Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits



Portrait of Hendrik van Coeverden

inscribed and dated HENRICVS A COVERDEN / JOANNIS FILIVS AETATIS (with the A and E conjoined) 4 / VLTIMO MAIJ / ANNO 1619 in the upper left

oil on canvas

37 ½ x 26 ¾ inches          (95.2 x 67.8 cm.)


Private Collection, South America



S.E. Craft-Giepmans, “Hendrik van Coeverden, wie van de drie?” in De Nederlandsche Leeuw, 127, 2010, pp. 2-4, no. 1, illustrated twice including the back cover



Utrecht, Geldmuseum, ‘Waardeloos’ Van Bettaalmiddel tot Siervoorwerp, (“Useless?” From Tender to Ornaments), April 9 – October 31, 2010 (via photographic illustration and image used as their announcement poster for the exhibition)


This painting captures Hendrik at the age of four standing on a tiled floor against a brown wall.  He wears an orange doublet with silver buttons and gold embroidery of a flower and leaf pattern with flat wings and matching sleeves accompanied by a long attached grey and orange patterned skirt.  The skirt is split in front to reveal a yellow underskirt with black trim topped by a green apron.  Looped through an apron string is a large white linen handkerchief edged with lace that matches the lace of the cuffs and ruff.  Lace at this time was often more costly than woven fabrics and jewelry, and was regarded as an important fashion statement as well as a mark of prosperity. [1]  A large gold coin on a white ribbon hangs around Hendrik’s neck. (Arent Pol, curator of Medieval and Modern coins at the Geldmuseum, Utrecht, believes the coin is one of the Portuguese 4 cruzados, which were produced during the reign of Kings Philip II and III (1598-1621-1640), whom were also the Kings of Spain and there called Philip III and IV.  The side shown in the painting is a simple cross with the inscription IN HOC SIGNO VINCES ("under this sign you will gain the victory" - words spoken to the Roman emperor Constantine the Great in a dream by God before a decisive battle in 330 AD).  The reverse would have depicted the king’s coat-of-arms.  The inscription can be partially read on the coin in the painting, and this type of Portuguese gold coin was an accepted currency in Holland.  The coin was likely randomly chosen because of its impressive size rather than for any religious or iconographic reasons. [2])  Attached from his shoulders are leading strings (bands sewn to the upper garments of young children so an adult could support the child when learning to walk but by this point purely decorative). Hendrik’s right hand holds a bunch of grapes and his left an apple.  A bunch of grapes was the traditional symbol for fruitfulness.  Its meaning conveys not only a wish for a happy full life for the child, but is also emblematic of the success of his parent’s union.  The perfection of the raised grapes is further reflective of the concept that the child should be well bred.  It was believed of central importance to a fruitful marriage, not so much the quantity, but the quality of the children produced.  The symbolism of the apple parallels the ideology of the grapes. [3]  Both boys and girls at this age wore skirts and aprons, and there does not appear to be a set point at which it was felt appropriate to transfer young boys into breeches.  The average age appears to have been about seven but this was not a steadfast rule. [4]  Hendrik would normally not have dressed in such elegant fashion.  Instead, the portrait is a testament to the family’s position as well as an embodiment of the timeless and universal feelings of love and aspiration parents have for their children.

Hendrik van Coeverden tot Walfort (May 31, 1615 – March 28, 1685) was the child of Johan van Coeverden tot Rhaen and Frederika Margaretha van Lintelo. In total they had nine children.  Interestingly the baptism records for Hellendoorn where Hendrik’s parents baptized their children record a child every year between 1614-1617, but there is no mention of Hendrik.  There is a record on June 11, 1615 of a son named Johan being baptized, which only through the dynastic chronicles from 1616 of his uncle the nobleman Sweder Schele, are we able to discover that Johan is actually Hendrik.  Apparently “Johan” was called Hendrik within the family which followed the aristocratic tradition for naming children, whereby the eldest son was called after the grandfather on the father’s side (in this case the eldest Gosen after Gosen van Coeverden tot Rhaan) and the second son after the grandfather on the mother’s side Hendrik van Lintelo.  The date on this painting must therefore commemorate his fourth birthday on May 31, 1619. [5] 

In 1630 Hendrik was a pupil at the grammar school of Coesfeld, Westphalia.  On July 14, 1642 he was admitted to the Knighthood of Zutphen.  On June 21, 1646 Hendrik married Adriana van Lintelo (d. 1671) the daughter of Willem van Lintelo tot de Ehze and Johanna van Dorth in Zutphen.  He inherited the manor house Walfort in Aalten (still standing) which remained in the Van Coeverden family until 1729. [6]  His possessions were inherited by the Van Lintelo family and are now part of the collection at Keppel Castle. [7]  He is also distantly related to the founder of Vancouver, Canada – George Vancouver. [8](For an in depth discussion of the family history see S.E. Craft-Giepmans, “Hendrik van Coeverden, wie van de drie?” op. cit., pp. 2-4.)

Sweder Schele in his chronicles describes family portraits that hung in the hall of his manor house at Weleveld.  Only two examples are known from Hendrik’s immediate circle, a family portrait of his sister Johanna Reiniera van Coeverden with her husband Gijsbert van Hemert and their Children  and a portrait of a woman, possibly Hendrik’s wife, Adriana van Lintelo (see Rijksinstituut voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague, IB 72081 and IB 21663 respectively). [9]

We are extremely grateful to Sabine E. Craft-Giepmans of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague, and Arent Pol of the Geldmuseum, Utrecht for their invaluable assistance in the writing of this entry.



[1] Santina M. Levey and Patricia Wardle, The Finishing Touch, Frederiksborg Museum, Denmark, 1994, p. 4.

[2] Written communication from Arent Pol dated April 27, 2010 and December 28, 2010.

[3] Jan Baptist Bedaux, The Reality of Symbols, Gary Schwartz ISDU Publishers, The Hague, 1990, pp. 103, 132.

[4] Saskia Kuus, “Children’s Costume in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” in Pride and Joy, Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands, 1500-1700, exhibition catalogue Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, October 7 – December 31, 2000, pp. 79-82.

[5] S.E. Craft-Giepmans, op. cit., p. 77.

[6] Ibid., pp. 2-4.

[7] Keppel Castle is located in Laag-Keppel a small village between Doetinchem and Doesburg in The Netherlands.

[8] Written communications from Sabine Craft-Giepmans dated February 15, 2010 and February 16, 2010.

[9] S.E. Craft-Giepmans, “Hendrik van Coeverden, wie van de drie”, op. cit., p. 4.

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