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Title Portrait of an Elderly Husband and Wife
Collection Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum
Artist Attributed to Dutch (Leyden) School
Attributed to Mieris, Frans van (Dutch painter and draftsman, 1635-1681)
Attributed to Mieris, Willem van (Dutch painter and printmaker, 1662-1747)
Date Earliest possibly about 1650
Date Latest possibly about 1799
Description This is probably a marital portrait, although the features of the sitters are rather stylized. It contains several elements that may point to marital bliss: the little dog (symbol of marital fidelity), the lute (harmony), the peacock in the garden (bird of Juno, goddess of marriage), and the vine creeping in through the doorway (probably a reference to Psalm 128. 3: §Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house§). It was also the artistic convention to place the wife on her husband's left. Through the door a garden is visible, with tall trees and a classical female statue.
Current Accession Number LEAMG:A401.1953
Subject interior; figure; everyday life; landscape
Measurements 38.3 x 32.3 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Captain Mark Field 1953.
Provenance Purchased from the Strasser Collection by Captain Mark Field, 1948.
Publications Sluijter, E. J., Marlies Enklaar and Paul Nieuwenhuizen, Leidse Fijnschilders: van Gerrit Dou tot Frans van Mieris de Jonge, 1630-1760, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Zwolle, 1988; Hecht, P., De Hollandse Fijnschilders: van Gerard Dou tot Adriaen van der Werff, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1989; Laabs, A., The Leidse Fijnschilders uit Dresden, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, 2001.

The Leiden school of fijnschilders (literally, fine painters) emerged around 1630 with Rembrandt's first pupil Gerrit (or Gerard) Dou as its main artist. Dou's star pupil Frans van Mieris was another prominent painter of this school, to which several of his descendants belonged and which was to last until the later eighteenth century. Their works were often small in size and characterized by an exceptionally high degree of detail and finish; the fijnschilders tended to paint on copper or (more usually) on panels that were polished to get the most perfectly smooth surface. Despite their size, the works often took quite long to finish because of their detail and rendering of textures, and obtained prices to match. Quite typical was the anecdote told about Gerrit Dou, who was said that he began his working day by sitting down to wait until the dust had settled in his studio.

The fijnschilders were particularly known for their genre scenes, but they also painted portraits and self-portraits in this style. Their works were highly admired and sought after by collectors across Europe; one of these was Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, while a large collection of fijnschilder works was to be found in the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden, although some of the paintings there were lost in 1945. Although the artist responsible for this work has not yet been identified, he is clearly a fijnschilder of a later generation, probably of the early eighteenth century. A possible candidate is Hieronymus van der Mij (1687-1761), a Leiden pupil of Willem van Mieris (1662-1747) whose work often bears a false signature of the far more famous master himself, although there is also some similarity with the work of Jacob van der Sluis (1660;-1732). Another name that has been suggested is that of Bartholomeus Maton (about 1643-after 1682).

The painting shows similarities with other marital portraits by Leiden fijnschilders, such as the presumed self-portrait of 1699 by Jacob van der Sluis (1660;-1732) in Leiden, in which the wife has a very similar dog in her lap that jumps up towards her husband on the left (Sluijter, E. J., et. al., Leidse fijnschilders: van Gerrit Dou tot Frans van Mieris de Jonge, 1630-1760, Zwolle, 1988, cat. no. 73). A large arched doorway provides a view of an elegant park in the French style, with patterned low hedges, a fountain, planters, a stone balustrade, and a statue of a naked female figure.

The painting is uneven in quality: the dog, the rug and the sunset are beautifully observed, but the faces are bland and the woman's blue garment shows an unnatural ripple effect. In its meticulous attention to detail, but also its rather stilted style, it is clearly a later work of the Leiden fijnschilder school.

Rights Owner Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum (Warwick District Council)
Author Sophie Oosterwijk



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