In this intimate portrait, a bearded man with piercing eyes gazes to his right, his weathered face brightly illuminated against his dark beret. Bright accents enliven his eyes and help model his forehead and cheek bones, while similar highlights define the folds of his open shirt and articulate the strands of his grey hair. Dou's expressive brushwork and detailed handling of paint bring an extraordinary vigor and animation to this wonderful image. This work was once believed to represent Dou's father—a romantic notion that has since been proven wrong by a confirmed image of him with a darker beard and rounder face.
Dou's small oval panel is an outstanding example of a tronie, a type of figure study popular among Dutch artists. Among them, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dou's teacher, made many of these studes in the early to mid-17th century. Dou made tronies of both young and old models, though he favored the old, because their time-worn faces seemed to convey notions of wisdom and experience. Tronies were often sold as independent works, but they were also commonly used by artists as studies for their own genre and history paintings.
With piercing eyes, the bearded man in Gerrit Dou’s small painting gazes steadily off to his right, his weathered face brightly illuminated against the dark beret that covers the back of his head. Everything about his physique and body language, from the set line of his jaw and the tight curls of his moustache to the forward tilt of his head, conveys his firm resolve. Dou reinforced this sense of authority through the vigor of his brushwork, which enlivens the figure by capturing the light striking his form. Bright accents bring life to his eyes, help model his forehead and cheek bones, and articulate the strands of his cropped, grey hair. Similar highlights define the folds of his open shirt and the buttons of his black jacket.
Dou’s tour de force is an outstanding example of a tronie, a type of figure study that Dutch artists frequently employed in the early to mid-17th century.
For an excellent discussion of the history of the term tronie and the character of such images, see Dagmar Hirschfelder, “Portrait or Character Head? The Term Tronie and Its Meaning in the Seventeenth Century,” in Ernst van de Wetering and Bernhard Schnackenburg, The Mystery of the Young Rembrandt (Wolfratshausen, 2001), 82–91. See also Dagmar Hirschfelder and León Krempel, eds., Tronies: Das Gesicht in der frühen Neuzeit (Berlin, 2014).
A great number of tronies were painted in Leiden in the 1620s and 1630s not only by Rembrandt and Dou, but also by
Despite the romantic notion that Dou, Rembrandt, and Lievens depicted their aged parents in such works, most of these identifications—including the notion that this tronie was a portrait of Dou’s father—have been proven wrong.
See Christiaan Vogelaar and Gerbrand Lorevaar, et.al., Rembrandt's Mother: Myth and Reality (Zwolle, 2005).
Although no document identifies the sitters, scholars generally agree that the individuals represented in the group portrait are Dou’s father (Douwe Janszoon), his mother (Maria Jansdochter), and his brother (Jan). The style of Dou’s costume indicates that he painted his self-portrait in the early 1650s, although the costumes of the figures in the painting he holds appear to date from the early 1630s.
Another version of the painting, probably not authentic, was exhibited in Raleigh: Wilhelm Valentiner, Rembrandt and His Pupils (Raleigh, 1956). That painting, which measures 7 ½ x 5 inches, is on canvas.
Dou was renowned for the remarkable detail of his works, and his meticulous manner of execution brought him fame and fortune throughout his life.
One of Dou’s colleagues, Joachim von Sandrart, emphasized Dou’s remarkable diligence and patience while executing his works. See Joachim von Sandrart, Teutsche Academie der edlen, Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste (Nuremberg, 1675–1679; rev. ed. by A. R. Peltzer, Munich, 1925), 195–196.
Philips Angel, Lof der Schilder-kunst (Leiden, 1642; facsimile edition, Utrecht, 1969). See also Philips Angel, “In Praise of Painting,” trans. Michael Hoyle, Simiolus 24 (1996): 227–258.
This issue is discussed in Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “A Reappraisal of Gerard Dou’s Reputation,” The William A. Clark Collection (Washington, DC, 1978), 63.
Few of Dou’s tronies equal the vigor and animation of this small oval panel, which makes this work difficult to date with certainty. Nevertheless, the rough-hewn character of the model, the strong chiaroscuro effects, and the fusion of detailed handling of paint with expressive brushwork suggests a date in the early 1640s.
The painting is dated c. 1642–1645 by Ronni Baer in Ronni Baer et al., Gerrit Dou, 1613–1675: Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt, ed. Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. (New Haven and London, 2000), 84.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
June 30, 2017
lower right over sitter's left shoulder, "DOV" in smaller letters: GDOV
Possibly Jacques Ignace de Roore, Antwerp; (his estate sale, The Hague, 4 September 1747, no. 89, with pendant). possibly Johan van der Marck, Leiden; (his estate sale, by Hendrik de Winter and Jan Yver, Amsterdam, 25 August 1773 and days following, no. 66). possibly (sale, Hôtel d'Aligre by Alexandre Joseph Paillet, Paris, 17 February 1777 and days following, 1st day, no. 79); Jacques Langlier. possiby Gilbert Paignon Dijonval [1708-1792], Paris; by descent to his grandson, Charles-Gilbert, vicomte Morel de Vindé [1749-1852]; (his sale, by Charles Paillet and N. Bérnard, Paris, 17 December 1821 and days following, no. 21 bis); (Thomas Emmerson, London). possibly Jeremiah Harman [1763-1844], London, by 1842; (his estate sale, Christie and Manson, London, 17-18 May 1844, no. 33); Robert Clouston [d. 1882], Balrath, near Navan, co. Meath, Ireland; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 18 June 1881, no. 116); James. Gottfried von Preyer [1807-1901], Vienna, by 1901; (sale, 1902); purchased by William A. Clark [1839-1925], New York; bequest 1926 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- Loan to display with permanent collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1908-1909.
