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Dirck Santvoort, Portrait of Geertruyt Spiegel with a Finch

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Geertruyt Spiegel with a Finch
Artist Dirck Santvoort
Artist dates 1610/11 - 1680
Date made 1639
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 62.7 × 50 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Tilson Lee, 1916
Inventory number NG3154
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of Geertruyt Spiegel with a Finch
Dirck Santvoort

This picture is one of five portraits painted by Dirck Santvoort of the daughters of the Spiegel family showing the girls as personifications of the five senses. Here, the four-year-old Geertruyt Spiegel represents Touch and holds a finch that pecks her finger. Santvoort, a friend of Rembrandt, specialised in portraits of children. He could be a rather stiff painter, but in this picture he seems relaxed, charmed by the little girl. Her family’s wealth is evident in her fine clothes, the pearls in her hair and her gold jewellery, but what catches the eye is her open gaze and amusement at the bird’s antics. She too is a bird-like creature, a child of nature.

Finches, and the goldfinch in particular, were a traditional emblem of the soul, especially in Renaissance painting, so one wonders if there was a reason her parents chose the bird for Geertruyt. Perhaps she had a soulful personality, or perhaps she kept one of the birds as a pet.

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