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Fer­di­nand Bol, Dutch, 1616-1680: Por­trait of a Gen­tle­man (Elbert or Hen­drick Dirck­sz Spiegel?), 1642 

Although fin­ished por­trait draw­ings by Rem­brandt and his cir­cle are rare, they typ­i­cal­ly rep­re­sent­ed fam­i­ly mem­bers and close friends. This sit­ter has been iden­ti­fied as one of the broth­ers Elbert or Hendirck Dirck­sz Spiegel, uncles to Fer­di­nand Bol’s wife and impor­tant patrons of the artist. The artist like­ly kept this draw­ing for many years, as the broth­ers’ names are record­ed in a list of five por­trait draw­ings in an inven­to­ry of Bol’s stu­dio made twen­ty-six years later. Whichev­er broth­er is fea­tured here, the sit­ter con­veys a dig­ni­fied pres­ence and stands before a clas­si­cal col­umn, a tra­di­tion­al ref­er­ence to sta­bil­i­ty and fortitude.

This is one of only two signed and dated por­trait draw­ings by Fer­di­nand Bol. The other, dated ten years later (1653), bears the tra­di­tion­al title of Por­trait of a Gouda Offi­cer Fig. 18.1.1

Ferdinand Bol, Portrait of a Gouda Officer
Fig. 18.1

Fer­di­nand Bol, Por­trait of a Gouda Offi­cer, 1653. Black chalk with gray wash­es on vel­lum, 178 × 146 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Ams­ter­dam Muse­um, Fodor Col­lec­tion, inv. no. ta 10133.

Bol made it rel­a­tive­ly early in his career, short­ly after he had estab­lished him­self as an inde­pen­dent mas­ter in Ams­ter­dam, and after com­plet­ing his high­ly for­ma­tive peri­od study­ing with and work­ing for Rem­brandt. Despite the fact that only a few fin­ished por­trait draw­ings by Bol’s hand sur­vive, he devot­ed a great por­tion of his early career to por­trait paint­ing, depict­ing many of Amsterdam’s elite in Rembrandt’s then much-in-demand style.2

Although the Peck draw­ing was list­ed by Wern­er Sumows­ki in his 1979 cat­a­logue of the artist’s draw­ings, it has received lit­tle atten­tion to date. Even Sumows­ki had dif­fi­cul­ty in ascer­tain­ing basic data, such as the drawing’s mea­sure­ments, and in read­ing the cor­rect year on this long­miss­ing work.3

A fin­ished por­trait draw­ing on vel­lum like this was prob­a­bly intend­ed as a free­stand­ing work, durable enough to be framed and wall­mount­ed. Nei­ther this draw­ing nor the Por­trait of a Gouda Offi­cer, also on vel­lum, relate to any known paint­ing. Such fin­ished por­trait draw­ings by Rem­brandt and his cir­cle are rare, but they often depict­ed fam­i­ly mem­bers or more inti­mate acquain­tances despite the fact (or due to it) that such drawn por­traits did not con­sti­tute a reg­u­lar part of their artis­tic prac­tice. Bol’s con­tem­po­rary and fel­low Rem­brandt pupil, Ger­brand van den Eeck­hout (1621 – 1674), for exam­ple, made a sim­i­lar black chalk and wash draw­ing on vel­lum of his father in 1644.4

Rem­brandt him­self, in a strik­ing black and red chalk draw­ing from 1634, por­trayed a man who has been iden­ti­fied as his rel­a­tive, Willem van der Pluym Fig. 18.2.5

Rembrandt, Portrait of Willem van der Pluym
Fig. 18.2

Rem­brandt, Por­trait of Willem van der Pluym, 1634. Red and black chalk with brown wash on vel­lum, 373 × 272 mm. New York, pri­vate collection.

Rembrandt’s draw­ing and the present sheet share the dis­tinc­tive tight wrap­ping of the sitter’s arm in a cloak draped from one shoul­der, appar­ent­ly the only time he made use of this par­tic­u­lar pose. Bol (and pos­si­bly Rem­brandt) may have bor­rowed the motif from Antho­ny van Dyck (1599 – 1641), who used it sev­er­al times in his high­ly influ­en­tial series of por­trait prints, the Iconog­ra­phy.6

This toga-like affec­ta­tion cer­tain­ly lends a human­is­tic air to the sit­ter, as does the clas­si­cal col­umn behind him, the lat­ter serv­ing as a fair­ly stan­dard motif denot­ing sta­bil­i­ty or for­ti­tude that had already long been pop­u­lar in Euro­pean por­trai­ture.7

