In the 1630s, Thomas de Keyser was the most fashionable portrait painter in Amsterdam, his work being extremely popular with the city’s middle and upper classes. De Keyser’s paintings are characterized by a highly detailed, realistic style and by figures in rather formal poses. This manner of painting was in vogue in the Netherlands in the early seventeenth century, and de Keyser, as one of the leading exponents of the style, had a strong influence on other artists, including the young Rembrandt. This painting shows de Keyser at his most brilliant, particularly in his masterly treatment of a variety of fabrics and textures.
The sitters in this portrait are Frederick and Josina van Velthuysen, and the panel is a type of ‘marriage portrait’, a genre that apparently originated in Netherlandish painting. In most cases, marriage portraits were expressions of the perceived social and economic status of the sitters. Costume was of primary importance, and here the quality of the clothing is indicative of wealth and high social standing. However, in keeping with Netherlandish Protestant traditions, the outfits, though rich, are not ostentatious. As the son of a burgomaster (mayor) of Utrecht, Frederick van Velthuysen would have been one of that city’s elite citizens. The couple are shown on the terrace of a classicizing building, against the background of an Italianate town and landscape, a fanciful setting that indicates the sitters’ intellectual and mercantile interest in Italy. Van Velthuysen was a merchant who traded extensively with Italy.
Text by Laurie Benson from Painting and sculpture before 1800 in the international collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 72.