Willem van der Vliet has placed his sitter, Suitbertus Purmerent, in a heavy chair against a plain dark background, with heavy books on the table; one is held slightly open by the weight of a large crucifix. There’s the suggestion of a smile in Purmerent’s eyes and around his mouth (almost hidden under the luxuriant beard and moustache). The crucifix suggests he is a Catholic and his long black gown and the biretta, the black hat in his right hand, suggest that he is a priest.
The identification is confirmed by another portrait of him by the artist’s nephew, Hendrik Cornelisz. van der Vliet (now in the Bagijnhof, Delft). Willem’s portrait was probably painted to mark Purmerent’s appointment as archpriest of Delfland in February 1631. The Dutch Republic was a Protestant country, which meant that only Protestants could hold positions of power, but the Catholic faith was tolerated as long as it was practiced in private and places of worship preferably largely hidden from view.
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