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'gedaen door N. de Vos, tot Antwerpen'. Lotgevallen van de portretten van Joris Vezelaer en Margaretha Boghe, voorouders van Constantijn Huygens, geschilderd door Joos van Cleve

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Based on four letters dating from the period between December 1652 to January 1653, the article documents the vicissitudes of the portraits (and copies of them) of Joris Vezelaer and Margaretha Boghe. This couple, portrayed by Joos van Cleve in about 1518, were identified by Horst Gerson as the parents of Constantijn Huygens on his mother's side. Huygens, eager to obtain the original portraits or at least copies of them, makes enquiries from the art dealer Matthijs Musson in Antwerp and from the nephew (and niece) Buyex Alewyn, former guardians of the parental heritage in Deurne, but to his great surprise discovers copies which had been put on the market. Beatrix de Cusance, duchess of Lorraine, was so charmed by Huygens' enthusiasm for the ancestral portraits that she decided to buy them and present them to Constantijn. According to Buycx's letter of January 1653 the original portraits were sent to Vienna after the painter De Vos of Antwerp had made two sets of copies. Buycx, who owned one of these copies, consented to retrieve the original portraits from Vienna. This appeared to solve the problem of ancestral portraits, but no matter how grateful Huygens was to the Duchess of Lorraine, he was apparently not satisfied with mere copies. In a letter written fifteen years later (December 1667) it appears that Jacob Buycx had obtained further information about the location of the portraits, but had been unable to track them down after the sister of his wife, Helena Alewyn of Vienna, had received them. Buycx presumed an heir in Vienna, perhaps a Salicouffer, had them in his possession. From the Huygens collection of letters it appeared that there was another letter with information of the portrait panels. This letter, written in Dutch from Vienna (dated December 1, 1667) from an unknown writer to an unknown recipient indicates that a member of the Zollickhoffer family who had come down in the world may have sold the portraits. The letter also mentions the merchant Golddast of Vienna, who had been approached by someone in Holland to trace the "gentleman from Zuylichem" for a considerable amount of money. Unfortunately for Constantijn, however, the original portraits failed to return. One set of copies of the ancestors on both sides of the family remained until well into the eighteenth century - until 1786 - in the Huygens collection of family portraits, but to this day the whereabouts of neither of Margaretha Boghe's two copies have been traced.


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