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Portrait of a Gentleman with a Walking Stick

Gerrit Dou (Leiden 1613 – 1675 Leiden)
ca. 1645
oil on oval panel
49.2 x 39.7 cm
signed information

signed “GDov” (GD in ligatur) in dark paint along right midpoint

inventory number

Surh, Dominique and Henriette Rahusen. “Portrait of a Gentleman with a Walking Stick” (2017). In The Leiden Collection Catalogue, 4th ed. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Elizabeth Nogrady with Caroline Van Cauwenberge. New York, 2023–. (accessed July 13, 2024).

Gerrit Dou portrays this dignified man with a penetrating gaze and austere, unsmiling expression, suggesting a stern and forthright individual. He is shown wearing a burgundy-plum woolen suit with a matching cloak draped over his shoulder. An embroidered hanger crossing over his gorget holds a rapier, visible near his hip, indicating his service as an officer in one of Leiden’s two militia companies. The military connotation of his attributes correspond with Salomon Savery’s engraving “Standing Officer with Walking Stick,” ca. 1630–35 (), from a series of prints illustrating officers of rank. Indeed, the man’s stately pose in the present painting, with one hand on a cane and the other nonchalantly resting on his hip akimbo, recalls the pictorial conventions for depicting civic leaders and political dignitaries. Yet rather than a life-size portrait in accordance with those norms, the scale of Dou’s portrait is more intimate and recalls the small-scale portraits of Thomas de Keyser (1596–1667) that had become the vogue in Amsterdam in the 1620s.

This three-quarter length portrait is a pendant to a painting now with the Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, Portrait of a Woman, which depicts an equally dignified lady dressed almost exclusively in black (). The woman’s extended right arm, resting on a table next to a copy of the Statenbijbel and the family’s strongbox, mirrors the man’s pose. The complementary poses of the figures, analogous settings, and the similar palette and dimensions of the oval panels leave little doubt that the two portraits were painted as a pair. With this portrait and its pendant Dou provides the perfect visual illustration of the two complimentary social spheres: the male world of public and military affairs, and the private female world of a well-run and pious household. Although the identity of the couple is unknown, they were most likely part of Leiden’s socioeconomic elite in the early 1640s.

Marieke de Winkel has identified the man’s kastoor hat as a fashion popular from 1644 to 1646, probably not much earlier or later, about the same time Dou painted Portrait of a Man in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg ().  Both men wear the conical wide-brimmed hat made of felted beaver hair that became fashionable with the opening up of the North American fur trade in the early decades of the seventeenth century. The leather sword hangers with intricate tooled designs are also identical and suggest that both men served in a militia company that issued standardized weaponry. Another clue supporting a date in the mid-1640s is the similar, broad linen collar worn by a man in a securely dated portrait of 1646, Dou’s Portrait of Johan Wittert van der Aa in the Rijksmuseum. Moreover, the asymmetrically draped curtains that theatrically frame the figure within an arched surround is another feature Dou frequently included in the backgrounds of many of his portraits from this period.

Infrared reflectography reveals that Dou initially sketched an elaborate architectural setting behind the man that included an arched doorway in the center of the composition as well as a column and base at the far left (). It is unclear whether the pendant in Pasadena retains a similar early sketch, for the painting has not undergone infrared examination as of yet. In the final composition, Dou separated the figure from the background with a gentle aureole of light, reinforcing the man’s dignity and commanding presence.

- Dominique Surh and Henriette Rahusen, 2017
  • Marquis de Forbin-Janson, Paris (his sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 4 December 1906, no. 25, together with the pendant no. 24 [for 15,700 francs]; sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 17 June 1910, no. 13 [Galerie Charles Brunner, Paris, 1912]).
  • Baron von Goldschmidt Rothschild, Frankfurt am Main.
  • [Kunsthandel Douwes, Amsterdam, 1928].
  • Semmel, Berlin (his sale, Frederik Muller, Amsterdam, 21 November 1933, no. 11 [for 5,000 francs])
  • De Geus van den Heuvel, Nieuwersluis, by 1951 (his sale, Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 26–27 April 1976, no. 12 [for 44,000 florins]).
  • [Salomon Lilian B. V., Amsterdam, 2006].
  • From whom acquired by the present owner in 2006.
  • Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbe Museum, on loan with the permanent collection, 1949–51.
  • Schiedam, Stedelijk Museum, “Schilderijen uit de zeventiende, achttiende negentiende en twintigste eeuw der Nederlandse school uit de verzameling van B. De Geus van den Heuvel, Amsterdam,” 22 December 1951–13 January 1952, no. 15 [lent by Geus van den Heuvel].
  • Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, “De Tijd vam de Tachtigjarige Oorlog,” 19 July–14 September 1952 [lent by Geus van den Heuvel].
  • Arnhem, Gemeentemuseum, “Collectie B. de Geus van den Heuvel te Nieuwersluis,” 11 December 1960–26 February 1961, no. 12 [lent by Geus van den Heuvel].
  • Galerie Charles Brunner. Troisième catalogue de la Galerie Charles Brunner.  Sales cat. Paris, Galerie Charles Brunner. Paris, 1912, no. 9.
  • Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century Based on the Work of John Smith. Edited and translated by Edward G. Hawke, 1: 448-49, no. 333. 8 vols. London, 1907–28. Originally published as Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten höllandischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907–28.
  • Martin, Wilhelm.  Gerard Dou, des Meisters Gemälde.  Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 24. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1913, 29.
  • Stedelijk Museum. Schilderijen uit de zeventiende, achttiende negentiende en twintigste eeuw der Nederlandse school uit de verzameling van B. De Geus van den Heuvel, Amsterdam.  Exh. cat. Schiedam, Stedelijk Museum. Schiedam, 1951, 9, no. 15.
  • Gemeentemuseum. Collectie B. de Geus van den Heuvel te Nieuwersluis.  Exh. cat. Arnhem, Gemeentemuseum. Arnhem, 1960, 10, no. 12.
  • Baer, Ronni. “The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675)”. 3 vols, PhD diss. New York University, 1990, no. 35.
  • Surh, Dominique, Ilona van Tuinen, and John Twilley, “Insights from Technical Analysis on a Group of Paintings by Gerrit Dou in the Leiden Collection.” JHNA 6:1 (Winter 2014): 1–3, 9, 30–31, figs. 5 a-b, 23 a-b, 24 a-b, DOI:10.5092/jhna.2014.6.1.3.
  • Walsh, Amy. Northern European Paintings at the Norton Simon Museum. New Haven and London (forthcoming).

The support is a vertically-oriented oval panel made from one plank of vertically-grained wood.  The back of the panel is beveled along the perimeter. It was prepared with a thin, light-colored ground. The paint was built up in thin, successive layers. X-radiography and infrared reflectography at 780 to 1680 nm show several artist’s changes. Originally there was an arched doorway behind the sitter and a column on the left side of the painting. Dou also changed the shape of the curtain on the left of the painting and adjusted the position of the sitter’s proper right hand.

The painting is in good condition and the panel remains in plane. The thinly-applied paint has become more transparent with age, allowing the pattern of the woodgrain to become more visible. The appearance of the woodgrain may have been enhanced in some areas, such as the shadow under the sitter’s hat brim, by an overly aggressive cleaning at some point in the painting’s history. In 2007 the painting underwent treatment during which the areas of visible woodgrain were carefully inpainted.

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