Born in Antwerp, the Flemish artist Gonzalez Coques was registered at the city's Guild of Saint Luke in the year 1627-1628, when he became a pupil of Pieter Brueghel II. The fact that he was admitted to the guild as an independent master only in 1640-1641 suggests that he may have spent the intervening years travelling. One likely destination is England, as Coques came to bear the nickname 'the Little Van Dyck' due to the perceived influence on his work of Sir Anthony van Dyck, who was in England after 1632. Like van Dyck, Coques counted rulers and the nobility amongst his sitters: Charles I of England, Archduke Leopold William and Elector Fredrick William of Brandenburg, to name but a few.
This beautifully rendered, miniature-like picture is characteristic of Coques's elegant style, which was so much to the taste of Antwerp's sophisticated burgher class. The treatment of the drapery in the girl's sleeves - the economical, swirling brushstrokes that define the weight and texture of the material - is comparable to that of the sleeves in the artist's Self-Portrait (Saint Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum). This is an eloquent example of Coques's reception of the work of van Dyck. There are marked similarities between this picture and van Dyck's Portrait of Mary, Princess Royal and later Princess of Orange (Boston, Museum of fine Arts), in the girl's poses, the way they cup their arms, their arresting gaze, even the lace trim on their dresses and their pearl necklaces. If Coques did come to England he may have seen this portrait in the flesh, as well as portraits of Queen Henrietta Maria with similar arrangements of the folded forearms.
This portrait was formerly kept as one of a pair, referred to affectionately as 'brother and sister', in the collection of the late Duque de Cadaval. The pendant was a Self-Portrait by Gerard Dou of identical shape and dimensions, which was sold in these Rooms (8 December 1995, lot 33A, £177,500) and is now in the Kremer Collection (see R. Baer et al., A. Wheelock, Jr., ed., Gerrit Dou 1613-1675: Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt, exhibition catalogue, Washington, London and The Hague, 2000, no. 14). It is thought that the Dou can be identified with a work described in the collection of Count Fraula, sold at auction in Brussels, 21 July 1738, lot 123. The same sale included a number of works by Gonzales Coques, but no female portraits, suggesting that the pairing was made at a later date, perhaps when the works entered the Gramont collection.
We are grateful to Jan Kosten of the RKD, The Hague, for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs.