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The painter Jan Adam Kruseman received his first lessons in Haarlem, and, having been a pupil of his uncle Cornelis Kruseman in Amsterdam he went to Brussels where he entered the studio of Jean-Louis David. He then went to Paris where he stayed until 1825. He was a portrait painter, but he also painted historical, biblical and genre scenes. Kruseman received many prestigious portrait commissions and his skill in rendering the texture of fabrics contributed to his considerable reputation. From the auction of his estate it appears that Kruseman greatly admired the work of Sir Thomas Lawrence, owning a number of prints after his paintings. Among Kruseman’s many pupils were David Bles and Jozef Israëls. A number of his drawings are in the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam. He was the second Director of the Koninklijke Akademie in Amsterdam from 1830 to 1850 and was a founder-member of the Amsterdam artists’ society Arti et Amicitiae.
The two men may have met in Paris in 1822, where Belzoni set up an Egyptian exhibition in order to sell the remains of the objects he collected during his travels in Egypt the years before. As Belzoni died in 1823 it can be assumed that his portrait remained in Kruseman’s studio. It might have been exhibited by the artist in the Hague in 1823 under the title “A barbarysch mans portret”.
As befit its colorful sitter, this remarkable portrait is idiosyncratic. It shows Belzoni with his right arm uncovered to indicate his great strength. This may relate to his time as a showman at the Sadlers Wells Theatre, as well as his capacity of moving the heaviest of Egyptian statues, thanks to his knowledge of hydraulics. Belzoni wears an oriental costume and at the centre of the composition his bejeweled hand might be bearing the ring that was given to him in St Petersburg by tsar Alexander I.
Three likenesses of Belzoni are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery: a painting attributed to William Brockedon dated circa 1820 and showing him wearing a turban; a drawing also by William Brockedon; and an engraving by James Thompson after an unknown artist and dated 1822 that features Belzoni with a beard and mustache, wearing a turban and exotic clothes.
The John Soane Museum will hold an exhibition dedicated to Belzoni in 2015.
- Who Was Who in Egyptology, Dawson & Uphill, Third Revised Edition edited by Morris Bierbrier, London, 1995
- Stanley Mayes, The Great Belzoni: The Circus Strongman who Discovered Egypt's Ancient Treasures, London, 2003
|Height||85.00 cm||(33.46 inches)|
|Width||70.00 cm||(27.56 inches)|