With great bravura, this fashionably clad member of the Haarlem civic guard stands with one arm akimbo, staring out at the viewer. His proud bearing, accented by the panache of his shimmering pink satin costume and plumed hat, attests to the great sense of confidence felt by the Dutch at the height of their "golden age."
Andries Stilte, whose family coat of arms decorates the upper corner of this painting, is presented as a standard bearer, or ensign, of the Kloveniers, one of Haarlem’s militia companies. During the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, militia companies served as a civic guard. By 1640, when Verspronck made this portrait, civic guard companies had lost most of their military function. Officers were chosen from Haarlem’s wealthy burghers, who vied for these prestigious appointments. The blue standard and sash serve to identify Stilte’s company and rank, but the rest of his outfit displays his personal taste, his family’s wealth, and his status as a bachelor (Haarlem’s militia regulations stipulated that only unmarried men could serve as ensigns). Stilte commissioned Verspronck to paint him wearing his sumptuous pink costume right before he resigned his rank to marry. As a married militia officer, Stilte would have worn an elegant black outfit.
Verspronck was one of the foremost portraitists in Haarlem during the mid-seventeenth century. Little is known about his artistic background, though he probably studied first with his artist-father, Cornelis Engelsz (c. 1575–1650). Verspronck may also have trained with Frans Hals (c. 1582/1583–1666). Although many seventeenth-century Dutch artists, including Hals, portrayed Dutch militia companies, Verspronck is the only one known to have executed a life-sized portrait of an individual ensign.
With great bravura, this fashionably clad member of one of the Haarlem civic guards stands with one arm akimbo, staring out at the viewer.
I would like to thank Lynn Russell for her help in preparing this entry.
This remarkable life-sized, half-length portrait depicts Andries Stilte, a wealthy burgher in Haarlem whose identity is confirmed by the family coat of arms in the upper left.
Andries Stilte was the son of Mattheus Stilte and Hester Monnicx. His year of birth is not known, but he died after 1675. Biographical information is taken from R. E. O. Ekkart, Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck. Leven en werken van een Haarlems portretschilder uit de 17-de eeuw (Haarlem, 1979), 78, no. 18.
There were two militia companies in Haarlem in the seventeenth century, the Saint Hadrian company (Kloveniers) and the Saint George, also referred to as the Oude Voetboog (Old Cross-Bow) company. In the sixteenth century there had also been a third group, the Saint Sebastian Guild, for men who could afford only a hand bow. This militia company was disbanded in 1560. By the seventeenth century the militia companies had lost their original religious character and were under the control of city authorities. For an overview of the militia companies in Haarlem, see Seymour Slive, Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970), 1:39–49. For the history of the building, referred to as the Kloveniersdoelen, which still exists in the center of Haarlem, see: P. T. E. E. Rosenberg, “Doelengebouwen en doelenterreinen in de Hollandse steden,” in Schutters in Holland: Kracht en zenuwen van de stad, ed. M. Carasso-Kok and J. Levy-van Halm, (Haarlem, 1988), 60–67.
Haarlem militia companies had fought against Spanish forces in defense of the city in 1572–1573.
Seymour Slive, Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970), 1:42. Throughout the period, Dutch militia companies continued to be responsible for guarding their respective towns. See Egbert Haverkamp Begemann, Rembrandt, the Nightwatch, Princeton Essays on the Arts 12 (Princeton, 1982). See also M. Carasso-Kok and J. Levy-van Halm, eds., Schutters in Holland: Kracht en zenuwen van de stad (Haarlem, 1988).
Officers of the Haarlem militia companies were chosen from wealthy regent families and their positions held great social status. Andries Stilte proudly bears the blue sash and standard of his company (the blue company) that was part of the Kloveniers. He wears a sword hanging from his bandolier, which, like the rest of the ensign’s wardrobe, was traditionally determined by the individual’s family background, taste, and wealth.
Seymour Slive, Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970), 1:41, notes that the officer corps of the two civic guard groups consisted of eleven officers: a colonel, a provost, three captains, three lieutenants, and three ensigns. Each civic guard group was divided into three companies, designated orange, white, and blue, the colors of the Dutch flag. Stilte, thus, belonged to the “blue” company of the Kloveniers.
