Although painted only at the end of his career, the present picture is among the finest family portraits by the artist. W. Burger, loc.cit., mentions it as "tableau très important" while all the sales catalogues refer to it as a "Kapitaal" painting. The sitters have yet to be identified, but certainly belonged to the class of wealthy merchants, whose prosperity grew rapidly after the Peace of Munster (1648) and whose riches Van der Helst was well suited to display. Burger, loc.cit., has suggested that they might be identical with the persons portrayed in pendant portraits of 1664, at Brussels (Inventariscatalogus van de oude schilderkunst, 1984, p.140, nos.205/6, with ill.). The present picture is to be compared with the portrait of Abraham del Court and Marie de Keerssegieter, of 1654, in Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam (E. de Jongh, Portretten van Echt en Trouw, 1986, pp.171-175, no.33, with ill.). As pointed out by E. de Jongh, op.cit., p.51, the clasping hands of husband and wife, is a variant of the more formal dextrarum iunctio, which symbolises mutual loyalty in marriage. The gesture of the man is the same as in the self portrait of 1662 in the Kunsthalle Hamburg (van Gelder, op.cit., no.30, ill. frontispiece). In the use of eloquent gestures Van der Helst was probably influenced by Frans Hals, whose earliest rendering of a husband and wife is the 'Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen' of 1622, Rijkmuseum, Amsterdam (de Jongh, op.cit., no.20). Here also a landscape background is introduced.
In a French late 18th century gilded wooden frame decorated with stylised acanthus leaves
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist's work by Drs. Judith van Gent
See colour illustration