Given the close asso­ci­a­tion of this type of draw­ing to fam­i­ly mem­bers in the oeu­vres of Rem­brandt and his cir­cle, it would be worth con­sid­er­ing Bol’s fam­i­ly along these lines as well. An inven­to­ry of Bol’s pos­ses­sions drawn up in 1669 reveals five por­trait draw­ings list­ed among the paint­ings.8

The entries read:

60. een teeken­ingh naer mijn schoonva­d­er
one draw­ing of my father-in-law
61. een do. naer mijn vader
one ditto of my father
62. een do. naer burgemr. Spiegel
one ditto of Bur­go­mas­ter Spiegel9
63. een do. naer den ont­fanger Spiegel
one ditto of the Receiv­er Spiegel
64. een do. naer de keur­vorst Bran­den­burch
one ditto of the Elec­tor of Brandenburg

The first two are self-explana­to­ry in terms of fam­i­ly rela­tion­ship, while the last, the Elec­tor of Bran­den­burg, was clear­ly not a fam­i­ly mem­ber (though he was a great Calvin­ist mil­i­tary hero). The Peck draw­ing, in all prob­a­bil­i­ty, is one of the two in the inven­to­ry that rep­re­sents the Spiegels (nos. 62, 63), who were broth­ers and also rel­a­tives of Bol’s first wife, Elis­a­beth Dell (1628 – 1660). Their rela­tion­ship to Elis­a­beth has some­times been incor­rect­ly cited in the past, but each was in fact an uncle of hers.10

Elbert Dirck­sz Spiegel (1600 – 1674) became the receiv­er gen­er­al of the Ams­ter­dam Admi­ral­ty in 1641, after study­ing law at Lei­den Uni­ver­si­ty, where he received his doc­tor­ate in 1625.11

Hen­drick Dirck­sz Spiegel (1598 – 1667) built a career as a regent, serv­ing first on the Ams­ter­dam city coun­cil, and then becom­ing high­ly promi­nent when he served as bur­go­mas­ter (mayor) of Ams­ter­dam four times between 1655 and 1665.12

These broth­ers, their sis­ter Geertruyt Spiegel (1601 – 1661), and their respec­tive descen­dants were among Bol’s most impor­tant patrons through­out his career. The true extent of the Spiegel fam­i­ly mem­bers’ patron­age has only recent­ly been bet­ter under­stood, but appears to account for a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Bol’s por­trait com­mis­sions in total, includ­ing some of his most inno­v­a­tive works.13

In their early to mid-for­ties in 1643, Elbert and Hen­drick were the only male mem­bers of their fam­i­ly who would have been about the age of the sit­ter in the Peck draw­ing. Bol made mul­ti­ple paint­ings of Elbert in later years, such as the one in Win­terthur that shows him around the age of sixty Fig. 18.3.14


Ferdinand Bol, Portrait of Elbert Spiegel
Fig. 18.3

Fer­di­nand Bol, Por­trait of Elbert Spiegel, 1660. Oil on can­vas, 110 × 92 cm. Win­terthur, Kunst Muse­um, inv. no. g.2018.50.

Despite being older, his like­ness reveals per­cep­ti­ble resem­blances to the draw­ing in terms of his deep-set eyes, promi­nent nose, and facial hair. As for Hen­drick, no paint­ing by Bol is known, but his like­ness can be found in an engrav­ing based on a now lost paint­ing by Michiel van Lim­borch from 1663 Fig. 18.4.15

Jan van Munnickhuysen, after Michiel van Limborch,
Fig. 18.4

Jan van Munnick­huy­sen, after Michiel van Lim­borch, Por­trait of Hen­drick Dirck­sz. Spiegel, Bur­go­mas­ter of Ams­ter­dam, 1685 (after a paint­ing from 1663). Engrav­ing on paper, 268 × 189 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. rp-p-ob-23.773.

He is cer­tain­ly heav­ier and older than the fig­ure in the draw­ing from twen­ty years ear­li­er, but his facial char­ac­ter­is­tics, and what might even be con­strued as his per­son­al­i­ty, seem to fit even more con­vinc­ing­ly than those of Elbert. As Erna Kok has detailed, the Spiegel broth­ers’ impor­tance for Bol’s career extend­ed beyond just exe­cut­ing fam­i­ly por­traits.16

Bol car­ried out sev­er­al high-pro­file com­mis­sions for both the Admi­ral­ty, in which Elbert was high­ly placed, and for the city of Ams­ter­dam, in which Hen­drick was high­ly placed. Doc­u­ments sug­gest deep per­son­al ties as well. Hen­drick bore wit­ness to the bap­tism of Bol’s son in 1660, and Elbert was a declared guardian of Bol’s chil­dren in 1669.17

While Bol’s mar­riage into this fam­i­ly in 1653 seems to have had major career con­se­quences, it is also entire­ly pos­si­ble that his rela­tion­ship to the Spiegel fam­i­ly pre­dat­ed that union, since this draw­ing was made a full ten years before his mar­riage. If indeed depict­ing one of the Spiegel broth­ers, it is inter­est­ing that Bol held onto the draw­ing (along with other images of his for­mer in-laws) years after his wife’s death in 1660, as his 1669 inven­to­ry attests.

