(Gorinchem 1642 - 1705 The Hague)
Canvas, 51 x 42.5 cm.
Painted around 1680
A wonderful example of an ‘ordinary’ portrait of an unknown man, is this work by Johan van Haensbergen. Van Haensbergen is less well-known today, but in his own time his career included leading positions such as chief of the artists’ society Confrérie Pictura and director of the drawing academy, both in The Hague. The artists’ biographer Houbraken praised his ‘flattering brushwork’ which served him particularly well when painting ‘young ladies who wished to be portrayed in subtle shades of lily-white and flesh rose’.
This portrait shows a self-confident young man in a park-like garden of a large estate. He is gesturing towards the statue of Justice, which suggests that he may have been in the legal profession: a lawyer, or judge.
Covering the stone table beside him is a splendidly rendered cloth. It’s brush-like quality, captured so well here, forms a delightful contrast to the soft silk of the man’s quilted jacket. The use of colour is equally elegant: the deep blue and gold brocade of the jacket is set against the red of the cloth, which subtly echoes the blue.
This kind of jacket was known as a ‘Japanese’ gown, the Dutch version of the kimono. It was a popular garment for in the home among the wealthier classes of the late seventeenth century. Particularly costly elements were the shawl collar and the cuffs, finished with fashionable Venetian lace.
Fashion is not the only topic of interest in this portrait, plenty has also been written about carpets, and about portrayals of lawyers in art. An ‘ordinary’ portrait of an unknown man: a wonderful, stimulating work of art.