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Amsterdam Mayor and Wife Identified in Frans Hals Portraits Rijksmuseum

New research at the Rijksmuseum has revealed that a pair of portraits painted by Frans Hals was of the seven-times mayor of Amsterdam Jan van de Poll and his wife Duifje van Gerwen. The discovery is remarkable because this is the only pair of pendant marital portraits of an Amsterdam couple painted by Frans Hals. Jan and Duifje traveled to Haarlem around 1637 to sit for the painting.

Jan van de Poll (1597-1678) and Duifje van Gerwen (1618-1658) were married in 1637. Duifje was the youngest daughter of a wealthy wine dealer based on Amsterdam’s Warmoesstraat. Jan was a seven-time mayor of the city, and in 1650 he reached the highest rank of colonel in its citizen militia. It was in this capacity that he appeared in two portraits, one painted by Johann Spilberg in 1650, the other by Bartholomeus van der Helst in 1653 – both paintings are now in the collection of the Amsterdam Museum. His face in these two works bears a strong resemblance to his face in the portrait painted by Frans Hals shortly after Jan and Duifje’s wedding.

Portraits of Jan van de Poll and Duifje van Gerwen on display in the exhibition Frans Hals at the Rijksmuseum. Photo: Rijksmuseum

It is likely that Duifje’s uncle Willem Warmond recommended Frans Hals for these pendant marital portraits (paintings that belong together). Hals worked in Haarlem, and Willem Warmond appears as the captain in the group portrait of the Haarlem militia that the artist painted ten years earlier. Hals started on Meagre Company, his only group portrait of an Amsterdam militia, in 1633. Several members of the militia were unwilling to travel to Haarlem to be painted by Hals, which is why Amsterdam painter Pieter Codde finished the work in 1637. Jan and Duifje were willing to go to Haarlem, however, and apparently took advantage of this gap in Hals’s calendar. The portraits of Jan van de Poll and Duifje van Gerwen are the only pendant paintings of an Amsterdam couple ever made by Frans Hals.

When the two portraits entered the Rijksmuseum as part of a bequest in 1885, the then-director Frederik Obreen identified the subjects as Nicolaes Hasselaer (1593-1635) and Sara Wolphaerts van Diemen (1594-1667). Recently, however, Rijksmuseum curator Jonathan Bikker was able to establish that the earlier identification of the two sitters was incorrect. The wills of the grandchildren and great garndchildren of Van Diemen revealed it is impossible that the portraits were part of the line of inheritance. Bikker also compared the portrait of Jan van de Poll with his later portraits described above – there are no other known portraits of Duifje van Gerwen. Jan and Duifje are direct ancestors of Jonkheer Jan Stanislaus Robert van de Poll, who gifted the paintings to the Rijksmuseum in 1885.

The portraits of Jan van de Poll and Duifje van Gerwen will remain on display until Sunday 9 June as part of the Frans Hals exhibition. They will then move to Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie for its exhibition on Frans Hals and his contemporaries this summer.