The municipality of Haarlem established this stipulation so it would not be encumbered with the expense of supporting an ensign’s widow and their children.
Although Stilte was probably elected ensign in 1639, he served in this position only until 1640, when he became engaged to his first wife, Eva Reyniers, and therefore had to resign as ensign.
Eva died in 1645, and Stilte later married the widower Lijsbeth Valck.
Stilte subsequently became a lieutenant in the Kloveniers. He was portrayed in this role in 1642 in a militia company painting by
For the tradition of the depiction of standard bearers in group portraits of militia companies, see the figure at the left in Frans Hals’ 1616 depiction of the Saint George militia company in the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem (Seymour Slive, Frans Hals, 3 vols. [London, 1970], 2:5–7, no. 7). For individual portraits of standard bearers, see the full-length portrait of a standard bearer from The Hague, 1617, by Everard Quirijsz van der Maes (1577–1656), in M. Carasso-Kok and J. Levy-van Halm, eds., Schutters in Holland: Kracht en zenuwen van de Stad (Haarlem, 1988), 386, no. 196.
In commissioning this portrait Stilte probably chose Verspronck over his more famous contemporary
Rudolf E. O. Ekkart, Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck. Leven en werken van een Haarlems portretschilder uit de 17-de eeuw (Haarlem, 1979), 71, no. 6. The portrait is in the Museu Nacional, Havana. One often finds that Dutch families retained strong relationships with individual artists over the years.
An alteration made by the artist to an area that was already painted.
Over the centuries, the top layers of paint have become more transparent so that today traces of the plumes’ original placement are visible. See Technical Summary.
This depiction of Stilte is exceptional because during Verspronck’s long and successful artistic career he generally painted half-length portraits of middle-class burghers in relatively subdued attire.
See Rudolf E. O. Ekkart, Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck. Leven en werken van een Haarlems portretschilder uit de 17-de eeuw (Haarlem, 1979).
See Rudolf E. O. Ekkart, Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck. Leven en werken van een Haarlems portretschilder uit de 17-de eeuw (Haarlem, 1979), 38–39, 77, no. 16. Ekkart believes that this painting is stylistically connected to works by the Utrecht painter
See Rudolf E. O. Ekkart, Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck. Leven en werken van een Haarlems portretschilder uit de 17-de eeuw (Haarlem, 1979), 39–40, 82, no. 26.
Verspronck’s painting has been trimmed slightly at the left: the end of the flagstaff is slightly cut at the edge of the painting.
W. Martin, Alt-holländische Bilder (Berlin 1921), 172–173, noted, however, that at that time the painting had suffered badly from lifting paint, and recommended that it be relined.
W. Martin, ed., Königliche gemälde Galerie Mauritshuis: Kurzgefasster Katalog der Gemälde- und Skulpturensammlung (The Hague, 1920), 84, notes that the dimensions of the painting were then 103 x 77.5 cm, and that the remnants of a signature “. . . onck 1640” were then to be found. Verspronck generally signed his name: “J. vSpronck” followed by the date. Perhaps Martin had only measured the painting inside the frame, which would account for the discrepancy with the current dimensions.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
lower left: :1640:
Marks and Labels
(Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam), before 1917. Dr. Walter von Pannwitz [1856-1920], Berlin, by 1917; by inheritance to his wife, Catalina von Pannwitz [1876-1959, née Roth], Heemstede; by descent in the Pannwitz family; (Otto Nauman, Ltd., New York); purchased 1988 by Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein, Montreal; (sale, Sotheby's, New York, 30 January 1998, no. 69); purchased through (Bob P. Haboldt & Co., New York) by NGA.
- Loan to display with permanent collection, Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1917-1923.
- Art for the Nation: Collecting for a New Century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000-2001, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Face to Face in the Mauritshuis, Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen Mauritshuis, The Hague, 2000, no cat.
