Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


ANTHONIE PALAMEDESZ (Leith, Scotland 1602 – Amsterdam 1673)

A Young Boy with a Billy Goat

signed A. Palamedes pinxit and dated Ao 1655 in the lower left

oil on canvas

51 1/2 x 39 2/3 inches (131 x 100 cm.)


Possibly by descent in the De Wildt Family, 1655 until

Frans de Wildt, Amsterdam (1805 – 1869) and thus by descent in the family to his daughter and her husband

Agnes W. de Wildt (1835 – 1905) & Jonkheer Cornelis Adriaan Hendrik Mollerus (1821 – 1895), Arnhem, presumably to their daughter and her husband

Lady Isabella F. Mollerus (1863 – 1920) & Baron Dirk van Asbeck (1854 – 1930)

Ancienne Succession F. de Wildt, Frederik Muller & Cie, Amsterdam, November 30, 1920, lot 1013, illustrated

Blaauw Collection, Scheveningen, 1932 (probably Abraham Jacob Blaauw who was married to Lady Anna M. Blaauw, née Backer, the daughter of Johanna E. Backer, née de Wildt)

Jonkheer Frans Johan Eliza van Lennep, Amsterdam, by 1969

Private Collection, Rhineland



Utrecht, Oude Schilderkunst te Utrecht, August 20 – October 1, 1894, no. 411 (Collections: Mr. F de Wildt, Amsterdam/Jhr. C.A.H. Mollerus, Arnhem)

Laren, Singer Museum, Het Kind in de Noord-Nederlandse Kunst, March 29 – June 2, 1969, no. 44 (titled Cornelis de Wildt, Collection Jhr. F.J. van Lennep, Amsterdam)



Catalogus der Tentoonstelling van Oude Schilderkunst te Utrecht, J.L. Beijers, 1894, p. 143, no. 411.

Dr. Alfred von Wurzbach, “Anthonie Palamedesz, Palamedes” in Niederlandisches Künstler-Lexikon, Volume 2, Verlag von Halm und Goldman (Collection C.A.H. Mollerus, Arnheim), p. 298.

Godfried Jan Arnold Bomans, Het Kind in de Noord-Nederlandse Kunst, Singer Museum, Laren, 1969, no. 44 (titled Cornelis de Wildt; Collection Jhr. F.J. van Lennep, Amsterdam)


The year is 1655. A young boy stands by a large oak tree in the middle of a river landscape, dressed in a black and white costume. In his right hand is a wide brimmed hat adorned with ribbons, while his left hand brandishes a half-eaten roll. By his side is a goat eyeing the roll. The portrayal is rife with symbolism, whose meaning would have been readily discernible to contemporary viewers and intended for posterity.

The scion of a wealthy family, he wears black satin, a lace trimmed collar and cuffs, with four strands of thick gold chains across his chest and another as a hat band. An obvious emblem of wealth, it was primarily boys who were painted with gold chains worn angled across their chests. [1] His split rectangular linen collar fastened with tasseled band-strings at this point was very fashionable, and a type never worn by women or girls. [2] The lace trim was often more costly than woven fabrics of jewelry. [3] The outfit is a doublet and basque, with sleeves ending in cylindrical linen cuffs, over a skirt. Both boys and girls at this age wore skirts and there does not seem to be a set rule as to when it was deemed appropriate to transfer young boys into breeches, although the average age appears to have been about seven. [4] Square-toed shoes peek out from beneath his skirt. A leading string, bands attached to the upper garments of young children so an adult could support the child while learning to walk, is visible over his right shoulder. [5] The red bows on his shoulder and hat serve as striking colorful accents.

Pets were routinely included in children’s portraits, but also selected for their symbolic value. [6] Goats had long been associated with lust and wantonness. The goat’s intense gaze upon the boy’s bread is intended to emphasize this point (the white roll itself is another token of sumptuous living, as it was expensive in comparison with whole wheat or rye, the standard fare). [7] His inclusion served as a warning for the child to have temptation under control. It was generally felt that passions needed to be held in check from an early age, so as not to become a guiding force later in life. Girls were regarded as naturally more modest. [8]

“The oak tree, forever worshipped for the stately power of its trunks and boughs and valued for its highly durable wood, has long been a symbol of physical and moral vigor.” [9] The wish is for the boy to share similar characteristics, yet a cautionary warning is struck by the ivy that encircles its trunk. Ivy can be viewed as emblematic of unrestricted nature, as it tends to overtake and destroy other plants. [10]

Depicted with his hat doffed, the boy welcomes the viewer into the scene. This was a common courtesy in the seventeenth century and was meant as a show of respect for and obedience to authority. In this context it is also intended as a display of proper breeding. [11]The setting functions as a further revelation about the young boy’s family. Painted visions of unpopulated bucolic settings coincided with the purchasing of country estates by wealthy townsmen during a period of increasing prosperity. By 1650 The Netherlands was the richest country in the world. With the acquisition of an estate, an elevation in social status was assured. Even those who could not afford to purchase an estate sought to be painted in such a manner for the same reason—“a tangible expression of power and wealth”. [12] Dressed in a princely fashion, set in a pastoral landscape, our young sitter is the embodiment of the hopes, dreams and aspirations all families cherish for their children.

