Dominicus van Tol’s parents were Simon van Tol and Catharina Vechters. When and where Dominicus was born cannot be established with certainty. He is thought to have been born around 1635 in Bodegraven, where his father worked as a notary public between 1630, the year he married in Leiden, and 1643, when the family moved to Leiden.1 Dominicus came from a long line of notaries, including his father, grandfather and brother Roeland.
Van Tol’s mother, Catharina, was the daughter of glassmaker Vechter Vechters van Strijtvelt and Marytgen Jans van Rosenburg. After her father died in 1604, her mother took a second husband, the glassmaker Douwe Jansz de Vries van Arentsvelt, with whom she had two sons. One of them was Gerrit Dou (1613–75), who was thus Van Tol’s uncle. Because of this connection, Dou is assumed to have been Van Tol’s teacher.2 The close ties between Gerrit Dou and the Van Tol family manifested themselves in other ways as well; by the mid-1650s Anthonia van Tol, Dominicus’s younger sister, lived in Gerrit Dou’s house. She was in charge of the housekeeping, which led Dou to name her the sole heir of his considerable estate a year before his death.
Van Tol established himself as an independent painter relatively late in life, only becoming a member of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1664.3 It does not seem that he prospered as an artist in Leiden; he left the city in 1669.4 The declining market for painting may have prompted him to seek his fortune elsewhere.5 He chose Utrecht, the home of his aunt Machtelt van Tol, who was married to the well-to-do, influential Frederick van Beeck, steward of the Carthusian Order, from whose network Van Tol may have hoped to benefit.6 In 1670 he married Maria Pollion, a preacher’s daughter from Woudenbergh, near Utrecht.7 Van Tol’s tracks in Utrecht can be traced up to 1672, the Year of Disaster, when the French army that had invaded the Dutch Republic also occupied the town. Van Tol did not wait for the siege, but fled with his wife and (presumably) his infant son Simon Petrus to Amsterdam.8 Van Tol certainly lived in Amsterdam for some time; his daughter Johanna Catherina was born there in 1674.9 Yet whether he resided there continuously until 1675—the year he returned to Leiden—is uncertain.10 There are indications that he stayed in Leiden regularly prior to 1675.11
The family was definitely back in Leiden in 1675, when Van Tol registered again with the Guild of Saint Luke. It is highly doubtful, however, that he fared better there this time. Nearly all of the archival documents relating to him after he returned to Leiden point to great financial problems.12 In 1676 his dire situation prompted him to seek permission from the city council to sell beer from his house, de Blauwe Werelt, located on the Bierkay along the Oude Vest opposite the Lakenhal. His request was granted on 6 February, but Van Tol died in December of that same year and was buried in the Pieterskerk on 26 December 1676. He left behind so many debts his widow declared “that she forwent the estate and relinquished it for the sake of the creditors while her aforementioned husband’s corpse was still . . . above the ground, and accordingly laid the keys on the coffin and left wearing her everyday clothes.”13 Shortly thereafter Maria Pollion moved to Westzaandam, where she married Pieter Milius from Amsterdam in 1679.