End Notes

  1. Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 1, 240 – 41, no. 108; Broos 1981, 101 – 03, no. 26; and P. Schat­born in Ams­ter­dam 2017 – 18, 203. 2 For Bol’s early career as a por­traitist, see Blankert 1982, 56 – 57; and R. Ekkart in Ams­ter­dam 2017 – 18, 148 – 50.

  2. For Bol’s early career as a por­traitist, see Blankert 1982, 56 – 57; and R. Ekkart in Ams­ter­dam 2017 – 18, 148 – 50.

  3. Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 1, 212 – 13, no. 94.

  4. Kupfer­stich-Kabi­nett, Dres­den, inv. no. C 1455; and Dres­den & Vien­na 1997 – 98, 204 – 05, no. 96.

  5. Schat­born & Hin­ter­d­ing 2019, 411, no. D630; and Ams­ter­dam 2019, 61 – 65. Willem van der Pluym was the uncle in Ams­ter­dam of Rembrandt’s Lei­den cousin Karel van der Pluym (1625 – 1672). Karel was a painter who almost cer­tain­ly stud­ied with Rem­brandt (per­haps while liv­ing with Willem) and in any case remained close to him through­out their lives, as later doc­u­ments sug­gest. The iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of this sit­ter as Willem van der Pluym is not entire­ly secure, but seems likely.

  6. See, for exam­ple, var­i­ous entries in Antwerp & Ams­ter­dam 1999 – 2000, such as nos. 7, 9, and 18.

  7. For Bol’s use of the col­umn motif and its range of asso­ci­a­tions, see De Jongh 1981 – 82, 155 – 58.

  8. For a tran­scrip­tion, some­what impre­cise, see Blankert 1982, 76 – 78, dated 8 Octo­ber 1669; orig­i­nal­ly and more reli­ably pub­lished in Bredius 1910, 233 – 35. The inven­to­ry was drawn up as part of Bol’s mar­riage con­tract with his sec­ond wife, Anna van Arck­el. These draw­ings are briefly dis­cussed by P. Schat­born in Ams­ter­dam 2017 – 18, though with some errors: no moth­er-in-law is men­tioned, and Elbert Spiegel was not Bol’s broth­er-in-law but rather his uncle by mar­riage (dis­cussed fur­ther below).

  9. Mis­tak­en­ly tran­scribed as mr. instead of burgemr. in Blankert 1982, 77; but the dis­tinc­tion is impor­tant (see below) since it indeed iden­ti­fies him cor­rect­ly as bur­go­mas­ter. The tran­scrip­tion error is repeat­ed in Ams­ter­dam 2017 – 18, 203, tak­ing it from Blankert.

  10. For the Spiegel fam­i­ly tree, see Gri­jzen­hout & Kok 2017, 128 – 29.

  11. Ekkart 2002, 20 – 22.

  12. Ekkart 2002, 20, 25, 30. Blankert mis­tak­en­ly thought that Hen­drick was Elis­a­beth Dell’s grand­fa­ther rather than uncle: see Blankert 1982, 20; cor­rect­ed in Ekkart 2002, 25 (note 33).

  13. For the Spiegel family’s patron­age of Bol, see Kok 2016; E. Kok in Ams­ter­dam 2017 – 18, 58 – 79; and Gri­jzen­hout & Kok 2017.

  14. Blankert 1982, 149, no. 159; Ekkart 2002, 35, no. S14; and Ams­ter­dam 2017 – 18, 77, fig. 98. For other doc­u­ment­ed like­ness­es of Elbert Spiegel, see Ekkart 2002, 34, no S12 (not traced); idem, 39, no. T11 (Art Muse­um, Kharkov); and idem, 39, no. T12 (not traced).

  15. Holl­stein, vol. 14, no. 29. The only other known like­ness of Hen­drick Spiegel is that found in the group por­trait of the Crossbowman’s Civic Guard in the Ams­ter­dam Muse­um, inv. no. A 7330. See Gent 2012, 259 – 60; and Mei­jer & Van der Molen 2014, 7. Gent iden­ti­fies Hen­drick Spiegel as the fourth gen­tle­man from the left hold­ing a sheet of paper.

  16. For Bol’s patron­age net­work and its impor­tance, see Blankert 1975; Kok 2016; and idem in Ams­ter­dam 2017 – 18, 58 – 79.

  17. Blankert 1982, 74; doc­u­ments dated 24 March 1660 and 27 Sep­tem­ber 1669.