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A young girl stands by a column and a balustrade, her hair tied back in a chignon, with tendrils hanging down on either side of her face. The girl’s dress dates the picture to the late 1640s. Isaack Luttichuys often painted his sitters against architectural backdrops and at first glance the painting’s style seems to fit with portraits by the artist of the mid-1650s. However, the style of the girl’s dress makes a slightly earlier date more likely. This is also borne out by a fully signed pendant (current whereabouts unknown) of a young boy – no doubt the girl’s little brother – whose style of clothing also suggests an earlier date. Despite the unmistakable facial resemblance, the two paintings had not been recognised as pendants, and recently it was argued that the portrait of the girl is not by Luttichuys. Any doubts on both scores were laid to rest when it transpired that the two pictures were still together in 1834, appearing as pendants at a London auction.
Men and women dressed in austere clothes set against a relatively dark background have long been considered the bedrock of 17th-century Dutch portraiture. Examples of this type of portrait are well represented at the National Gallery. From about 1650 a brighter palette and more timeless elegance gradually replaced the darker and often more brooding portraiture style of the preceding decades. This picture is a prime example of this classicising trend in 17th-century Dutch painting.
The painting shows a young girl standing by a column and a balustrade. Her hair is tied back in a chignon, with tendrils hanging down on either side of her face. She wears a translucent folded cambric square neckerchief with four acorn tassels suspended from its corners. Underneath this sits a round neckerchief edged with densely worked lace and a shallow scalloped border. Her dress is made of grey watered silk, with narrow parallel ribbons running down her sleeves. A large bow sits on top of the neckerchiefs. The bodice of her dress is V-shaped and set off with ribbons. She wears cone-shaped double cuffs that reach to her wrists, on which she wears pearl bracelets. In her hands she holds a fan with a bow attached. Details of the girl’s dress – especially the arrangement of her two neckerchiefs, but also the fact that her cuffs reach all the way to her wrists – can be dated quite precisely to the late1640s.
Isaack Luttichuys often painted his sitters against architectural backdrops – many with the exact same arrangement as seen in this portrait, with flowers and leaves emerging from the background – and at first glance the style of this painting seems to be consistent with similar portraits by the artist of the mid-1650s. However, the style of the girl’s dress makes a slightly earlier date more likely, borne out by a fully signed pendant (current whereabouts unknown) of a young boy – no doubt the girl’s little brother – whose collar and cuffs, because of their shape and size, also suggest an earlier date. Despite the unmistakable facial resemblance between the two sitters and the fact that their portraits are nearly identical in size, the two paintings had not been recognised as pendants, while recently it has even been argued that the portrait of the girl (unlike that of the boy, it is not signed) is not by Isaack Luttichuys. But any doubts on both scores were laid to rest when it transpired that the two pictures were still together in 1834, when they appeared as pendants by Luttichuys at an auction in London.
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