We don’t know who painted this portrait, or who the couple in the garden are. They seem to pause mid-conversation, their expressions enigmatic, leaving us wondering what the relationship was between them. She holds a glove in her hand – sometimes a symbol of betrothal but always a sign of wealth. He holds a scarf in one hand but points outwards with the other.
Their heavy, black clothes proclaim them as prosperous, if a little out-of-date: by the 1640s, the ruff was still worn but was considered unfashionable. The man’s only nod in the direction of frivolity are the red stockings and enormous garter rosettes on his portly legs, making the woman’s red sleeves dim in comparison. On her wrist she wears a coral bracelet, expensive but often worn as a defence against the 'evil eye’.
The picture was once attributed to the Amsterdam painter Thomas de Keyser – his Portrait of Constantijn Huygens and his (?) Clerk is in our collection – but it’s now considered more likely to be a copy after one of his works by an unknown painter working in Amsterdam in the 1640s.
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