- The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1978, unnumbered catalogue, fig. 48.
- Gerrit Dou (1613-1675): Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt, National Gallery of Art, Washington; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, 2000-2001, no. 11, repro.
- Antiquities to Impressionism: The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2001, no. 62, repro.
- Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 2014, no. 9, repro.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of Naamlyst van Schilderyen. Supplement by Pieter Terwesten. 2 vols. The Hague, 1752-1770: 2(1770):206, no. 89.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 1(1829):19, no. 55 as The portrait of an old man, with a black velvet bonnet, 34, no. 99, as Portrait of the artist's father; 9(1842):18, no. 58, as The Artist's Father.
- Moes, Ernst Wilhelm. Iconographia Batava. 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1897–1905: 1 (1897): 483, no. 3984/2 and 3.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Het Leven en de werken van Gerrit Dou. Leiden, 1901: 203, no. 135, as Dou's Father.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Gerard Dou. Translated by Clara Bell. London, 1902: 48, 104, no. 11, as Portrait of Dou's Father (reprint ed. London, 1908).
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 1(1907):440, no. 291 and no. 292, both as Dou's Father; 445, no. 319d, as Portrait of an Old Man.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 1(1907): 431, no. 291, as Dou's Father; 432, no. 292, as Dou's Father; 436, no. 319d, as Portrait of an Old Man.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Gérard Dou, sa vie et son oeuvre: Etude sur la peinture hollandaise et les marchands au dix-septième siècle. Paris, 1911: 51, 174, no. 67, as The Father of the Painter.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Gerard Dou: des Meisters Gemälde in 247 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 24. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1913: 29 repro., 181, no. 29b (rechts), as The Father of the Artist.
- Carroll, Dana H. Catalogue of Objects of Fine Art and Other Properties at the Home of William Andrews Clark, 962 Fifth Avenue. Part I. Unpublished manuscript, n.d. (1925): 172, no. 170, as Portrait of an Old Man.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of the W.A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1928: 41.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of The W.A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1932: 44, no. 2081, as Portrait of the Artist's Father.
- Breckenridge, James D. A handbook of Dutch and Flemish paintings in the William Andrews Clark collection. Washington, 1955: 12 repro., 13, as The Artist's Father.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 3 vols. Reprint of 1752 ed. with supplement by Pieter Terwesten, 1770. Soest, 1976: 2:206, no. 89.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "A Reappraisal of Gerard Dou's Reputation." In The William A. Clark Collection: An Exhibition Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Installation of the Clark Collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington. Exh. cat. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1978: 60 fig. 48, 61-67.
- Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 301, as Portrait of a Bearded Man.
- Baer, Ronni. "The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675)." 3 vols. Ph.D. dissertation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1990: 1:39.1-39.4; 2:3, no. 39; 3:repro. 39, as Bust of a Man.
- Baer, Ronni, et al. Gerrit Dou, 1613-1675: Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague. New Haven, 2000: 84-85, no. 11, 137, repro.
The primary support is a panel with horizontal grain and a very weak convex warp. On the reverse, most of the edges are beveled except for a small portion of the right side. Despite the lack of beveling along the right edge, the painting appears to retain its original dimensions.
The panel was prepared with a ground layer that is off-white in color and can be seen along the edges in areas of abraded and chipped paint. It is possible there is a second ground layer—a cool, light earth-brown color—exists on top of the off-white layer, but it is unclear if this layer was applied overall or locally. The composition was blocked out with a semitransparent brown layer, which is evident in the lightest folds of the clothing and the cap. It is difficult to determine if the facial features were delineated with this brown sketch layer because the face was brought up to such a high level of finish. There likely is, however, a layer of dead-coloring under the face and neck.
The paint medium is estimated to be oil. The paint in the background and in the figure’s clothing was applied in thin, semitransparent layers, allowing the painted sketch to contribute to the final effect. The face was painted wet-into-wet, with tiny, lively strokes that have a slight impasto and help suggest the wrinkles and furrows in the face.
The painting is in excellent condition and the panel is structurally sound. There are a few old pinpoint losses in the figure’s forehead and there is some abrasion to the paint along the edges. A few small spots of retouching appear in the figure’s forehead and clothing. Last, the painting is covered in a thick layer of discolored varnish that has a very fine craquelure overall.