Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen, a portrait painter of Flemish descent, lived and worked in both England and the Netherlands. He presumably trained in the northern Netherlands before establishing himself as an independent master in London around 1618. Combining fluid brushstrokes with a keen interest in the particularities of his sitters’ features, Jonson created original likenesses that earned him a large number of commissions. His hallmark paintings of the 1620s and 1630s—elegant bust-length portraits occasionally set within a trompe l’oeil oval frame—strongly appealed to the British gentry. His best portraits, including this sensitive rendering, nevertheless date from his later Dutch period (1643–1661).
This grisaille, or monochromatic painting, a design for a print by Cornelis van Dalen the Younger (1638–1659/1664) that was first published around 1657, depicts a learned woman of international renown: Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678). Van Schurman was the very first woman allowed to attend classes at a Dutch university (though a screen separated her from her fellow students). In addition to learning twelve languages, she became well versed in theology, philosophy, botany, and medicine. She wrote a grammar book for the Ethiopian language and experimented with poetry and the visual arts. Jonson has depicted her in a fanciful dress and elegant pose reminiscent of court paintings by Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) while rendering her face in his own characteristically minute (and presumably unidealized) manner. The book and the various attributes bordering the picture refer to Van Schurman’s erudition, while the Utrecht cathedral in the background alludes to the city where she spent most of her life.
This monochrome panel painting, or grisaille,
A monochrome painting, or grisaille, was often called a grauwtje in Dutch.
I am grateful to Jennifer Henel and Molli Kuenstner for their help in preparing this entry.
Mirjam de Baar and Brita Rang, “Anna Maria van Schurman: A Historical Survey of Her Reception since the Seventeenth Century,” in Choosing the Better Part: Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678), ed. Mirjam de Baar et al., trans. Lynne Richards (Dordrecht, 1996), 1. Frederik van Schurman had a collection of paintings that included Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s
See Katlijne van der Stighelen, “‘Et ses artistes mains’: The Art of Anna Maria van Schurman,” in Choosing the Better Part: Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678), ed. Mirjam de Baar et al., trans. Lynne Richards (Dordrecht, 1996), 58.
Van Schurman was renowned even more for her intellectual concerns than for her artistic accomplishments. Referred to as the Utrecht “Minerva,” she exchanged poems and corresponded with some of the greatest minds of the day, including Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687), René Descartes (1596–1650), and Jacob Cats (1577–1660).
For a list of her treatises, poems, and publications, see Mirjam de Baar et al., ed., Choosing the Better Part: Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678), trans. Lynne Richards (Dordrecht, 1996), 155–157.
Jacob Cats, ’s Weerelts begin, midden, ende, besloten in den Trou-ringh, met den proefsteen van den selven (Dordrecht, 1637).
According to documentation, she did not actually attend as a full student, but was allowed to sit in the back as an “observer.” Gisbertus Voetius first invited her to write poems for the inauguration of Utrecht University and then allowed her to attend lectures in a loge that concealed her from other students; thus she was the (unofficial) first female student. See Joyce L. Irwin, “Anna Maria van Schurman and Her Intellectual Circle,” in Anna Maria van Schuman, Whether a Christian Woman Should Be Educated and Other Writings from Her Intellectual Circle, ed. and trans. Joyce L. Irwin (Chicago and London, 1998), 5.
Her dissertation argued that, indeed, Christian women should have access to higher education, but only if it did not interfere with other womanly duties as a wife and mother, for example. See Anna Maria van Schuman, Whether a Christian Woman Should Be Educated and Other Writings from Her Intellectual Circle, ed. and trans. Joyce L. Irwin (Chicago and London, 1998).
When Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen arrived in Utrecht in 1652 after a long and distinguished career as a portrait painter in London, he quickly became the principal portrait painter of that Dutch artistic center.
Among the highlights of his career in England, he was named a painter in the court of King Charles I in 1632.
For more information on the Van Dyckian portrait style of Jonson, see Hilbert Lootsma, “Tracing a Pose: Govert Flinck and the Emergence of the Van Dyckian Mode of Portraiture in Amsterdam,” Simiolus 33, no. 4 (2007–2008): 225.
A painting by Jonson from 1660, alleged to portray Anna Maria van Schurman, shows a more formal portrait than that in the grisaille, with Van Dyckian rendering. See Portrait of a Woman at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, inv. no. 103LL. See Hans Buijs and Mària van Berge-Gerbaud, Tableaux flamands et hollandais du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Paris, 1991), no. 24, 70–72. Prints made after Jonson’s paintings, such as the large collection at the National Portrait Gallery in London, one can see that Jonson added faux framing features around his sitters to illustrate their trade or importance. Often, this portrait would be accompanied by poetic or explanatory text, such as that of the resulting print by Van Dalen (see fig. 1).
