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Vijf kinderportretten door Dirck Santvoort

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

A portrait of a young girl with a flute, painted by the Amsterdam artist Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort, has been in the Cleveland Museum of Art since 1975 (fig.1). An inscription on the back of the unsigned painting states that the portrayed child is 'Elisabeth Spiegel'. The museum catalogue relates this painting with two other portraits of children: another unsigned one of a girl with fruit (fig. 3) and a signed painting, dated 1639, of a girl with a dog and a mirror (fig. 2). A fourth work can be added to these three, a picture of a child with a bird perched on her hand, in the National Gallery in London (fig. 4). Contrary to previous assumptions that it was painted in 1630 or 1631, it can now be dated in 1639. The choice of attributes suggest, as was recently intimated by Peter Sutton, that these portraits belong to a series of the Five Senses, the Cleveland painting representing Hearing, and the girls with fruit, the dog and mirror, and the bird picturing Taste, Sight and Touch. The fifth sense, Smell, is probably symbolized in a painting in the museum in Rodez (fig. 5), showing a girl dressed as a shepherdess with a wreath of flowers. Parallels of all depictions of the Senses arc to be found in series of prints and paintings from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Pictures of the Senses in portraits are fairly rare, and were of course only painted when a series of exactly five portraits was required, for instance by a family with five children. An investigation of the Spiegel family confirms the identification given here, yielding the information that in 1638/1639 Elbert Dircksz. Spiegel and Petronella Rocters had five daughters. The portrayed children are Rebecca (fig. 3), Elisabeth (fig. I), Petronella (fig. 5), Margaretha (fig. 2) and Geertruyt Spiegel (fig. 4), born respectively in 1625, 1628, 1630, 1631 and 1635. Evidence that the descendants of the sisters portrayed by Santvoort upheld the tradition of the Five Senses theme in the late seventeenth century is supplied bv an old inventory of a series of portraits of five children from the Slicher family. The respective mothers of their parents, Elbert Slicher and Catharina dc Hochepied, were Elisabeth and Geertruyt Spiegel.


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