Thomas van der Wilt (Piershill 1659 – 1733 Delft)

Thomas van der Wilt Dutch Old master Painting picture

Thomas van der Wilt (Piershil 1659 – 1733 Delft)

Portrait of a gentleman, in a feigned oval

Oil on canvas, 77.5 x 62 cm (30.5 x 24.5 inch); presented in an 18th-century carved and gilt frame

Signed and dated ‘T: vand: wilt / i7i2.’ (lower left)

Anonymous sale, Phillips, London, 27 November 1978, lot 40; British Rail Pension Fund; their sale, Sotheby’s, London, 5 July 1995, lot 119; private collection, United Kingdom


Thomas van der Wilt was born in Piershil (near Spijkenisse) as the son of the cloth merchant Willem van der Wilt and his wife Emmerentia van der Staf.1 He received his artistic training from Jan Verkolje (1650–1693), who took Thomas under his care upon the recommendation of the engraver Jan Goeree, who had discovered the youngster’s talent. Van der Wilt settled in Delft, where he was the leading portrait painter in the first decades of the eighteenth century. Many prominent citizens sat for him, including Leiden burgomaster Adriaan van der Goes van Naters, as well as Haarlem burgomaster Cornelis Colterman, not to mention the well-known Amsterdam art collector Valerius Röver.

Van der Wilt was praised for his meticulous depiction of fine fabrics and carefully drawn hands, and his talent in these respects can be clearly seen in this work. Our painting may be compared to Van der Wilt's portrait of a gentleman who is thought to be Count Jean Henri van Heemskerck (1689–1730), painted around the same period or slightly later (fig.).2 Our portrait is one of Van der Wilt’s most attractive works, painted in rich and warm colours and with a particularly sympathetic subject.

Van der Wilt also painted the portrait of the Delft writer and poet Hubert Kornelisz Poot.3 Upon Van der Wilt’s death in 1733, Poot wrote the following lines on the painter:

‘Hier sluimert VANDER WILT, 't penseel ten roem geboren.
O gy, die kunst waerdeert, betreurt den schrandren man.
De schildermin, helaes! heeft meer aen hem verloren
Dan op den breedsten zerk de beitel schryven kan.’

This work is registered in the databases of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD) as No. 140951.


1. For the artist, see Th. von Frimmel, ‘Zu Thomas van der Wilt’, Studien und Skizzen zur Gemäldekunde, 2/3-4 (1916), p. 65-66 and S.a., ‘Veelgevraagde Delftse portrettist en zijn opdrachtgever in Den Haag bekend’, The Hoogsteder Journal 1996, no. 1, pp. 4-7.
2. Canvas, 61.5 x 52 cm, signed ’T vander wilt’; Instituut Collectie Nederland, Amsterdam, inv. no. C135.
3. Oil grisaille on paper, 18.5 x 14.5 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. no. RP-T-00-313.