For reproductions of a number of her self-portraits, see Mirjam de Baar et al., eds., Choosing the Better Part: Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678), trans. Lynne Richards (Dordrecht, 1996).
The monochrome painting technique that Jonson used here is another reflection of Van Dyck’s influence. During the late 1620s Van Dyck used rapidly executed monochrome studies as models for the large series of portrait prints he made of artists, collectors, princes, statesmen, and philosophers that became known as the Iconography.
See Ger Luijten, “The Iconography: Van Dyck’s Portraits in Print,” in Carl Depauw and Ger Luijten, Anthony van Dyck as a Printmaker, trans. Beverly Jackson (New York, 1999), 73–91.
Gustav Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collection of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, and Illuminated Mss., 3 vols. (London, 1854–1857), 2:464.
The allegorical elements portrayed in the oval frame surrounding the image of Van Schurman, however, have no associations with Van Dyck but rather belong to earlier Dutch traditions of portrait engravings. In a 1580 portrait of Josina Hamels by
For a discussion of this print, see Huigen Leeflang et al., Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617): Drawings, Prints, and Paintings (Amsterdam, 2003), 65–67, no. 17.
The print is listed in J. F. van Someren, Beschrijvende catalogus van gegraveerde portretten van Nederlanders, 3 vols. (Amsterdam, 1888–1891), 3:232, no. 4862; and F. W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings, and Woodcuts, ca. 1450–1700, 71 vols. (Amsterdam, 1949), 5:120, no. 153. The Latin text reads: “Tanta fides caelo, tanta est fiducia, divae / Hoccine Schurmannae vultus in aere micet? / Disce gravis, Sculptor, quae sit vesaniacaepti: / Haec, ais, haec aevi sideris umbra tui est? / Tun’ similem praestis aetas cui nulla secundam / Edidit, et non est ulla datura parem? CONSTANTER.”
In Utrecht Jonson specialized in large-scale portraits, and this small but exceptional monochromatic panel painting is unique in his known oeuvre. Preparatory paintings such as this grisaille are difficult to find; thus, it is challenging to pinpoint this painting’s genesis. The explanation for this exceptional work must lie in the artist’s desire to create a portrait engraving that celebrated the many talents of this famous sitter. The idea to celebrate this renowned woman could have come from Jonson himself, who had an experienced career in portraiture and printmaking, and who would have been familiar with Van Schurman through fellow artist and ex-patriot in England
Lievens may have known Jonson through their work in the English court. Both artists also knew Constantijn Huygens, who corresponded frequently with Anna Maria van Schurman (and who was also the subject of a portrait painting by Lievens in 1628–1629). See Hilbert Lootsma, “Tracing a Pose: Govert Flinck and the Emergence of the Van Dyckian Mode of Portraiture in Amsterdam,” Simiolus 33, no. 4 (2007–2008): 221–236.
Regardless of who instigated this engraving, the image was related to one of Van Schurman that appeared in 1657 in Jacob Cats’ publication Alle de Wercken, soo oude als nieuwe (the print introduced the section titled “Proteus of Sinne- en minnebeelden”)
This self-portrait, done in pastels on paper, is in 't Coopmanshus, Franeker. It is signed and dated “29 juni 1640 aetatis suae 33” on the verso. For this work, see Mirjam de Baar et al., eds., Choosing the Better Part: Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678), trans. Lynne Richards (Dordrecht, 1996), 42, pl. 5; and Constantijn Huygens, Gedichten, 4:310, whose poem is dated April 12, 1661 (reprinted in J. A. Worp, De gedichten van Constantijn Huygens, 9 vols. [Groningen, 1892–1899]).
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
center left, below the cathedral, in the portrait medallion: Cornelius Ionson / Van Ceulen / fecit / 1657
Clement de Jonghe [c. 1624-1677], Amsterdam; (his estate sale, Amsterdam, 15 February 1679 and days following). Jan Six [1618-1700], Amsterdam; (his estate sale, by Jan Pietersz Zomer, Amsterdam, 6 April 1702, no. 111). Joan de Vries; (his sale, The Hague, 13 October 1738, no. 24). Rev. John Fuller Russell [1814-1884], Eagle House, near Enfield, Middlesex, by 1854; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 18 April 1885, no. 139). Ralph Brocklebank [1840-1921], Haughton Hall, near Tarporley, Cheshire, by 1904; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 7 July 1922, no. 91). Joseph Fuller Feder [d. 1944], New York; by inheritance to his wife, Edith Mosler Feder [d. 1960], New York; by inheritance to her grandson, Joseph F. McCrindle [1923–2008], New York; gift 2002 to NGA.
