The subject of this portrait is believed to be Elizabeth "Betje" Van Dyke, born Albany, NY in 1692. On September 3, 1725, she married Martin Vosburgh (1697-?); the initials "E" and "M" on the silver patch box she holds probably refers to her and her husband. Elizabeth was the daughter of Hendrick Van Dyke (1665-1707), a surgeon of Albany and Maria Schuyler (1666-1742) of Albany; Elizabeth was the great-granddaughter of Dr. Henderick Van Dyke, who was born in Amsterdam, Holland about 1609. The family papers state that Dr. Van Dyke immigrated to New Amsterdam, New Holland (now New York, New York) in 1645; in 1652 he served in the Dutch West India Company. Dr. Van Dyke died in 1687 and is buried at Old St. Mark's church in New York City.
The Gansevoort limner is among the best known of the Patroon Painters, a small group of anonymous limners from the Hudson River Valley whose patrons were prominent Dutch settlers. The wealth created through the trading of wheat flour, lumber and most importantly beaver pelts established a class of people who demanded the traditional symbols of Dutch achievement and financial success that included functional and decorative objects, such as furniture, paintings, porcelain, decorative earthenware, silver and fine textiles. The records extant through wills and account books indicate that a significant number of portraits were done for the Dutch upper and middle-class between 1690 and 1745; only a small number of these portraits survive.
This painting of Elizabeth Van Dyke Vosburgh offered here is a newly discovered addition to this group and exemplifies the characteristics of the Gansevoort Limner. The Gansevoort Limner, initially identified as such by the portraits he painted of the Gansevoort family, worked between 1725 and the mid 1740s. All of his subjects lived in or around the Kingston and Albany regions of New York. Working in a completely naive style, and without any indication of an understanding of human anatomy or academic portrait conventions, the success of the Gansevoort paintings relies upon a linear style and simplicity of form. Elements characteristic of his works include painstaking brushwork, fine delineation of features and fabrics, the two-dimensionality of feature and fabric, overlarge hands, faces shown in three-quarter view, and the inclusion of a rose and other device, in this instance a patch box. The color palette includes warm browns, red, pinks, greens and blues.
In an attempt to identify the individual Patroon painters, significant scholarly attention has been paid to paintings and the primary documents the have descended along with them. Mary Black identifies Pieter Vanderlyn as The Gansevoort Limner based upon close similarities in handwriting between a manuscript by Vanderlyn and inscriptions on seven Gansevoort Limner paintings. Scholars of eighteenth century handwriting dispute the certainty of this attribution, arguing the standard style common to handwriting of the period; until further evidence comes to light, it cannot be said with complete certainty that The Gansevoort Limner is Pieter Vanderlyn.
Portraits by the Gansevoort Limner, comparable in form and composition, are in several museums and private collections in the country. A portrait of a Miss Van Alen, currently in the collection of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center at Colonial Williamsburg offers a particularly close comparison to that of Elizabeth Van Dyke Vosburgh (see figure ?).
For further information regarding the Gansevoort Limner see: Roderic H. Blackburn and Ruth Piwonka, Remembrance of Patria, Dutch Arts and Culture in Colonial America 1609-1776,( Albany, New York, 1988); Mary C. Black, "The Gansevoort Limner" The Magazine Antiques 96 (November 1969) pp. 738-744; Mary C. Black, "Pieter Vanderlyn and Other Limners of the Upper Hudson." In American Painting to 1776: A Reappraisal. Edited by Ian M.G. Quimby. Charlottesville, Virginia, 1971; Mary C. Black. "Pieter Vanderlyn, c. 1687-1778" in Jean Lipman and Tom Armstrong, American Folk Painters of Three Centuries, (New York, New York, 1980).