Bol’s earliest portraits of the 1640s so closely imitate Rembrandt’s style that they were sometimes mistaken for that master’s work. However, by the early 1650s, Bol had adopted a brighter, more colourful palette, and a more elegant style that Amsterdam’s rising merchant class found particularly attractive. He soon became one of the city’s most popular and successful artists.
This engaging likeness of an eight-year-old boy is one of Bol’s finest portraits. The boy – whose identity is not known – is elegantly attired in a grey suit and matching cloak, trimmed with shiny gold buttons and ribbon bows; his wide-brimmed hat is hooked over the back of a chair behind him. He reaches out to grasp the goblet resting at the edge of a table, covered by a plush carpet. The vibrant colours and shimmering highlights of this table-top still life recall the work of Willem Kalf, who moved to Amsterdam in 1653. Full-length portraits at the size of life were highly unusual in 17th-century Holland, indicating, perhaps, that this self-assured young boy was of particularly high social standing.