- Art Treasures of the United Kingdom: Paintings by Ancient Masters, Art Treasures Palace, Manchester, 1857, no. 522, as Portrait of a Female by Cornelis Janssens.
- Judith Leyster (1609-1660), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009, unnumbered brochure.
- Citizens of the Republic: Portraits from the Dutch Golden Age, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2012-2013, brochure no. 2, repro.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 2 vols. The Hague, 1752: 1:559-561, no. 24.
- Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss.. 3 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. London, 1854: 2:464.
- Moes, Ernst Wilhelm. Iconographia Batava. 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1897–1905: 2(1905):362, no. 8.
- Carter, R. Radcliffe. Pictures & Engravings at Haughton Hall Tarporley in the Possession of Ralph Brocklebank. London, 1904: x, 34, no. 26.
- Davies, Martin. National Gallery Catalogues. The British School. London, 1959: 72 n. 3.
- Hall, H. van. Portretten van Nederlandse beeldende kunstenaars: repertorium. Amsterdam, 1963: 300, no. 11.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 3 vols. Reprint of 1752 ed. with supplement by Pieter Terwesten, 1770. Soest, 1976: 1:559-561, no. 24.
- Stighelen, Katlijne van der. "Constantijn Huygens en Anna Maria van Schurman: veel werk, weinig weerwerk..." De Zeventiende Eeuw 3, no. 2 (1987): 143-144, pl. 2.
- Buijs, Hans, and Mària van Berge-Gerbaud. Tableaux flamands et hollandais du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. Collections flamandes et hollandaises des musées de province. Paris, 1991: 70, 72 n. 3.
- Baar, Mirjam de, et al., eds. Choosing the Better Part: Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-1678). International archives of the history of ideas 146. Translated by Lynne Richards. Dordrecht and Boston, 1996: pl. 10 (print after the painting).
- Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. Facsimile edition of London 1854. London, 2003: 2:464.
- Pergam, Elizabeth A. The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857: Entrepreneurs, Connoisseurs and the Public. Farnham and Burlington, 2011: 313.
- Grasselli, Margaret M., and Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., eds. The McCrindle Gift: A Distinguished Collection of Drawings and Watercolors. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2012: 5, 14, 19, repro. 184.
- Kuenstner, Molli. Citizens of the Republic: Portraits from the Dutch Golden Age. Exh. brochure. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2012: 4, 5, no. 2, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "Nothing Gray about Her: Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen's grisaille of Anna Maria van Schurman." In Face book: Studies on Dutch and Flemish portraiture of the 16th-18th centuries. Edited by Edwin Buijsen, Charles Dumas, and Volker Manuth. Leiden, 2012: 325-330, repro. 325.
The painting is on a panel made from a single plank of vertically grained oak. The panel was prepared with a very thin beige ground that leaves the wood clearly visible. The paint layer does not extend to the extreme edges of the support, leaving a 0.5 centimeter border of the beige priming visible. The paint was executed entirely in tones of brown. It is thinly applied with loose, sketchy brushstrokes outside the oval border and more highly finished with tight, smoothly blended brushstrokes and glazes in the figure and landscape within the border. There is low impasto in the thicker paint of the cartouche held by the putti. Infrared reflectography at 1.1 to 1.4 microns revealed that the woman’s dress originally had a larger collar that was raised above her present proper right shoulder line and covered more of her chest. The X-radiograph suggests that the sitter’s head may have been slightly larger originally.
The panel is in plane and in stable condition. The paint layer is not extremely well preserved, containing many tiny losses and areas where the paint is thin enough to make the wood grain visible. Inpainting is visible under ultraviolet light in the sitter’s forehead and proper left cheek as well as in the putti. The dark shadows have been reinforced. In 2002 a layer of grime was removed and an additional layer of varnish was applied over the existing one.
 The characterization of the wood is based on visual examination only.
 Infrared reflectography was performed using a Santa Barbara Focalplane InSb camera fitted with a J astronomy filter.
Related IconClass Terms
- globe +used symbolically
- compass +used symbolically
- laurel +used symbolically
- trompe l'oeil
- International style
- artist +Jan Lievens
- palette +used symbolically
- brush +used symbolically
- graphic arts
- lute +used symbolically
- book +used symbolically
- historical person +Jacob Cats