Willem Eversdijck (c.1620-1671)

Eversdijck - Family Group.jpg

Willem Eversdijck (c. 1620 – 1671)

A family group, presumably from Middelburg

Oil on canvas: 54 ¼ x 76 ¼ in. (138 x 194 cm.)

Painted circa 1665


H. Buttery, Christie’s, London, 20 November 1925, lot 97 (as signed and dated 1665, with all three children); sold 170 gns. to F. Partridge; Lady Baron, Christie’s London, 10 May 1935, lot 46, (as signed and dated 1665, with all three children), sold 28 gns. to W. Sabin; his sale Christie’s London, 24 February 1939, lot 57, (as signed and dated 1665, with all three children), sold 17 gns. to Berendt; Stevens sale, Christie’s London, 17 March 1939, lot 23, sold 35 gns. to Suttle; Flower sale, Sotheby’s London, 28 November 1951, lot 147, (as signed and dated 1665, with only two children), bt. by Appleby Brothers, Bury Street, London; Private collection, Spain, until 2015.

Willem Eversdijck (c. 1620 – 1671) was the son of the portrait painter CornelisWillemsz. Eversdyck (d.1649). We know very little about the artist except for a few details: he was born in Goes, in the province of Zeeland and followed into his father’s profession where he seems to have flourished,  earning several important commissions, including the large group portrait of Admirals, painted 1667, in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, another version of which is also in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, known as ‘An Allegory of the Herring Fisheries’. From this we can deduce that he flourished in the 1660s, successful enough to receive important municipal commissions. It is possible that these Admirals were from the deep-sea herring fishing port of Brielle, in Zeeland. Eversdijck’s patrons all appear to originate from the province of Zeeland, for another known portrait by the artist is of Cornelisz. Fransz Eversdijck (1586 – 1666), a mathematician and Treasurer of Zeeland. It is possible that this sitter was the artist’s father, but almost certainly a relation. Around the same time, 1666, he also painted a pair of pendant portraits of (his sister?) and her husband: Maria Blancardus nee Eversdijck (b. 1628), and Nicolaes Blancardus (1624 – 1703) (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), professor at Franeker, privy councilor and personal physician to Princess Albertine Agnes of Nassau.[1]

Eversdijck must have painted this group portrait of an unidentified family circa 1665-70  as the mother’s costume can be confidently dated to that period:  she wears a plain satin gown with a fashionable pointed waist and paned sleeves lined with blue and decorated with gold lace and pearls. Her hair is worn in a mass of tight curls decorated with strings of pearls, and she wears drop crystal earrings and a pearl necklace, with a black diamond and pearl broach pinned to the front of her bodice. In contrast, her husband and young son are dressed in fantasy hunters’ costume of loose, knee-length tunics. The inclusion of their hunting dogs in the foreground and display of captured hares and birds enhances the sense of the Arcadian setting used in this family group portrait and the sense of role-play enlivens the representation of the sitters. However, the allusion to hunting pursuits also has a serious purpose as they are a clear reference to the aristocratic pretentions of this unidentified family – it becomes evident that they own a country estate and can indulge in one of the privileges of the aristocracy – the right to hunt.  In contrast, the young daughter is dressed in a Classical-style costume and roman–style sandals. Her hairstyle, however, could not be more fashionable: her hair hangs down in corkscrew curls whilst on top it is combed back tightly and done up in a bun with pieces of pearl jewellery in her hair. She also wears pearl earrings, a pearl necklace and a richly bejewelled collar and waistband.

In the top-left corner of the painting it is apparent that one of the children in the family had already died for, as is often the case with deceased children, they are included in the guise of a small angel. Whilst the lack of angel wings makes this portrait unusual, her head is crowned with a wreath of flowers to protect her from evil spirits. This motif dates back to Classical Antiquity, when sarcophagi were decorated with morning cupids wearing similar wreaths, and wreaths and bouquets continued to remain part of the symbolic imagery in the seventeenth century.[2] However, in this instance the attention is firmly on their other children and as the parents gently hold hands and turn towards their living children, these tender gestures may be interpreted as an allusion to the idea that their children were their parents’ greatest riches.

[1] For records of these three family portraits, see Moes, 1897 – 1905, vol. I, no. 2422, no. 2423, no. 705:1.

[2] Jan Bapist Bedaux and Rudi Ekkart, ‘Pride and Joy. Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands 1500-1700.’ Amsterdam, 2000, p. 276

Posted on January 30, 2017 and filed under Painting.