Attributed to Mathijs Harings (Leeuwarden c.1593 – c.1667 Leeuwarden)

Mathijs Harings

Attributed to Mathijs Harings (Leeuwarden c.1593 – c.1667 Leeuwarden)

Portrait of a 10-year-old boy

Oil on canvas, 91 x 75.5 cm (35.8 x 29.7 inch); framed in an ebonized frame with gilt inner slip

Annotated ‘Ano. 1650’ and ‘Aete. 10.’ (upper left)

Anonymous sale, Galerie Giroux, Brussels, 5 May 1934, no. 57, repr. (as Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen); private collection, Belgium


Portraits of children are among the most charming and evocative creative works of the Golden Age. Commissioned by loving parents in an age when surviving childhood years was by no means a given, their intimacy instantly bridges the centuries that divide us from these children. This intimate portrait depicts a 10-year-old boy, whose identity has been lost to time, his hand elegantly placed in his side, holding a hat. As was the custom of the time, he is dressed as an adult in the predominantly black clothing that was popular during the first half of the seventeenth century – together with the formal pose, this makes him appear older than he actually was, though his facial features are entirely typical of his age.

The present portrait has only recently been discovered after being in a private collection for nearly a century, and restoration has revealed its subtle original colouring from underneath a layer of heavily discoloured varnish. It has been suggested by Dr Piet Bakker that the portrait could be by the Frisian artist Mathijs Harings,1 who was active in Leeuwarden during the seventeenth century.2 Harings was associated with Wybrand de Geest (1592–1672), but whilst De Geest painted mostly sitters from the aristocracy, Harings tended to paint affluent burghers. The clothes of the unidentified boy place him in this class, possibly as a member of the ‘Doopsgezinde’ (Baptist) faith. Dr Bakker compared our painting to a portrait dated 1648 of Claes Fontein (1616–1670) in the Museum Het Hannemahuis in Harlingen, which is also thought to be by Harings (fig.).3


1. Email correspondence, 29 November 2019.
2. P. Bakker, ‘Lexicon van schilders in Friesland (1590-1700)’, in: Gezicht op Leeuwarden. Schilders in Friesland en de markt voor schilderijen in de Gouden Eeuw, Amsterdam 2008 (thesis Universiteit van Amsterdam), pp. 177-248, p. 201.
3. Inv. no. 001350; RKD images no. 40911. The pendant of Fontein’s wife, Annetje Reijners Jeddema, is also in the Hannemahuis. The attribution to Harings of this works was first suggested by E. Domela Nieuwenhuis.