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Lot 4: Portrait of a lady, seated three-quarter-length, in a black dress with red slashed sleeves, lace cuffs and a ruff

Est: £400,000 GBP - £600,000 GBPSold:
Christie'sDecember 06, 2007London, United Kingdom

Item Overview


Thomas de Keyser (Amsterdam 1596-1667)
Portrait of a lady, seated three-quarter-length, in a black dress with red slashed sleeves, lace cuffs and a ruff
signed with monogram 'TDKF' (TDK linked; lower centre, on the chair)
oil on panel, octagonal, inset into a rectangular panel
10¾ x 8 7/8 in. (27.5 x 22.5 cm.)

Artist or Maker


Princess Mathilde de Pourtalès; her sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 17 May 1904, lot 24, 'Charmant petit portrait, remarquable de modelé et de finesse de tons'.
with Julius Böhler, Munich, 1936.
with D.A. Hoogendijk & Co., Amsterdam, 1937, from whom acquired by Anton Philips, and by descent.


From time to time, Christie's may offer a lot which it owns in whole or in part. This is such a lot.
Thomas de Keyser is not as well known today as Rembrandt or Frans Hals but he was without question one of the most innovative portraitists of his generation. His unprecedented blending of portrait types and genres produced some of the most memorable images of the period. De Keyser's replacement of the generality and timelessness that characterised traditional portraiture with contemporary settings and daily activities changed the very definition of the genre and paved the way for such iconic works as Hals' Willem van Heythuysen (Private collection; and Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts) and Rembrandt's Jan Rijcksen and Griet Jans (London, The Royal Collection).

De Keyser's Portrait of a young woman , painted in the early 1630s, is one of the boldest female portraits produced in the seventeenth-century Netherlands. Indeed, the painting's scale belies its impact just as the sitter's presence surpasses her obvious youth. She sits in a simple chair, holding both of its arms and turning to face the viewer. The slight twist of her torso makes her pose almost fully frontal and the position of her arms indicates a body in motion. Her left arm, which juts into the picture space, appears to bear some of her weight as if she has either just lowered herself into the chair or is in the process of standing up. She looks directly at the viewer with an intelligent gaze as a smile plays at her lips.

The young woman's pose makes for a dynamic silhouette and De Keyser's depiction of light as it hits her dress, from the dark red stripes of her slashed sleeves to the weight and sheen of her black silk skirt, enhances the suggestion of movement. His description of various textures, and his juxtaposition of them, lends to the sense of immediacy, of an actual encounter between sitter and viewer. The structure and volume of her hands is emphasised by the sheer linen of the cuffs of her dress and the irregular edges of the lace that stand out against the painting's dark background. The light entering from the left emphasizes the youthful contours of her face and plays across the knuckles of her right hand suggesting its underlying structure.

It is significant that the present work has been likened to Judith Leyster's Self Portrait (National Gallery of Art, Washington), a deliberate display of virtuosity and a bold statement of belonging on the part of a female artist (see J.A. Welu et al. , op. cit. ). Like De Keyser, Leyster also merged the devices of genre painting and portraiture. In works such as Young woman with a lute of around 1631, a young woman in an interior is interrupted at her music and holds a lute in the viewer's direction as if inviting us to play (private collection, see D. Weller, Jan Miense Molenaer , North Carolina Museum of Art, 2002, p. 98, fig. 1). The reciprocal influence between De Keyser and genre painters such as Leyster, Pieter Codde and Willem Duyster has long been noted and is at the very heart of De Keyser's contribution to portraiture. His depiction of his sitters at a particular moment in time serves to animate rather than memorialise them, a departure from traditional portraiture that was used through the end of the seventeenth century.

At some point in the picture's history the original octagonal panel was inset into a larger rectangular one (see separate report by Dr. Nicholas Eastaugh, dated 8 October 2007). The type of panel used for the extension, with a broad and irregular grain pattern is typical of those used towards the end of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, suggesting that the transfer may have taken place then. The picture is recorded in rectangular form in both the Georges Petit sale of 1904 and in an old RKD photograph. This change in format weakened the vitality of the portrait as the panel's original shape mirrored the young woman's pose, holding her more tightly within the picture space and at the same time projecting her more dramatically into the space of the viewer. De Keyser used the octagonal format on numerous other occasions in the 1620s and 1630s, among them Portrait of a woman of around 1625 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Portrait of Petronella Witsen of around 1635 in the Six Collection, Amsterdam. He seems to have used the octagonal format most often in the context of pendant portraits (see, for example, a pair of portraits on copper dated 1631 in the University of Stockholm) and it is possible that this work originally formed one of a pair.

It is not known with whom De Keyser studied painting though he is recorded as a student of his father's in architecture from 1616 to 1618. He followed the example of his father and two brothers and became a city mason in Amsterdam but no designs for buildings are known apart from a triumphal arch that appears in Salomon de Bray's 1631 Architectura moderna and that seems never to have been built. De Keyser painted several innovative family portraits in the early 1630s, mostly of sitters from the newly wealthy burgher classes, all on a small scale. While his focus was clearly on portraiture, de Keyser also painted a number of religious subjects around 1635, including a Crucifixion (Moscow, Pushkin Museum) and an Entombment and Resurrection (Antwerp, private collection).

Auction Details

Important Old Master & British Pictures Including works from the Collection of Anton Philips

December 06, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

8 King Street, St. James's, London, LDN, SW1Y 6QT, UK