Black and White and à la mode
18 September 2020
We have all heard of Rembrandt, but what about the other portraitists working in Amsterdam when the snub-nosed, curly-haired Young Turk burst upon the scene in 1631? The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza’s highly successful exhibition Rembrandt and Amsterdam Portraiture 1590-1670 showed that there was no shortage of talent serving Holland’s economic powerhouse.
Richard Green lent to the exhibition a 1635 pair of portraits of a man and a woman by Nicolaes Eliasz. Pickenoy, painter of choice for the Amsterdam upper class. The married pair each carries an exquisite pair of gloves, traditional wedding gifts. Their black and white dress is the height of fashion, black being an expensive dye and lace even more costly. Ostentation was frowned upon in the Dutch Republic, but people could show wealth in discreet ways.
The paintings were formerly in the collection of the dashing, polo-playing Polish aristocrat Prince Léon Radziwill (1880-1927), a friend of Marcel Proust who is said to have been the model for Robert de Saint-Loup in À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Through his mother Louise Blanc, Radziwill inherited the Société des Bains de Mer at Monte Carlo, making him one of the richest men in Europe.
The Pickenoys are now back in our 147 New Bond Street Galleries and can be viewed with our collection of Golden Age Dutch and Flemish paintings.