When this painting was exhibited in the Singer Museum, Laren in 1969, it was identified as a portrait of Cornelis de Wildt who was born in Amsterdam on December 1, 1647. This stemmed from a suggested identity put forth by Frits van Kretschmar of the Stichting Iconograpisch Bureau, The Hague in 1963 (recorded in the entry on this painting in the database no. 124709 of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague). In retrospect it seems highly unlikely that the work could depict Cornelis de Wildt, as it was executed in 1655 when he would have been seven or eight years old. Our sitter is considerably younger and still wearing leading strings, an aid in teaching a child to walk.

Anthonie Palamedesz’s father was a gem cutter who worked in the service of King James I, and this in all likelihood accounts for him being born in Leith, Scotland. He received his training in Delft, probably with the portrait painter Michiel van Miervelt, but possibly with Hendrick Pot. Palamedesz joined the Delft Guild of Saint Luke in 1621, and served as its headman in 1635, 1658, 1663 and 1672. He specialized in genre, portraits and still lifes. In 1630 he married Anna Joosten van Hoorendijk and had six children including the painter Palamedes Palamedsz the Younger. He moved to Amsterdam by 1673. His pupils included his brother the battle-scene painter Palamedes Palamedsz, Ludolf de Jongh, and his son Palamedes. His closest follower was Jacob van Velsen. [13]

A very similar painting of a young boy with a goat in a river landscape, painted also in 1655 by Anthonie Palamedesz, is in the collection of Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Kent, United Kingdom.

Palamedesz’s works formed part of the permanent collections of the museums of Aachen; Amsterdam; Atlanta; Berlin; Boston; Brussels; Budapest; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Cologne; Copenhagen; Delft; Doorn; Dublin; Dunkirk; Edinburgh; Enschede; Frankfurt; Geneva; Glasgow; The Hague; Hanover; Helsinki; Johannesburg; Karlsruhe; Krakow; Leiden; Leipzig; Moscow; Muiden; Munster; New Orleans; New York; Norfolk, Virginia; Oldenburg; Oslo; Paris; Philadelphia; Poznan; Princeton; Raleigh; Rotterdam; Saint Petersburg; Schwerin; Stockholm; Tours; Tucson; Utrecht; Warsaw; and Worcester, Massachusetts.

[1] Saskia Kuus, “Skirts for Girls and Boys” in Pride and Joy, Children’s Portraits in The Netherlands 1500 – 1700, exhibition catalogue, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, October 7 – December 31, 2000, p. 80.

[2] Saskia Kuus, “Johannes Verspronck, Boy Sleeping in a High Chair” in Pride and Joy, op.cit., p. 229.

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

[4] Saskia Kuus, “Skirts for Girls and Boys”, op.cit., pp. 79-82.

[5] Saskia Kuus, “Leading Strings and Protective Caps, Children’s Costume in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” in Pride and Joy, op.cit., p. 77.

[6] Annemarieke Willemsen, “Images of Toys, The Culture of Play in The Netherlands Around 1600” in Pride and Joy, op.cit., pp. 62, 64, 71.

[7] Henry D. Gregory, “Narrative and Meaning in Pieter Claesz’s Still Life” in Pieter Claesz, Master of Haarlem Still Life, exhibition catalogue, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, November 27, 2004 – April 4, 2005, p. 99.

[8] Jan Baptist Bedaux, The Reality of Symbols, Gary Schwartz, SDU Publishing, The Hague, 1990, pp. 141, 146.

[9] Lucia Impellusó, trans. Stephen Sartarelli, Nature and its Symbols, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2003, p. 62.

[10] Jan Baptist Bedaux, “Jan Albertsz Rotius, Four-Year Old Boy with Goat” in Pride and Joy, op.cit., p. 220.

[11] Wayne Frantis, Paragons of Virtue, Women and Domesticity in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995, p. 158.

[12] Alison McNeil Kettering, The Dutch Arcadia, Pastoral Art and its Audience in the Golden Age, Totowa, New Jersey, 1983, pp. 10-11, 70-71.

[13] Biographical information taken from Axel Rüger, “Anthonie Palamedesz” in Vermeer and the Delft School, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1997, p. 318; Peter C. Sutton, “Anthonie Palamedesz. [Stevers]” in From Rembrandt to Vermeer, 17th Century Dutch Artists, The Grove Dictionary of Art, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2000, pp. 245-246; and “Anthonie Palamedes” on (RKD Explore).

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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