This previously unrecorded painting is an excellent example of the portraiture of Ludolf de Jongh, in his day probably the leading artist in Rotterdam. Best known perhaps as a painter of elegant companies assembled for or resting during the chase, portraiture in fact comprised perhaps the core of de Jongh's oeuvre, but much of it has been lost due to incorrect attributions since the artist's lifetime. This tendency was exacerbated by the fairly considerable stylistic development evident in de Jongh's career, such that his earlier works closely resemble the traditional, formal style that de Jongh presumably learned from his teacher, Anthonie Palamedesz., and in turn display the considerable and enduring tradition of the latter's master, Michiel van Miereveldt.
De Jongh's later works, however, show the change in taste that developed through the United Provinces in the middle of the seventeenth century, towards a more opulent style, and greater plasticity of handling in painting, of whom perhaps the foremost proponent was Bartholomeus van der Helst. The present picture clearly shows that development in the rich silken doublet and skirt of the unbreeched youth, as well as in the fluid and confident modelling of the burshwork. Its date, however, makes this particularly interesting, as the majority of such works by de Jongh date from the mid- to late 1650s and early 1660s (for example the Portrait of a boy with a dog of 1661 in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond), and this therefore shows the artist very much at the period of transition.
In that context, one might consider that it reveals the influence of de Jongh's time in Utrecht, where he reportedly studied under Van Bijlert: the polished elegance of the latter's work might be discerned here, as well as the rather courtly elegance stylistically prevalent in that city from the Italianates. Houbraken recounted that de Jongh's period in Utrecht occurred before his travels in France from 1635-42, but Roland Fleischer tentatively hypothesized in his 1989 monograph on the artist (Ludolf de Jongh: Painter of Rotterdam, Doornspijk), that he may have been mistaken, as there is so little evidence of Van Bijlert and Utrecht in de Jongh's work of the early 1640s, and it is tempting to see the present work, which presents such a sudden contrast to the very traditional Palamedesz.-style works of just five years earlier, as supporting such a suggestion.
Whether that is the case or not, this picture is entirely consistent with three recognisable traits of de Jongh's portraiture: the carefully restricted palette employed for the protagonists, consisting of de Jongh's favoured silver-greys and whites; the careful delineation and representation of the features, with slightly almond-shaped eyes; and, perhaps most idiosyncratically, his fondness for including dogs in his work - quite probably a natural proclivity reflected equally in de Jongh's evident fondness for painting hunting parties. The latter trait shows perhaps a knowledge of Van Dyck - who was in turn influenced by the examples of Titian and Seisenegger - that is seen elsewhere in his oeuvre: for example the Portrait of a Gentleman of circa 1670-2 (location unknown; Fischer, op. cit., p. 33, fig. 24) that so directly echoes Van Dyck's Portrait of James Stuart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox (c. 1634-5; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art).
We are very grateful to Dr. Rudi Ekkart for the attribution, given on the basis of photographs.