Skip to main content

Portrait of Dirck van Beresteyn

Gerrit Dou (Leiden 1613 – 1675 Leiden)
ca. 1652
oil on silver-copper alloy, oval
10.2 x 8.2 cm
signed information

signed in blue paint at upper right: “G Dou” (GD in ligature)

inventory number
Currently on view: The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Surh, Dominique. “Portrait of Dirck van Beresteyn.” In The Leiden Collection Catalogue. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. New York. (accessed December 13, 2018).

This page is available on the site’s Archive. PDF of every version of this page is available on the Archive, and the Archive is managed by a permanent URL. Archival copies will never be deleted. New versions are added only when a substantive change to the narrative occurs.

This small, enamel-like portrait, which portrays Dirck van Beresteyn (1627–53) shortly before his untimely death at the age of twenty-six, is one of the few instances in which the identity of one of Gerrit Dou’s sitters is known. His name and life dates are inscribed on the reverse of the painting ().  Dirck was the fourth of five children from a well-to-do family in Delft, whose father and grandfather had both held prominent civic positions as burgomasters of Delft. In the fall of 1647, at the age of twenty, Dirck moved to Leiden to study law at Leiden University. After the completion of his studies, he was appointed to the prestigious position of Counsel to the Hof van Holland. In November 1652 Dirck married his young cousin, Magdalena van Adrichem (1639–84) and settled in Delft on the west side of the Oude Delft. In 1653 Dirck made a series of visits to the notary to establish and revise his will, which suggests that he had fallen ill or was otherwise concerned about his mortality. He made his last notarial visit in September 1653 to ensure that his unborn child would be placed in the custody of his wife, mother and brother Zacharias. A week later he died, leaving behind his young bride Magdalena, who would give birth to a boy some six months later. Sadly, the child would only live for a matter of hours.

Dou has depicted Dirck as a composed yet dashing young man dressed in the latest fashion. He wears a small ornamental band around his neck, edged with fine lace and closed with tasseled band-strings. His black doublet, faced with buttons down its front, allows his billowing shirt to show through at the cuffs and along the slits of his sleeves. A velvet-lined black cloak with additional buttons along its arms is slung around his shoulders. With beaming eyes, Dirck’s bright countenance is accentuated by his long, wavy hair cascading over his shoulders. His golden hair and black-and-white attire are set off by a vibrant blue-green backdrop that appears to be a curtain.

Dou must have executed this portrait sometime between 1647, when Dirck first moved to Leiden, and 1653, the year of his death. Ronni Baer suggests a date close to 1647 and relates the painting stylistically to Dou’s 1646 signed and dated Portrait of a Man in the Rijksmuseum (). However, Dirck’s fashionable attire would seem to indicate a slightly later date for this portrait. In particular, the style of the sleeves of his doublet, which allow for much of his blousy shirt to show through, is consistent with men’s fashion of the early 1650s.

Portrait of Dirck van Beresteyn is the smallest known work by Dou. The miniature scale implies a sentimental connection between the subject and the viewer, a scale the viewer experiences in the intimacy of one’s hands. Baer suggests that the portrait might have been commissioned on the occasion of Dirck’s extended absence from the family home in Delft upon his matriculation at Leiden University in 1647. The possibility of a slightly later dating, based on his dress, leads to another, perhaps more compelling, possibility. Because of its unusually small format, it is conceivable that the portrait was commissioned by Dirck as a gift for his wife, either for their betrothal or as a token of his love around the time of their marriage in 1652. Such small portrait gifts presented at a marriage proposal were not uncommon. This tradition is recorded in a painting by Caspar Netscher (ca. 1639–84), Presentation of a Medallion Portrait (), ca. 1658–60, in the Szépmüveszéti Muzeum, Budapest, which portrays a young suitor offering a small portrait medallion to his beloved.

In addition to its diminutive size, the present portrait is also the only known work by the artist painted on a metal support, which laboratory testing has indicated to be an unusual alloy of silver and copper. Its uncommon metallurgical content has raised the possibility that the plate was adopted from a prior use and reappointed here as the smooth, stable support of a painting. One compelling proposition, which accounts for both the size and oval shape of the plate yet warrants further consideration and study, is that it was originally fashioned as a hand-mirror or component of a locket. Aside from its distinctive historical and technical qualities, this diminutive painting is of great significance to the present collector, as it was the first Dutch painting he acquired, and served as the springboard for assembling this remarkable collection of paintings by Gerrit Dou and his contemporaries.