- Dutch Portraits: The Age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals, The National Gallery, London; Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague, 2007-2008, no. 64, repro.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Kurzgefasster Katalog der Gemälde- und Skulpturensammlung, Königliche Gemälde Galerie Mauritshuis. The Hague, 1920: 84, no. 753.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Alt-holländische Bilder: Sammeln, Bestimmen, Konservieren. Berlin, 1921: 172-173.
- Friedländer, Max J. Die Kunstsammlung von Pannwitz. 2 vols. Munich, 1926: 1:11-12, no. 54, pl. 43.
- Yapou, Yonna. "Portraiture and Genre in a Painting Restored to Jan Verspronck." Israel Museum News 11 (1976): 41-46, fig. 7.
- Ekkart, Rudolf E. O. Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck: leven en werken van een Haarlems portretschilder uit de 17de eeuw. Exh. cat. Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, 1979: 40, 78, no. 19, repro. 150.
- Sutton, Peter C. "Recent Patterns of Public and Private Collecting of Dutch Art." In Great Dutch Paintings from America. Edited by Ben P. J. Broos. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Zwolle, 1990: 118, fig. 23.
- Otto Naumann Ltd. Inaugural exhibition of old master paintings. Exh. cat. Otto Naumann Ltd., New York, 1995: 140, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art. Art for the Nation: Collecting for a New Century. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2000: 34-35, color repro.
- Weller, Dennis P. Like Father, Like Son? Portraits by Frans Hals and Jan Hals. Exh. cat. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 2000: fig. 6, color repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 212-213, no. 170, color repro.
- Ekkart, Rudolf E.O., and Quentin Buvelot. Dutch portraits: the age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals. Translated by Beverly Jackson. Exh. cat. National Gallery, London; Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. London, 2007: 220-221, no. 64, repro.
- Buvelot, Quentin. "El retrato holandés." Numen 2 (2008): 14, 25, repro.
- Ekkart, Rudolf E.O.. Johannes Verspronck and the Girl in Blue. Amsterdam, 2009: 20, 22, 58, color fig. 14.
- Tummers, Anna. The Eye of the Connoisseur: Authenticating Paintings by Rembrandt and His Contemporaries. Amsterdam, 2012: 244, 245, color fig. 154.
The support is a coarse, plain-weave fabric, which has been lined. The tacking margins have been removed and the X-radiographs reveal strong cusping on the right side, fainter cusping on the left, and very faint cusping along the top and bottom edges. The cusping is often stronger in one direction due to the warp and weft of the fabric, which could explain the shallower cusping on the top and bottom, but the faint cusping on the left side indicates that this edge was cut down slightly. This theory is supported by the fact that the handle of the standard is cut off on this edge and the painting bears a date, but no signature. It stands to reason that the artist’s signature would have preceded the date, as it often does in his paintings.
Verspronck used a thin, white or buff-colored ground to prepare the support. Infrared reflectography at 2.0-2.5 microns revealed thin lines of underdrawing, which are most noticeable in the face, hair, hat, and flagpole. The thin paint was applied mostly using a wet-into-wet technique. Verspronck used some glazes, mostly in the red areas. He employed the butt end of his brush to scrape away the paint to create the details in the sitter’s lace and gloves. Numerous pentimenti are visible in normal light and with infrared reflectography, most notably: Stilte’s hat was moved up and to the right but the feathers were moved down and to the left; his face was moved to the left; and the angle of the standard was originally more vertical.
The painting is in good condition. The paint exhibits a heavy craquelure pattern, which has tented slightly, and minute losses are found at the intersections of the cracks. The paint is somewhat abraded in the shadows of the sitter’s hair and his hat, as well as his proper left thumb. Inpainting occurs in the sitter’s hair, in the curtain along the sitter’s proper left shoulder, and along the edges. The painting has not been treated since its acquisition.
 Infrared reflectography was performed using a Santa Barbara Focalplane InSb camera fitted with a K astronomy filter.
Related IconClass Terms
- arm akimbo
- looking over the shoulder
- fashion and clothing +burghers
- standard bearer
- revolution +Dutch Revolt
- military service
- nobility and patriciate
- artist +Frans Hals + influence of
- portrait +Andries Stilte