A sumptuously dressed man in the prime of his life is portrayed three-quarter-length, seated in a wooded landscape, turned toward the right. He wears an allonge perruque, a periwig with flowing blond curls that cover his chest. A magnificently decorated cloak in blue and gold-brown is draped around his upper body over his white linen shirt, with elaborate lace trim at the neck. His right hand is placed on his thigh while his left hand rests on a dead hare. In the right background, a stag flees from a hunting hound bounding through the woods.
When the Amsterdam art dealer Pieter de Boer acquired this painting from a private collection in Germany in 2004, the identity of the sitter was still completely unknown. Soon afterward, however, the present author identified the man as Barthout van Slingelandt (1654–1711) on the basis of a drawing made by Mattheus Verheyden (1700–77) around 1733–35 (fig 1).1 Verheyden’s drawing is an allegorizing interpretation of the portrait that he patterned after a series of similar sheets in the so-called Slingelandt Album, preserved in the archives of the High Council of Nobles in The Hague (fig 2).2 In this drawing, a bust-length depiction of Barthout van Slingelandt is placed within an oval frame on a pedestal and in a marble entablature bearing the arms of Dordrecht (upper left) and Zuid-Holland (upper right). Below these coats of arms are emblems representing the Munt (the Mint) and the Rotterdam chamber of the West India Company (WIC), and personifications of Commerce and Justice—references to the most important posts held by the sitter. The oval frame is crowned with Barthout’s coat of arms: two fesses embattled-counter-embattled argent in a sable field.
Aside from the identification of the sitter, the inscription on Verheyden’s drawing provides important information about the sitter’s age and the dating of the painting. It reads: Hr. Barthout van Slingelandt, Hr. Govertsz: VrijHeer van Slingelandt, etc. Ætatis 28. Ao. 1682. Obiit 1711. In other words, Barthout was 28 when Schalcken painted his portrait in 1682. In terms of style, the painting fits perfectly into this period of Schalcken’s oeuvre, and Verheyden had no need to speculate about the year because he could have consulted family records.3
Barthout’s choice of Godefridus Schalcken as his portraitist was an obvious one. In 1678 Barthout’s father, Govert van Slingelandt (1623–90), then at the height of his power as secretary to the Council of State in The Hague, commissioned Schalcken, the most important master of his native city, to paint his portrait.4 Civic patriotism certainly played a role in this commission. The Van Slingelandts were an old and proud family whose members had always pursued their successful careers from their power base in Dordrecht. The oldest city of Holland, Dordrecht was privileged in being the first among the cities in the States Assembly. Remaining true to the Van Slingelandt tradition, in 1682 Barthout became a member of the Old Council (Oudraad) of Dordrecht, the most important governing body of the city.5 It was no coincidence that he chose Schalcken to paint his portrait in the first year of his governmental career.
Verheyden copied not only Barthout’s portrait but also its pendant, the portrait of his wife, Elisabeth van Bleiswijck (1663–1728), whom Barthout married in Pijnacker in January 1684 (fig 3). Of this picture, too, Verheyden made an allegorizing interpretation, patterned after the other sheets intended for the Slingelandt Album.6 The inscription reveals that Schalcken painted her in 1685 when she was 23 years old (fig 4). These two paintings thus originated three years apart. The couple had three sons: Govert (1692–1776), Bertout (1694–1752), and Hendrik (1702–59). Hendrik had a strong interest in genealogy, and it was he who asked Verheyden, active in The Hague, to make drawn copies of the family portraits and to produce the sheets comprising the Slingelandt Album.7
Hendrik served for years as a magistrate and burgomaster of The Hague. His eldest brother, Govert, was burgomaster of Dordrecht; as the eldest son, he had inherited not only this patrimonial office but also the most important family portraits.8 Only when he died without male issue did the ancestral portraits end up in the possession of Hendrik’s eldest son, Barthout van Slingelandt (1731–98). He transferred them to his country house Zuijdwindt near ’s-Gravenzande, which he had inherited from his grandmother Elisabeth van Bleiswijck. It was there, in 1808, after the death of Barthout’s second wife, Magdalena Anna Elisabeth van Boetzelaer (1756–1808), that an inventory was drawn up that listed “eighteen family portraits of the Van Slingelandts, each of which bears an inscription on the back with the name and the time of birth of the sitter.”9 Hanging in the house at this time was the family heirloom, painted in 1657 by Jan Mijtens (1614–70), which portrayed the apparently flourishing family of Govert van Slingelandt (fig 5).10 This group portrait includes a posthumous depiction of Barthout’s mother, Christina van Beveren (1631–56); she and her daughter, Christina, died when the infant boy was only two years old.