- Dominique Surh
  • Herman de Kat van Oost- en West-Barendrecht, Dordrecht, by 1854 (his sale, Paris, Lamme and Petit, 2 May 1866, no. 24, for 170 francs).
  • M*** Collection (sale, Paris, Hotel Drouot, 1 February 1875, no. 22).
  • Mrs. U. M. Kneppelhout-van Braam Egbert de Langen and Count Bottaro Costa (sale, Amsterdam, Frederik Műller, 16 December 1919, no. 19).
  • Dr. E. A. van Beresteyn, The Hague; by descent to his wife Mrs. Van Beresteyn Vierhouten, by 1952 (sale, Christie’s, London, 17 April 2002, no. 43, [Johnny van Haeften, London, 2002; Derek Johns Ltd., London]).
  • From whom acquired by the present owner in 2003.
  • The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, “Oude Kunst uit Haagse Bezit,” 12 December 1936–31 January 1937, no. 63 [lent by E. A. van Beresteyn].
  • Amsterdam, The Rijksmuseum, “Drie Eeuwen Portret in Nederland 1500–1800,” 29 June–5 October 1952, no. 31 [lent by Mrs. E. A. van Beresteyn].
  • Oxford, Ashmolean Museum of Art, on loan with the permanent collection, December 2009–January 2011 [lent by the present owner].
  • Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, “Dutch Treat,” 11 October 2011–6 January 2012 [lent by the present owner].
  • Leiden, Museum De Lakenhal, “Gerrit Dou: The Leiden Collection from New York,” 9 March–31 August 2014 [lent by the present owner].
  • Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, “Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries,” 12 October 2014–4 January 2015, no. 10 [lent by the present owner].
  • Beijing, National Museum of China, “Rembrandt and His Time: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection,” 17 June–3 September 2017 [lent by the present owner].
  • Shanghai, Long Museum, West Bund, “Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals in the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection,” 23 September 2017–25 February 2018 [lent by the present owner].
  • Moscow, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, “The Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer: Masterpieces of The Leiden Collection,” 28 March 2018–22 July 2018 [lent by the present owner].
  • St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, “The Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer: Masterpieces of The Leiden Collection,” 5 September 2018–13 January 2019 [lent by the present owner].
  • Martin, Wilhelm. “Het leven en de werken van Gerrit Dou beschouwd in verband met het schildersleven van zijn tijd.” PhD diss.  Leiden, 1901, 204, no. 139.
  • Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of theSeventeenth Century Based on the Work of John Smith. Edited and translated by Edward G. Hawke, 1:440, no. 293. 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.
  • Staring, Adolph. “Nederlandsche portretminiaturen.” Haagsche Post, 789 (Kerstnummer, 25 December 1928): 12.
  • Gemeentemuseum. Oude Kunst uit Haagsch Bezit. Exh. cat. The Hague, Gemeentemuseum. The Hague, 1937, 25, no. 63.
  • Van Beresteyn, and Eltjo Aldegondus. Genealogie van het Geslacht van Beresteyn. 3 vols. The Hague, 1941, 1:262–64; 2:72–74, fig. 51, no. 145.
  • Staring, Adolph. Kunsthistorische Verkenningen. The Hague, 1948, pl. 39.
  • Rijksmuseum. Drie Eeuwen Portret in Nederland. Exh. cat. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam, 1952, 15, no. 31.
  • Baer, Ronni. “Dou and the Delft Connection: The Portrait of Dirk van Beresteyn.” In Face Book: Studies on Dutch and Flemish Portraiture of the 16th–18th Centuries. Edited by Buijsen, Edwin, Charles Dumas, and Volker Manuth, 279–84. Leiden, 2012.
  • Weller, Dennis P. “Portrait of Dirck van Beresteyn.” In Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries. Exh. cat. Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art; Birmingham, Birmingham Museum of Art. Raleigh, 2014, 77–79, no. 10.
  • 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, 3–6, 13, figs. 8a–b, 32, 33, 34a–b. DOI:10.5092/jhna.2014.6.1.3.
  • Yaeger-Crasselt, Lara. “Portrait of Dirck van Berestyn.” In Rembrandt and His Time: Masterpieces of The Leiden Collection. Edited by Lara Yaeger-Crasselt, 84–85; 179, no. 32. Translated by Li Ying. Exh. cat. Beijing, National Museum of China. Beijing, 2017.
  • Long Museum, West Bund. Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals in the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection. Exh. cat. Shanghai, Long Museum, West Bund. Shanghai, 2017, 105.
  • Yeager-Crasselt, Lara. “The Leiden Collection and the Dutch Golden Age.” In The Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer: Masterpieces of The Leiden Collection. Edited by Polina Lyubimova. Translated by Daria Babich and Daria Kuzina, 17; 28, fig. 1. Exh. cat. Moscow, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts; St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum. Moscow, 2018.
  • Yeager-Crasselt, Lara. “Portrait of Dirck van Beresteyn.” In The Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer: Masterpieces of The Leiden Collection. Edited by Polina Lyubimova. Translated by Daria Babich and Daria Kuzina, 86–87; 233, no. 10. Exh. cat. Moscow, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts; St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum. Moscow, 2018.

The support for the painting is an oval metal plate. Unlike the typical copper plates used for painting, this plate is a silver/copper alloy. The reason for this unusual support is unknown, but Dou may have repurposed some other object.

A thin, light-colored ground is visible in the edges of a loss. Dou applied the paint smoothly using delicate modeling to create intricate details in the sitter’s likeness and attire. Infrared photography indicates a slight compositional change in the sitter’s hair, which was originally longer.

The panel remains in plane, but the reverse exhibits two layers of corrosion: a lower, light brown one covering the entire surface; and an upper, mottled, dark brown one. There is an inscription on the reverse of the panel which identifies the sitter as well as the years of his birth and death. Two layers of corrosion are present under this inscription, indicating a fair amount of time passed between the creation of the panel and the application of the inscription.

The painting is in good condition, and it was last treated in 2002. At that time, two large areas of paint loss were inpainted. A circular loss, 2 cm in diameter, is located above the sitter’s proper left hand, and a 2.6 cm long, vertical, rectangular loss is located in the blue background in the middle of the left edge. Pinpoint losses are also located throughout the composition, but are most noticeable in the sitter’s face. These look dark and appear to be related to the problem of metal–fatty acid soap formation.

Scroll back to top