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Pieter Codde (Amsterdam 1599-1678)
Pieter Codde (Amsterdam 1599-1678)

A group portrait of the Twent family in an interior

Details
Pieter Codde (Amsterdam 1599-1678)
A group portrait of the Twent family in an interior
signed with monogram and dated 'PC 16 33' (upper right)
oil on panel
49.8 x 77.2 cm.
Provenance
Private collection, Toulouse, 2001.
Anonymous sale; Château de Lasserre, Montastruc-la-Conseillère, 23 September 2001, lot 60.
with J. Haeften, London, 2002, where purchased by the current owner.
Literature
R. Millet in a publication accompanying the IVe Automnales 2001, Château de Lasserre, Montastruc-la-Conseillère, 2001, p. 20.
M.M. Hale, in Dutch and Flemish Old Master Paintings, 12, Johnny van Haeften, London 2002, no. 12, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

In this arresting group portrait, widely acknowledged as the masterpiece of his art, Codde fuses the idiom of portraiture with the trappings of a genre scene, in a convincing and spectacular manner.
Only the patriarch of the family in the center of the composition poses for the artist in a traditional sense; the other fourteen members of the family (including two pet hounds), are captured as though in the midst of their daily activities, some looking up and turning towards the viewer as though interrupted by his entrance into the picture space, others still deeply engaged in their conversation and oblivious of the viewer's gaze. The father's purposeful and self-possessed appearance, striding into the stage-like foreground with a spirit not unlike that of Captain Frans Banning Cocq in Rembrandt's 'Night Watch' (painted almost a decade later in 1642), underscores his role of responsibility within the family both as its leader and chief representative; he moves toward the viewer as though to greet him and to introduce him to the assembled company.
At the same time, the head of the family is part of the group as a whole, which is defined by its momentary movement and its informal anecdotal character. At the extreme left of the composition, his wife is distinguished by a similarly sober costume and an almost equally authoritative air, gazing out at the viewer with an expression of calm and intelligence, the slightest of smiles playing around her lips, her hand resting on the table beside her in a gesture which lays claim both to the house as a physical, furnished entity, and as a home full of her progeny. Together, the husband and wife frame a separate vignette within the composition, in which their more colourfully attired daughters assume a more playful, coquettish stance. It is in this suggestion of interaction with one another and with the viewer that Codde shows his mastery of both portraiture and genre, and effects his skilfull fusion of the two.

The present work relates closely to another group portrait painted by Codde in the same year, in the Akademie der Bildende Künste in Vienna (inv. no. 1096, with the same dimensions), which also sharply reminds of his many musical and merry companies. Here groups of figures are also arranged around the central figure of the patriarch, engaged in their separate activities, and some portraits, such as the standing young lady looking over her shoulder, are in the same spirit. This concept of portraiture allowed Codde to show off his brilliance in the different facets of painting, from the minute rendering of the various textures and the subtle play with light to the dynamic rhythm of the composition. The shimmering blues and pinks of the dresses contrast beautifully with the silver-grey palette and the richness of the fabrics and meticulously brushwork of the portraits stand out against the sparsely decorated room.

Contemporaries like Jan Miense Molenaer, Thomas de Keyser and Frans Hals also experimented with a conflation of group portraiture and genre interiors. Codde is today most famous for his completion, only a few years later in 1637, of Frans Hals's life-size portrait of the corporalship of Reynier Reael and Lieutenant Cornelis Michielsz. Blaeuw, known as 'The Meagre Company' (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), the choice of Codde for this prestigious commission shows how highly his portraits were regarded. The present masterpiece is without doubt the finest example of Codde's portraiture, and may have played a part in recommending the artist for the completion of the prestigious group portrait by Hals.

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