DIRCK DIRCKSZ. SANTVOORT (Amsterdam 1610 – Amsterdam 1680)
Portrait of a Young Boy called Dirck Alewijn
oil on cradled panel
42 x 29 1/2 inches (106.7 x 74.9 cm.)
M. D. M. Alewijn sale, C.F. Roos & Co., Portraits de Famille et Tableax Anciens
Succession de Feu M. D. M. Alewijn, December 16, 1885, lot 15 (as by Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp)
Estate of John Gauldie, Forest Hills, New York
Berlin, Akademie der Kunst, Austellung der Niederlandische Kunst, no. 261 (as Dirck Dircksz van Santvoort)
Dr. Rudolf E.O. Ekkart on the basis of a transparency confirms the attribution to Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort, and believes the painting to date from 1640-1641.
In Amsterdam Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort was regarded as the leading painter of children during his brief career, which lasted from 1632 until about 1645. Only about twenty examples of these portraits have survived, some of which constitute the best work of the period in child portraiture. 1 Two other paintings by Santvoort of Martinus Alewijn and Clara Alewijn of 1644, from the same family collection and 1885 sale as ours, are now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inventory numbers A1310 & A1311, respectively).
The young boy in our portrait wears a white bodice with a double row of lace down the front echoed by sleeves that are decorated with two rows of lace at the cuffs. The skirt, batiste apron, and flat linen shoulder collar are all edged in lace. The close fitting lace cap is topped with red ostrich feathers. Across his chest are a double strand of pearls bound by a red bow from which hangs a rinkelbel. Extending from his left shoulder is a leading string, (bands attached to the upper garments of young children so an adult could support the child when learning to walk). In his left hand is a toy riding crop, and in his right the leash of a deerhound. He stands on a beautifully tiled floor in a dark plain interior.
The clothing was not the way this young boy would have normally dressed. This exquisite outfit was intended as a statement for posterity. Attired in costly fabrics trimmed with lace, whose expense could run more than jewels, he is a testament to the family’s status. Rinkelbels, used by both sexes, were the most common accessory found in Dutch childrens’ portraits of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The one depicted has a gold handle with bells at its base, with a rock crystal top meant for teething. The ringing of the bells were intended to ward off evil spirits. Both a toy and a treasure they were often given as gifts and became family heirlooms.
Although both boys and girls of this age wore skirts, the difference of the sexes in portraiture would have been apparent to contemporary viewers. The clues are in the accessories, which in some instances further serve to represent ideas on child rearing. By adding feathers to the boy’s cap, he is transformed into a huntsman. The large hunting dog tethered to him is reflective not only of his masculinity, but of the concept that as a dog should be well trained so too the child. The leash and stick are emblematic of the need to reign in natural tendencies. Santvoort adhered to the expected standards in this portrait, but also surpassed them by beautifully capturing the timeless essence of the love and aspirations all parents hold for their child.
We are grateful to Dr. Rudolf E.O. Ekkart for his assistance in preparing this entry.
 Rudi Ekkart, “Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort”, exhibition catalogue Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, Pride and Joy. Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands 1500-1700, October 7-December 31, 2000, p. 180, no. 40.