The subsequent fate of the collection of family portraits is unclear. Shortly after 1811, Zuijdwindt was sold by its heirs and eventually demolished, probably because of financial losses in the Napoleonic era. The portraits were then probably inherited by Hendrik van Slingelandt Barthoutsz (1788–1868). Shortly thereafter, some of them were dispersed, possibly having been sold, as can be deduced from the fact that in 1842 the portraits Schalcken made of Barthout’s father, Govert, and his second wife, Arnoudina van Beaumont (1635–1702), in 1678 were in the famous collection of Baron Johan Gijsbert Verstolk van Soelen (1776–1845) in The Hague.11 No other portrait of a member of this branch of the Van Slingelandt family has ever been traced to this period, so it seems most likely that the heirs divided up the collection privately or sold it, perhaps to relatives. It therefore came as a complete surprise when Schalcken’s portrait of Barthout appeared in late 2004. One can only hope that its pendant of Elisabeth van Bleiswijck will one day surface as well.
Schalcken portrayed Barthout in an unusual way, presenting him as a participant in the hunt. Even more telling than the dead hare is the scene in the background of a hound chasing a stag (in terms of large game, wild boar had disappeared from Holland by the sixteenth century). Hunting of this kind had traditionally been reserved for the sovereign ruler, first the counts of Holland, and then later the stadholders, as “chief foresters” (opperhoutvesters),12 whereas hunting of small furry game (hares and rabbits) and feathered game (pheasants, partridges and ducks) was rated less highly.13 Hunting was the only exclusively noble privilege left to this old elite.14 The nobility of Holland had the right to hunt small game in the “Wilderness,” which comprised the woods and dunes between the Meuse River and Zijpe polder and several adjoining areas belonging to the former domains of the counts of Holland. The Wilderness, officially called the “Forestry” (Houtvesterij) of Holland and West Friesland, was also the only hunting ground of consequence in this province.15 Members of the nobility were forced to share their hunting privileges with the highest officials in the provincial government. Supervision of the hunt in the count’s former Wilderness was the responsibility of one of the oldest courts of the land: the Council of Woodward and Master Servants (Houtvester en Meesterknapen). They were charged with issuing hunting licenses and with administering justice in all hunt-related cases. Stag hunting with hounds in the Forestry of Holland was, therefore, a highly exclusive pastime and a pleasure reserved mainly for the nobility.
The inclusion of the hunting scene makes it clear that Barthout van Slingelandt had himself portrayed as a nobleman, although he might better be described as someone with noble pretensions. If indeed he participated in the stag hunt, he could have done so in the vicinity of his own home only in the dunes between The Hague and Scheveningen and in the woods known as the Haagse Bos, hunting grounds supervised by the Forestry.16 Schalcken’s portrait, therefore, provides insight into the aristocratization of the wealthy urban regents, among whom the Van Slingelandts could be counted (though it must be admitted that Barthout’s mother, Christina van Beveren, was a descendant of an old knightly family of Holland).
After the death of his father in 1690, Barthout became Lord of Dubbeldam, but this title of nobility did not gain him admittance to Holland’s College of Nobles, nor did it grant him the rights to vote in the States assembly and to hunt in the Wilderness. Deriving from a collateral branch of the family, the ownership of the seigneury of Slingelandt in the Alblasserwaard polder had fallen to the Pompe (van Meerdervoort en Slingelandt) family, likewise from Dordrecht. It must therefore have been a great triumph for Barthout and his family when, in 1705, he purchased from his cousin Isabella Jacoba Pompe van Slingelandt (1657–1718) the seigneurial rights that made him Lord of Slingelandt. There was no greater sign of prestige for the nobility, and the regents’ families who sought to associate with them, than the possession of a seigneury or barony from which the owner derived his family name.17 Moreover, Slingelandt was a so-called free or high barony, which increased his standing even more, since the owner possessed not only the usual right to tithe and all rights connected with hunting and fishing, but also the right to administer corporal punishment and even the right to condemn and execute criminals.18
When this portrait was painted, only the seigneury of Dubbeldam was in the family’s possession, but high offices had been held by members of the family for generations. After studying law in Leiden, in 1677 Barthout began his career as a counselor at the Court of Holland. His most important positions were magistrate and burgomaster of Dordrecht, master-general of the mint of the United Netherlands, councilor and deputy to the Admiralty on the Meuse, treasurer-general of the province of Zuid-Holland, governor of the Dutch West India Company, and member of the Council of State. With regard to the family’s rise in standing, its elevation to the nobility by Emperor Joseph I in 1702 was of immense importance. Both Barthout and his half-brother Govert Johan (1665–1703) were henceforth allowed to bear the hereditary title of Baron of the Holy Roman Empire, a title that had no legal significance in the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, but nevertheless added great luster to the family name. It is therefore interesting to note that the aspirations displayed by Barthout van Slingelandt in Schalcken’s splendid portrait of 1682 indeed came to fruition twenty years later.