Haarlem born, Verspronck was probably a pupil of his father Cornelis Engelbrechtsz. (c.1574-1650) and possibly Frans Hals (1580-1666), before joining the Haarlem’s painters’ guild in 1632. He regularly borrowed Hals’ poses but adapted these to form his own distinct style. His oeuvre consists of approximately a hundred works, most of which are portraits of Haarlem citizens or those closely connected to the city.
Despite being one of the leading portrait painters in the seventeenth-century Haarlem, Verspronck’s name rarely appears in contemporary documents. The family was almost certainly Catholic, which most probably ensured him the patroonship of the members of the Catholic community. It did, however, not prevent him from obtaining commissions from Calvinists as well. He appears to have made a good living as a portrait painter, judging from documents that indicate that he was able to lend money to his relatives on several occasions.
François Dermout, son of Johannes Dermout and Sara Maes, was a merchant in Amsterdam. He married Cornelia Hammius, daughter of Cornelis Hammius and Aeltje Jacobdr., in 1646. Her sister, Maria, and her husband Andreé Villepontoux were depicted by Verspronck in the same year as the present lot (The Mauritshuis, The Hague). As pointed out by Rudolf Ekkart (op. cit.) both pendant portraits show how Verspronck developed his concept of portraiture by circa 1650, with his sitters involved in an activity: Dating to this period, the present portraits rank among the best examples of the artist’s later work. Dermout is presented half-length, seated sideways on a chair, his gaze directed towards the viewer. With his right arm resting on the back of the chair, he gestures with his hand as though he is about to speak. Cornelia’s pose more or less mirrors that of her husband, but one of her hands rests against her body, while the other holds a quill. The sober, yet refined colour scheme and subtly modulated backgrounds are characteristic of Verspronck, as are the thinly applied, painterly brushstrokes that enliven the surface of the fabrics and the sitters’ hands and faces.