Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a lady 1650s

Adriaen Hannemann 

Portrait of a lady, Adriaen Hannemann
Oil on canvas
17th Century
31 x 25 inches, 79 x 64 cms
Adriaen Hanneman ranks alongside Van Dyck and Lely as one of the great continental portraitists who worked in England in the seventeenth century. He was born and trained in The Hague, under Anthony van Ravestyn, but traveled to London in 1626. He returned to the Netherlands at some point prior to the outbreak of the civil war in England, but his English connections proved invaluable, when, from 1648 onwards, the Royalist court in exile settled at the Hague. Hanneman painted many leading exiles, such as the Earl of Clarendon [Historical Portraits Ltd], Charles II [original now lost], and Henry, Duke of Gloucester [National Gallery of Art Washington]. This portrait, of an as yet unidentified sitter, is a fine example from the peak of Hannemanís career in the 1650s, and is possibly of an English exile.

Hanneman proved popular with English sitters for a number of reasons; first, he had almost certainly worked as an assistant to Van Dyck in London in the 1630s; secondly, he painted in the Van Dyckian style so favoured by Royalists; and finally, he spoke fluent English. This work, certainly, conveys the aesthetic of Van Dyckian elegance. The sitterís pose and her momentary turn towards the viewer is pure Van Dyck. And yet, Hannemanís style and technique were undoubtedly his own. The high level of finish used here is markedly smoother than that often found in Van Dyck (there is, for example, no trace of Van Dyckís favoured hogís-hair brush), and Hannemanís colouring, certainly, is more redolent of the less brash palettes found among Dutch artists of the period. This, after all, is as much an exercise in tonal gradations Ė the legacy of Rembrandt Ė as an homage to Van Dyckís colourful adventurism. The net effect is that Hannemanís portraits convey a heightened sense of calm and reflection.
Hannemanís technique also differs distinctly from Van Dyck, not least in being subtler and more delicate in the application of paint. Occasionally this has led to some of his paintings becoming damaged through ill-treatment and poor restoration. In this example, however, Hannemanís deft use of glazes allows us to see numerous pentimenti Ė evidence of artistic changes Ė which afford us a rare glimpse of his technique. We can, for example, see where he has adjusted the position of the sitterís pearl earrings and necklace, and can also examine the occasionally visible underdrawing of the hands.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.