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Thomas de Keyser, Portrait of Constantijn Huygens and his (?) Clerk

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Constantijn Huygens and his (?) Clerk
Artist Thomas de Keyser
Artist dates 1596/7 - 1667
Date made 1627
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 92.4 × 69.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Richard Simmons, 1847
Inventory number NG212
Location Room 23
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of Constantijn Huygens and his (?) Clerk
Thomas de Keyser

Constantijn Huygens was a senior diplomat who spoke several languages and had a wide knowledge of the arts and sciences. In this portrait, he’s caught in action, receiving a message from a young clerk. Interrupted in his work, he wears a riding outfit as if ready to be up and off in a moment on state business.

The items that de Keyser chose to put on Huygens’s table tell of his official duties and his many other interests and talents – there’s a chitarrone (a plucked instrument), architectural plans and a pair of terrestrial and celestial globes.

Huygens was probably the most influential figure in the cultural life of the Dutch Republic. He wrote poetry and designed gardens and knew the scientists and artists of his day, including Rembrandt. De Keyser’s portrait celebrates the spirit of the Dutch Republic in one urbane and brilliant man.

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