CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Two Tronies of Men in Oriental Costumes Bought by Future Migration Museum in Rotterdam

Two recently rediscovered oval tronies (character studies) by Leiden painter Jan van Staveren were acquired at the TEFAF art fair for the collection of the future FENIX migration museum in Rotterdam. Jan van Staveren (1613/14-1669) was both a contemporary and fellow townsman of Rembrandt (1606-1669) and Gerard Dou (1613-1675). Around 1640, two models of African descent posed for the painter, the only time this happened as far as we know. Gerard Dou had painted black tronies before, and at least ten paintings, six drawings and six etchings of black models by Rembrandt are known.

Jan Adriaensz van Staveren (1613/1614-1669), A set of tronies of a young man of African origin in oriental costume and a young man of African origin wearing a yellow feathered beret, ca. 1640-43
FENIX, Rotterdam

In the early seventeenth century, the slave trade had not yet reached the scale it would later take on. Slavery was prohibited in the Republic of the Netherlands and only happened in the colonies. It was precisely during this phase that Dutch masters like Jan van Staveren started painting from life and depicting everything as realistically as possible. This combination created a brief period in European art history when people of color were portrayed realistically and as the main subject. Only later do the pages and black servants appear, rendered as status symbols and accessories. In the nineteenth century, black models were often depicted as negative stereotypes.

Jan van Staveren produced mostly small paintings with a high standard of finish, and was a so-called ā€˜Leiden Fijnschilderā€™ of biblical scenes, allegorical subjects, genre scenes, portraits, animals and landscapes. He also specialized in tronies, such as these two small panels. The artist followed in his fatherā€™s footsteps in holding administrative functions and, like his father, rose to the position of mayor in 1667. Van Staveren was among the first members of the Leiden Guild of St. Luke and paid dues until his death. He spent his whole life in Leiden, never married and died a rich man. The provenance of both paintings can be traced back to his own collection and that of his sister (Alida van Staveren). Both paintings came into the possession of French aristocracy in the eighteenth century and were then taken into Swiss and French private collections until 2022. At TEFAF, both works were offered by art dealer Bob Haboldt.

Museum FENIX will open in late 2024 in a historic harbor warehouse in Rotterdam where millions of people departed or arrived from all over the world. Fleeing or chasing after love. Looking for happiness or better opportunities. FENIX will tell these stories and show that migration is a timeless and universal phenomenon.

Source: museum press release, 20 March 2023