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Release Date: March. 2005

National Gallery of Art Presents Rare Look at Portraits by Dutch Artist Jan de Bray

Washington, DC—17th-century Dutch artist Jan de Bray’s portrayal of contemporary individuals as historical figures is examined for the first time in Jan de Bray and the Classical Tradition, on view March 13 through August 14, 2005, at the National Gallery of Art, West Building. De Bray (c.1627-1697) was one of the foremost Dutch artists working in the classical tradition, a style of painting that in Holland fused naturalism with ideals of beauty. The focus exhibition includes five paintings that demonstrate the artist's remarkable abilities in portraiture and the "portrait historié." Also on view in this exhibition is a portrait by De Bray's Haarlem colleague, Frans Hals (c. 1582/1583-1666), and a work by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), an artist who greatly inspired De Bray's classicizing tendencies.

The exhibition will travel to The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, where it will be on view September 6 through December 4, 2005. The exhibition has been organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire.

"The National Gallery of Art continues to educate in the realm of Dutch painting, bringing Dutch artists little-known in the United States to a wider audience. We are pleased to present Jan de Bray’s arresting portraits, each a history lesson in itself," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. The Gallery presented Gerard ter Borch last fall and will present Pieter Claesz in late 2005 and Amorous Intrigues and Painterly Refinement: The Art of Frans van Mieris in the spring of 2006.


The exhibition was generously sponsored by Greg and Candy Fazakerley.

Additional support was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.


This focus exhibition will explore the relationships between the portrait, the "portrait historié," and the classical tradition in De Bray's oeuvre. At its core is the juxtaposition of two of De Bray's major paintings, one in which he depicts his parents in overlapping profile portraits Portrait of the Artist's Parents, Salomon de Bray and Anna Westerbaen (c. 1664), and another in which the artist's parents assume the roles of Anthony and Cleopatra Banquet of Antony and Cleopatra (1669). In this latter painting, De Bray has included portrayals of himself, his wife, and siblings as part of the festive scene.

Among the other paintings by De Bray in the exhibition are Boy Holding a Basket of Fruit (1658), an early portrait by De Bray that reflects the relaxed poses and naturalistic style of the Haarlem master Hals; A Couple Represented as Ulysses and Penelope (1668), in which the artist and his wife gaze lovingly at each other; and The Penitent Magdalene (1678), in which De Bray, who was Catholic, has depicted his third wife as Mary Magdalene, her namesake.

Also included in the exhibition, for comparative purposes, are two paintings from the Gallery's collection: Hals' portrait of the painter Adriaen van Ostade (1646/1648), and Rubens' Tiberius and Agrippina (c. 1614), since Rubens' classicizing image, which relates to the design of ancient cameos, may have influenced De Bray's portrayal of his parents. A final work in the exhibition is a portrait print of De Bray's father, also from the Gallery's collection.

JAN DE BRAY (c. 1627–1697)

De Bray was born into a creative, cultured family in Haarlem. His father, Salomon de Bray, with whom he presumably studied, was a painter and architect who helped establish the painter’s Guild of St. Luke in Haarlem in the 1630s. Salomon de Bray was also a poet and a member of a rhetorical society in the city. Jan’s mother, Anna Westerbaen, who came from an artistic family in The Hague, and two of Jan de Bray’s brothers, Dirck and Joseph, were also painters.

Tragedy struck the family when both of his parents and four of his siblings died in a plague. De Bray suffered further losses when all three of his wives died within a short time of the marriages. The paintings in the exhibition not only emphasize De Bray's skill in portraiture, but also reveal the artist's devotion to family members, who are memorialized in his work.


The curator of the exhibition is Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque painting at the National Gallery of Art since 1984, and curator of such major Gallery exhibitions as Johannes Vermeer (1995–1996), Jan Steen: Painter and Storyteller (1996), Gerard ter Borch (2004), and Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits (2005).

On Sunday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m., the Baltimore Consort will perform 17th-century Netherlandish music in honor of the exhibition. On Sunday, June 26, at 2:00 p.m., in a program titled “Jan de Bray and the Classical Tradition: An Introduction to the Exhibition,” the artist’s work will be discussed by Wheelock. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, gallery talks will be given by staff lecturers J. Russell Sale and Philip Leonard in the West Building. For details, visit the Calendar of Events at or call (202) 737-4215.

General Information

For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

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Exhibition Press Release

Exhibition Checklist (PDF 344 KB)

Curator Biography:
Authur K. Wheelock, Jr.

Artist Biography:
Jan de Bray (c.1627–1697)