This striking portrait of a young Dutch patrician survives in exceptional condition and has only recently been re-identified as Frederik Dircksz. van Alewijn (1603 – 1665). Another portrait of the period by Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort (see Fig. 1), clearly depicts the same sitter, and has helped confirm the identify of ours, anonymous since the early 20th century.
By descent to Dirk Margarethus Alewijn (1816 – 1885), Heemstede;
his sale, C.F. Roos & Co., Amsterdam, 16 December 1885, lot 75 (as ‘Frederik Alewijn by Dirk Santvoort’); bt. by
Alphonse de Stuers (1841 – 1919), The Hague and Paris; to his brother
Victor de Stuers (1843 – 1916), The Hague and Kasteel de Wiersse, Vorden; to his daughter
Alice de Stuers, Lady van de Wiersse (1895 – 1988), by 1918;
Private collection, Austria.
J. Six, “Nicolaes Eliasz Pickenoy” from Oud Holland, Vol. 4 (Amsterdam, 1886), p. 95.
A significant article dedicated to the life of Pickenoy, written in 1886 by Prof. Jan Six (1857 – 1925), explicitly refers to the present work, dating it to c.1632. Six attributed the portrait to Pickenoy for the first time after it was sold as a ‘Santvoort’ in the Alewijn family sale of the previous year. He noted that it had been purchased by ‘Mr. A. de Stuers’ – the diplomat Alphonse de Stuers (1841 – 1919). Alphonse and his brother, Victor de Stuers (1843 – 1916), were prominent collectors of Dutch old master paintings and other objects.
In the 1918 volume of the Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek, Frederik Alewijn’s biographical entry referred to both his portrait by Dirck Dircksz van Santvoort, as well as ours, by ‘N. Elias’ (i.e. Nicolaes Eliasz. Pickenoy), in The Hague. The contemporary owner was referenced as ‘the lady A. de Stuers’; presumably Alice de Stuers, Lady van de Wiersse (1895 – 1988), the niece of Alphonse and daughter of Victor de Stuers.
Here, Pickenoy presents Frederik Dircksz. van Alewijn confidently engaging the viewer by the eye. His mantle is draped over his shoulder and wrapped around his waist, with his left arm akimbo, hand on hip. His black attire may not look ostentatious but in fact black was the costliest pigment with which to dye cloth. His starched white collar and matching cuffs of Flemish bobbin lace are equally expensive and a status symbol – this ensemble is of the highest fashion. The rendering of the dress is typical of Pickenoy, executed deftly and with great attention to detail. The cuff of the left arm is portrayed in foreshortened perspective, creating a beautiful illusion of depth, a painterly tour de force. The way in which the inside of the cuff is left in shadow while the sharp edges of the openings in the lace still catch the bright light, is also impressive.
Frederick Alewijn (1603 – 1665), was the son of Dirck Alewijn (1571 - 1637) and Maria Schurman (1575 – 1621). He studied in Leiden, becoming the first of his family to be admitted as a regenten in Amsterdam’s ruling class. Latterly he was appointed Lieutenant of the Militia in 1650, then Captain in 1657 and Schout a year later.
Interestingly, in our portrait Alewijn’s body and face are directed towards our left. Usually in portraiture, this pose was reserved for a woman, (with the husband standing on the other side – body and face directed to his wife). This unusual stance suggests that the portrait was painted when Alewijn was a bachelor, giving us a terminus ante quem of 1637, the year he married Agatha Geelvinck (1617 – 1638), the daughter of Amsterdam’s mayor, Jan Cornelisz. Geelvinck. Alewijn’s costume conforms with this dating, and stylistically, the portrait can be compared to Pickenoy’s Civic Guard Painting of District IX of 1632 (Amsterdam Museum), which shows similar bold brushwork in the heads.
Unfortunately, Alewijn’s first wife Agatha died only five months after their nuptials, and so in 1640 he married secondly the widow of Dirck de Graeff, Eva Bicker (1609 – 1665), (daughter of Jacob Bicker). The Alewijn, Geelvinck, Bicker, and de Graeff families were amongst the most influential in Amsterdam’s republican ruling class and major patrons of the arts. Notably, Eva Bicker was also painted by Pickenoy during her first marriage, in pendant to her then husband (both on loan to Adel High Council in The Hague).
Nicolaes Eliasz. Pickenoy might not be a household name today, but between 1625 and 1640 he was the most sought-after portrait painter in the thriving city of Amsterdam. He kept this position even when Rembrandt settled there in the early 1630s, only losing his leading position in the 1640s to his probable pupil, Bartholomeus van der Helst (c. 1613 – 1670).
Pickenoy was the son of Elias Claesz., an armorial mason, and Heijltje Laurens d’Jonge, both from Antwerp. Although we don’t know with whom Pickenoy trained, it was most probably with Cornelis van der Voort (1576 – 1624), the leading Amsterdam portraitist of his time. Apparently, Pickenoy took over Van der Voort’s portrait workshop, after the latter’s death. His career took off seriously in 1625, when he received no less than three commissions for corporate group portraits, and in 1634, he acted as Head of the Amsterdam painters’ guild. Besides several biblical and mythological scenes, Pickenoy’s production largely consisted of portraits. In addition, he painted no less than five civic guard paintings and four group portraits for craft guilds or charitable institutions, which makes him even more productive in this field than Bartholomeus van der Helst.
Pickenoy provided his sitters with ‘tranquillitas’: the neo-stoic ideal of keeping control of one’s emotions. By portraying the sitter with a relatively unanimated facial expression, the painter stressed or enhanced his virtues, the idea being that only serious men, capable of keeping their passions in balance by reason, were fit to fulfil responsible tasks in trade or government. However, despite this unwritten artistic rule, Pickenoy regularly developed and adopted idiosyncracies to make his sitters appear more spontaneous and natural. As such, he gave his client the best of both worlds – an honourable and realistic likeness, that put a premium on an accurate portrayal of his costly wardrobe, as well as the covetable ‘tranquillitas’.
Dirck Dircksz. van Santvoort (1609 – 1680)
Frederik Dircksz Alewijn (1603 - 1665)
Oil on panel: 72 x 61 cm.
Signed and dated : ‘D.D. Santvoort fe. 1640’
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Object no. SK-A-1317)
 In addition to Alewijn’s later portrait by Santvoort, he was also drawn by Wallerant Vaillant in 1652 (location unknown, RKD no. 0001479083), as part of a small group of family portraits, including posthumous likenesses of his parents.
 W. Martin, “Some Portraits by Pieter Dubordieu” from The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs (Vol. 41), London 1922, p.218.
According to Jan Six, three other Pickenoy portraits from the 1885 Alewijn sale were bought for the Rijksmuseum (their attribution to Pickenoy has since been downgraded).
 Victor de Stuers was an influential art historian and administrator who did much to promote and preserve the integrity of Dutch institutional art collections. He discovered Vermeer’s masterpiece The Girl with the Pearl Earring when it was being sold anonymously at an auction in The Hague. He entered an agreement with the buyer that he would not bid on it so long as they promised to bequeath the painting to the Mauritshuis, which they did in 1902.
 He left his estate to his only daughter Alice, much to the surprise of his colleagues who expected him to leave a bequest to the state. See: G. Biermann (ed.)., “Der Kunstmarkt” from Der Cicerone, Vol. VIII (Leipzig 1916), p. 253.