Ferdinand Bol was born in Dordrecht, the son of the surgeon Balthasar Bol. His first apprenticeship was with Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp in Dordrecht but after 1635 he was in Amsterdam and under the tutelage of the great Rembrandt as one of his most gifted pupils. Clearly a precocious and talented young painter Bol had his own studio by 1642. He was to remain close friends with Rembrandt throughout his life. In l652 he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Amsterdam and was married there on 24th October l653 to Elisabeth Dell. His father in law held important positions in the Admiralty of Amsterdam and the wine merchants Guild and subsequently gave Bol commissions for both institutions which were important for his early independent career.
Bol's early portraits show a strong vibrant technique with a sombre colouring, very much in the manner of his master. He was particularly fond of ochre and soft red hues and these are particularly evident in his bigger religious and biblical subjects. Toward the end of the 1650s his palette lightened and his compositions gained a more flamboyant, but noble, style. At this point he was the busiest artist in Amsterdam, receiving more official commissions than any other artist. Bols's first wife died in 1660 and he remarried nine years later to the wealthy Anna van Erckel, the widow of the treasurer of the Admiralty. It seems that he retired from painting at this time and his last official post was that of a governor in a home for Lepers. Bol was also known for his engraved work, a technique in which he proved especially successful. A contemporary artist, Govaert Flinck, became a strong rival though his work is somewhat less Baroque and dramatic than that of Bol. The famous English portrait painter, Sir Godfrey Kneller, began his career in Bol's studio together with Cornelis Bisschop.
Ferdinand Bol painted this mature and elegant portrait in 1661, at the height of his success within the genre. The handsome sitter, with his engaging and welcoming face, looks towards the audience with an air of familiarity. His features are typically for this period softly modelled by a light that illuminates the scene from the upper left, casting shadows that define his face and hands as well as the fabric of his costume. His powerful and confident pose with his right arm akimbo and his left arm resting upon a ledge, is nearly identical to that found in Bol's portrait from 1650 of Roelof Muelenaer, Amsterdam's postmaster (Rijksmuseum, on loan from the Schroder Collection SK-A-683). While nearly a decade separates the two portraits from each other, together they serve to illustrate the development of Bol's style. By the 1660s, when he executed the present work, his more elegant and independent style had clearly emerged.
In composition and handling, the present portrait can be also compared to a Portrait of a Lady sold Sotheby's, New York, 31 January 2019, lot 251 ($212,500). In both works, the sitters are dressed in similar heavy fabrics and they are standing in front of a red curtain that opens to reveal a landscape beyond. The rich red drapery provides a sense of gravitas to the scene and enlivens the dark fabrics that adorn the figures, as well as giving a more dramatic sense in both lighting and setting. At the same time, the present portrait seems to foreshadow the compositions Bol would complete later in the same decade, such as his famed life-sized portraits of Michiel de Ruyter from 1667.
Sulley & Co. London; With Knoedler, New York (no. 10884), by 1905; Purchased by Charles Alvah Walker, Boston, December 1909; Purchased by Miss E. A. Cotton, until 1910; Mrs. Charles Prince, New Hampshire, until 1959; Giovanni Castano, Boston, 1959; Purchased by a private collection, Newton, Massachusetts, by October 1964;
By descent to a Private Collection, USA.
Blankert, A., Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680): Rembrandt's Pupil, Doornspijk 1982, pp. 62, 134, cat. no. 109, reproduced plate 118.