Johannes Thopas (ca. 1626 – 1690/95), who was born deaf, is one of the few seventeenth-century artists to specialize in drawn portraits. From 11 July to 5 October the Rembrandt House Museum will be showing some forty of Thopas’s finest drawings, more than half of his surviving oeuvre.
The portraits in the show, of both identified and unknown people, come from important print rooms and private collections in the Netherlands and abroad. The fashionable clothes of the sitters in Johannes Thopas’s work provide a wonderful view of the age and insight into his clientele. Thopas’s drawings are all magnificently executed and show his talent in the handling of a lead stylus on vellum. His earliest known drawings, dated 1646 and held in the Fondation Custodia in Paris, attest to the fact that Johannes Thopas was an extremely talented draughtsman. He was born in Arnhem and moved to Utrecht at an early age. After his father’s death, his mother married a burgomaster from Emmerich. Later Thopas worked in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Assendelft. His deafness meant that his interests were looked after by a guardian for the whole of his life and he lived with members of his family.
A film specially produced for the occasion will also be shown in the exhibition gallery alongside Thopas’s sophisticated portraits. This film is intended for a wide audience but also for people who are deaf and hard of hearing and features Mike Bloom (SWDA) as the sign language interpreter. In collaboration with the SWDA, one of the oldest welfare foundations for the deaf in the Netherlands, the exhibition will focus attention on people with hearing difficulties. During the exhibition period there will special guided tours accompanied by a sign language interpreter who will explain the exhibition to people with hearing impairments.
The exhibition, which was previously staged in a slightly different arrangement in the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen, can be seen in the Rembrandt House Museum from 11 July to 5 October. There is also a lavishly illustrated catalogue of Thopas’s work written by Rudi Ekkart and edited by Peter van den Brink.