Portrait miniature of a Gentleman, wearing purple robes over a white shirt, holding a silver pocket watch, a column to the sitter’s left, a building in the background, c.1685-88


Portrait miniature of a Gentleman, wearing purple robes over a white shirt, holding a silver pocket watch, a column to the sitter’s left, a building in the background, c.1685-88

c. 1685 to 1688 Leiden

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The Leiden-born artist Pieter van Slingelandt was the eldest son of Cornelis Pietersz van Slingelandt, a mason by profession, and Trijntje van Polanen, a cobbler’s daughter. One of nine children, he never married, but was trained by the renowned Leiden-based artist Gerrit Dou (1613-75). Slingelandt was signing his works as early as 1653, when he must have been still apprenticed to Dou. He may have set up his own studio by 1661, when he became a member of the Leiden Guild of St Luke. By 1663, he was certainly an independent artist and, compared with other portraitists, charging somewhat elevated prices.[1]

By 1670, Slingelandt ran a thriving studio in Leiden, his meticulously observed portraits sought after by both the existing community and visitors to the city. His style was modelled on that of his master and belonged to the seemingly brushless technique of the Leiden ‘fine’ painters. This technique was, perhaps unsurprisingly, appreciated by Johan (or Jan) van Musschenbroek (1660-1707), a scientific instrument maker based in Leiden, whom Slingelandt painted along with various members of his family. Although the present portrait bears a close physical resemblance to Johan Musschenbroek, no firm foundation for the attribution can be found in an inscription or provenance for this work.

The carefully rendered silver pocket watch held by the sitter in this portrait may be an indication of his wealth or vocation, or may allude to the popular theme of mortality. Slingelandt employs the same attribute in his Portrait of a Man with a Watch in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. [1] The robe worn by the sitter is similar to one worn in both a portrait previously with Christie’s, Amsterdam and the portrait of a man reading in the Leiden Collection and is a type of Japonse rok (Japanese robe or banyan).[2] The building that can be seen in the background is possibly Leiden’s city hall.

The present portrait can be dated to the mid to late 1680s, when small portraits, painted on copper or wood, were commissioned from Slingelandt’s patrons. These were already made fashionable by his master and his contemporaries - both Gerard ter Borch (1617-81) and Caspar Netscher (c. 1639-84) were producing smaller-than-life portraits after the middle of the century. Slingelandt’s painstaking technique often meant a lengthy wait for his clients – a smaller work could potentially reduce this time.[3] Slingelandt also exploited his technique by working in the miniaturist’s medium of watercolour on a vellum support.

Slingelandt’s extant oeuvre is relatively small, including a few dozen portraits. Clearly celebrated and revered in his time, his output was hampered by his protracted method of working. This small portrait, previously unrecorded, is a new addition to his opus.
Height 8.90 cm (3.50 inches)
Width 7.00 cm (2.76 inches)
Stock Code
Oil on wood, with later wooden frame
Signed with artist’s monogram, ‘PVS’
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