Thomas de Keyser started his career in the second half of the 1620s and quickly developed into one of Amsterdam's most innovative portrait specialists. He created his own specialty, painting small-scale portraits and showing his sitters full-length. The Keyser's long career lasted until the early 1660s. The present signed and dated double-portrait of Frederick van Velthuysen and his only child, his son Dirck, of 1660 is a typical example of the kind and one of his last paintings. An earlier portrait by De Keyser, dated 1636, which entered the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne in 1987 (inv. E1-1987), shows Van Velthuysen with his first wife Josina van Schonevelt, whom he married in 1632 (and who died in 1637). Van Velthuysen married his second wife, Johanna van Straten, in 1647 and in 1651 she bore him Dirck. Frederick had died in 1658 and when De Keyser was asked to paint the present commemorative portrait, he used the earlier portrait as a model.
Frederick and his son are shown on the terrace of a classical mansion with a statue on the balustrade in the background.1 Frederick looks the beholder confidently in the eye, right arm akimbo, and hands over his son a booklet, possibly a family album. De Keyser adjusted Velhuysen's dress according to the new fashion. He is in a large, broad-rimmed hat and wears a formal black costume, consisting of a doublet and breeches trimmed with black lace, and a cape around the shoulders.2 According to the fashion of his day, the lower buttons of his doublet have not been fastened, allowing the white shirt to peek through. The white collar is edged with densely patterned lace. Nine-year-old Dirck is dressed to the nines in a so-called rhingrave costume in a greyish brown hue, designated in the seventeenth century as 'feuilles mortes' (dead leaves).3 His doublet is short and its sleeves are slit, revealing large parts of his shirt. His matching cape is slung over his left arm. Dirck's petticoat breeches and the hat he holds in his right hand are decorated with a row of ribbons. The same ribbons were used on his sleeves and as garters and shoelaces. The red of his stockings is echoed in the gauntlets of his gloves.
Quite some of Thomas de Keyser's portraits represent members of his own family. A case in point is the stunning portrait of his cousin, the ensign-bearer Loef Fredericksz, in the Mauritshuis, The Hague. Other examples are De Keyser's portraits of Margareta and Eva Fredericx (both in Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts). De Keyser himself was married to Machteld, the daughter of Andries Fredericx, half-brother of Margareta and Eva. Frederick van Velthuysen was also related to the artist. He was the son of Margareta's and Eva's sister Hillegonda. His father was Diederick Velthuysen, burgomaster of Utrecht. Frederick was a receiver of the Oudschiltgeld (a kind of land-tax) for the States of Utrecht and lived successively on various locations in Utrecht; in 1632 and 1634 he is documented near the St. Jacobsbrug and in 1654 on the Lijnmarkt. He was buried in the Jacobikerk. His son Dirck would pursue an administrative career, becoming a deputy of the States of Utrecht and counsellor at the Court of Utrecht in addition to being a canon of the Dom Church.
1 This second-century Hellenistic statue formerly owned by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, and was thought to represent Homer. This is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. De Keyser could have known this statue through one of the drawings of it made by Jacques de Gheyn III on the occasion of his visit to the Arundel Gallery in 1618. The drawings do not exist anymore but Jan de Bisschop made two etchings after them, which he included as nrs. 71 and 72 in his Signorum veterum Icones, Amsterdam 1668/69.
2 We wish to thank Sara van Dijk, costume historian at Leiden University, for her kind assistance in identifying and describing the costume and accessories.
3 On the rhingrave, see: I. Groeneweg, 'Men's Fashion circa 1660: Some Historical Facts Concerning the Introduction of the Rhingrave, Innocent and Justaucorps', in J. Pietsch, A Jolly (eds.), Netherlandish Fashion in the Seventeenth Century, Riggisberg 2012, pp. 83-92.