This beautifully preserved and astonishingly life-like portrait depicts a wealthy Amsterdam merchant, Frederik Dircksz. van Alewijn (1603 – 1665). Comparison with another, later of the same man by Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort (in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam - see Fig. 1), has enabled us to restore our sitter’s identity, hitherto lost for a century.
By descent to Dirk Margarethus Alewijn (1816 – 1885), Heemstede;
his estate 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; presumably to his brother Victor de Stuers (1843 – 1916), The Hague and Kasteel de Wiersse;
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.
The Weiss Gallery, A Connoisseur's Eye, London 2020, pp. 44 - 47, cat. 8.
Van Alewijn is presented to the viewer, contrapposto, with his mantle draped over his shoulder and wrapped around his waist, left arm akimbo, hand on hip. His black attire may not look ostentatious, but in fact black dye was the costliest pigment at the time. Likewise, his starched white collar and matching cuffs of Flemish bobbin lace are an expensive status symbol, executed deftly and with great attention to detail. The cuff of the left arm is portrayed in foreshortened perspective to give the illusion of depth, in a painterly tour de force. Pickenoy imbued his sitters with ‘tranquillitas’: the neo-stoic ideal of keeping control of one’s emotions. Despite this unwritten artistic rule, he nonetheless developed and adopted idiosyncrasies to make his sitters appear more spontaneous and natural. Those qualities are shown to great effect here – an honourable and realistic likeness, with an accurate portrayal of his costly wardrobe, as well as the covetable ‘tranquillitas’.
Interestingly, in our portrait Van 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 our portrait was painted when the sitter was a bachelor, giving us a terminus ante quem of 1637, the year he married Agatha Geelvinck (1617 – 1638), daughter of Amsterdam’s mayor, Jan Cornelisz. Geelvinck. His 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.
A significant article dedicated to the life of Pickenoy, written in 1886 by Prof. Jan Six (1857 – 1925) explicitly refers to our portrait, dating it to c.1632. Six was the first to re-attribute the painting to Pickenoy after it had previously been 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 at that time prominent collectors of Dutch old master paintings and other objects. By 1918 our painting had passed via his brother Victor, to Alice de Stuers, Lady van de Wiersse (1895 – 1988).
The artist might not be a household name today, but between 1625 – 1640, Nicolaes Eliasz. Pickenoy was the most sought-after portrait painter in the thriving city of Amsterdam, keeping this coveted position even when Rembrandt settled there in the early 1630s. He 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, and whose workshop Pickenoy took over after the latter’s death. His career took off seriously in 1625, when he received at least three commissions for 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. He painted no less than five civic guard paintings and four group portraits for craft guilds or charitable institutions, making him even more productive in this field than his most successful pupil, Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613 – 1670).
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. 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).
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.
 According to Jan Six, (op. cit.), 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.
 See: L. Sorenen (ed.), “Stuers, Victor Eugène Louis de, Jonkheer.” from Dictionary of Art Historians.