it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish the gender of a child. However, a ribbon, or chain, worn diagonally across the chest, in the manner of a military sash or sword belt, is a sure sign that a child is of the male sex. Equally carefully selected are the youngster’s playthings. The hobby-horse and drumsticks are unmistakably boys’ toys that look forward to future manhood, likewise the colf stick and ball. A precursor of hockey and golf, the game of colf was played with a stuffed leather ball and a curved stick, the aim being to hit a fixed target in as few strokes as possible. Although the game was played primarily by adults, the stick appears quite often as an attribute in children’s portraits.
The animals with which the child is depicted have been chosen with equal care, for they not only enliven the portrait and give it a playful air, but they have a symbolic significance. Because of their ability to learn, both the well-trained dog and the tame parrot represent the idea of good upbringing, and as attributes of the child, they serve to highlight his virtuous behaviour. Taken together, the costly garb, the accessories and the attributes all express the pride and aspirations with which the parents wished their son to be portrayed.
This portrait of an unknown boy bears close comparison with van Ravesteyn’s signed and dated portrait of the young Joannes de Ruyter (iv), now in the collection of Princess Salimah Aga Khan, Switzerland. Joannes, like our youngster, stands on a tiled floor before a dark wall. He, too, wears a heavy gold chain across his chest, and poses with a tame parrot, surrounded by a similar collection of toys.
It is not known precisely when or where Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn was born. Possibly a son of the glass painter Anthonis van Ravesteyn from Culemborg, he is recorded in Delft in 1597, which has led to speculation that he studied with the portrait painter Michiel van Mierevelt (1567-1641). However, the latter’s influence is chiefly discernible in van Ravesteyn’s later work. Others have posited that van Ravesteyn was trained by the Amsterdam portraitist Pieter Pietersz. (1540/1-1603). In 1598, he became a member of the Guild of St. Luke in The Hague and later served as an officer in various capacities. He took a number of pupils between 1611 and 1649 (v).
On 17 January 1604, Van Ravesteyn married Anna Arentsdr. van Berendrecht, the daughter of a prominent Dordrecht regent family, in the Town Hall in The Hague. The fact that the marriage was conducted in the Town Hall suggests that the painter was a Roman Catholic, an indication confirmed by later references in documents. The couple had at least three children, including Maria who married the Hague portrait painter Adriaen Hanneman (1604-1671) in 1640. Van Ravesteyn lived in The Hague for the rest of his life but seems to have painted very little or not at all after 1641. However, his name was still mentioned in 1656 as a doyen in the rolls of artists who were invited to become members of The Hague’s newly founded artists’ confraternity Pictura. He was buried in the city’s Grote Kerk on 21 June 1657, seventeen years after his wife had been laid to rest in the Kloosterkerk. Van Ravesteyn’s younger brother Anthony van Ravesteyn (c. 1580/88-1669), and the latter’s son Arnold van Ravesteyn (c. 1605-1690) also worked as painters in The Hague, but not exclusively as portraitists.
i Karel van Mander, The lives of the illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters, ed. Hessel Miedema (6 vols), Doorspijk 1994-1999, vol. I, pp. 458-459, vol. 5, p. 123.
ii Jan van Ravesteyn, Epitaph of Adriaen van Maeusyenbroeck and Anna Elant, 1618, panel, 128 x 144.5 cm,
Rijksmuseum Het Catharijneconvent, Utrecht.
iii Jan van Ravesteyn, Pieter van Veen with his Son and his Clerk, panel, 126 x 114.5 cm, Musée d’Art et
iv Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn, Joannes de Ruyter, signed and dated 1632, oil on panel, 120.4 x 79.4 cm.
Collection of Princess Salimah Aga Khan, Switzerland.
v See biography in Edwin Buijsen, et. al., Haagse Schilders in de Gouden Eeuw: Het Hoogsteder Lexicon van alle
schilders werkzaam in Den Haag 1600-1700, 1998-99, p. 340.
Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn
(circa 1572 - The Hague - 1657)
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