The Portraits of “The Vrijdags van Vollenhoven Family” by Jan Anthonisz. van...

The Portraits of “The Vrijdags van Vollenhoven Family” by Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn

5. J. van Ravesteyn, Hugo de Groot at the Age of Sixteen, inscribed, signed and dated “Aeta. mea 16. Hugo de Groot. J. v. Ravesteijn Pinxit An°. 1599”. Panel, diameter 31 cm. Paris, Fondation Custodia, F. Lugt Collection

6. J. van Ravesteyn, Portrait of an Officer, monogrammed and dated “R.F. An 1611”. Canvas, 118 x 97 cm. The Hague, Mauritshuis

A study of Van Vrijberghe’s genealogy reveals that he had probably acquired his portrait collection from two different sources. As the only child to reach adulthood, he would undoubtedly have inherited the estate of his father, Jan van Vrijberghe (1745-1789), which included 20 portraits,[16] while he was later also the sole heir of his childless aunt, Cecilia van Vrijberghe (1740-1825), the widow of Pieter Paul van Gelre (1735-1810), the last member of the Van Gelre family.[17] According to the table of quarterings, the ancestors of Jean François van Vrijberghe and Pieter Paul van Gelre were mainly from Zeeland, and included a substantial number of prominent figures.[18] None of them, however, can be related with any certainty to the people in the portraits, although it is quite feasible that at least one of the sitters was a direct ancestor of Van Vrijberghe or Van Gelre, or that one of these families inherited the paintings in a way that is still unknown.[19] For the time being, the distinguished “Vrijdags van Vollenhoven” remain anonymous.

Although Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn (ca. 1572-1657) was one of the most important Northern Netherlandish portrait painters in the first half of the seventeenth century, surprisingly little has been written about him.[20] He is mentioned in Delft on various occasions in 1597, and is therefore widely assumed to have studied under Michiel van Mierevelt, who was several years his senior. This seems unlikely, however, as Van Ravesteyn’s early work shows little affinity with that of the Delft master, whose influence was only discernible later.

7. J. van Ravesteyn, Epitaph for Adriaen van Maeusyenbroeck and Anna Elant, signed and dated lower left: “Iohan van Ravesteyn. fec./1618”. Panel, 128 x 144.5 cm. Utrecht, Rijksmuseum Het Catharijneconvent

Nevertheless, he might have studied under another Delft painter. In 1598 he became a member of the Hague Guild of St. Luke, and remained in that city until his death in 1657. His earliest known work is a lovely round portrait of the 16-year-old Hugo de Groot of 1599 (fig. 5; Paris, Fondation Custodia, F. Lugt Collection). Few of his works from the following decade are known, although Van Mander had proclaimed him a competent portraitist as early as 1604. Only after 1611 – the year in which he produced the first nine pieces in his series of officers’ portraits – do we have a complete record of his work. Twenty-five portraits from this series are now in the Mauritshuis in The Hague (fig. 6).[21] The majority of the series dates from 1611 and 1612, although Van Ravesteyn continued to add to it until 1624. Its quality is variable: besides a number of outstanding likenesses there are also works which should probably be regarded as studio products. They were presumably commissioned by Stadtholder Maurits or by his younger brother Frederik Hendrik, who was himself portrayed by Van Ravesteyn in 1612 in a painting which corresponds closely to the series of officers’ portraits and, moreover, betrays Michiel van Mierevelt’s powerful influence.[22] Van Ravesteyn’s manner of painting is generally less dry than Van Mierevelt’s, and he is more inclined to flatter his models. His work in the years before 1640 includes scores of portraits of dignitaries from The Hague and other towns, many of them husband-and-wife pendants. He also painted several group portraits of the Hague civic guard.


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