Bartholomeus van der Helst was one of the most sought-after portraitists of his time. The reasons for his success are evident from this painting of Abraham del Court and his wife, one of the masterpieces of Van der Helst’s oeuvre. Not only the couple’s faces but also their costumes are rendered in meticulous detail—if for no other reason, Van der Helst would have been alert to the fact that his client was a cloth merchant. Del Court’s dark costume complements the silvery satin gown worn by his wife Maria de Kaersgieter. From a distance, the fabrics look as real as in a photograph. Seen close up, however, they are surprisingly loosely painted. Abraham and Maria had been married for three years when Van der Helst painted this double portrait. Several motifs in the picture allude to love and fidelity, and to the young couple’s happiness in the early days of their marriage. The rose that Maria holds out for us to see is a symbol of love; the verdant landscape in which she and her husband are portrayed alludes to a garden of love.


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