Attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613–1670)

Attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613–1670)

Attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst (Haarlem 1613 – 1670 Amsterdam)

Portrait of Jacob de Wet (c.1610–after 1672)

Red chalk, brown ink framing lines, watermark two interlaced and opposed letters C with a crown above,1 175 x 122 mm (6.9 x 4.8 inch); laid down on a greyish paper collector’s mount with framing lines in pen and brown ink

Inscribed ‘Jacobus de Witt. Pittore di Harlem.’ (pen and brown ink) and ‘van der Herst.’ (pen and brown ink, on a piece of paper attached below the main sheet)

- Count Jan Pieter van Suchtelen (1751–1836) (Lugt 2332)
- Private collection, Paris


This is the only extant contemporary likeness of the painter Jacob de Wet the Elder. A reference is known from a sale catalogue of 1773 of a self-portrait at advanced age, ‘with grey hair’.2 A copy by an anonymous artist in grey wash, presumably after this lost self-portrait, is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (see fig.).3 Despite the difference in years, the facial features of the sitter in the present red chalk drawing are still reflected by those in the Rijksmuseum sheet, in particular the thin upper and full lower lip, the distinctive nose, and the lazy eyes.

Jacob de Wet’s earliest known work dates from 1632, the year in which he joined the Haarlem guild of St Luke. He was influenced by Pieter Lastman and early Rembrandt, and may have studied with the latter. De Wet led a successful studio in Haarlem, and specialised in paintings with biblical and mythological subjects. Among his pupils were Paulus Potter, Job Berckheyde, Jan Vermeer of Haarlem, and his son Jacob de Wet II.

This drawing has traditionally been attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst, who was born in Haarlem but settled in Amsterdam in 1636, where he became a successful portraitist of the city’s elite. Van der Helst painted several portraits of fellow-artists, including Paulus Potter and Jan Baptist Weenix. The artist is however not much known as a draughtsman. Although J.J. de Gelder still included 53 drawings by the artist in his monograph of 1921,4 in her catalogue raisonné of 2011, Judith van Gent only accepted two drawings, both studies for paintings.5 An example is the Portrait of a Man in the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, a study for the painting in Montreal of 1644 (see fig.).6 The attribution to Van der Helst is maintained by the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD) in The Hague.


1. Similar to a watermark in a drawing by Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne (1589–1662) in the Rijksmuseum, “It takes strong legs to carry Luxury”, inv. no. RP-T-00-758. The Rijksmuseum drawing, a large sheet of 503 x 408 mm, has a countermark similar to Heawood 2890, dated Amsterdam 1633, see M. Schapelhouman and P. Schatborn, Dutch Drawings of the Seventeenth Century in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, artists born between 1580 and 1600, Amsterdam/London 1998, vol. I, cat. no. 363, p. 168.

2. Sale Van der Marck, Amsterdam, 25 August 1773, no. 479: ‘Portret van J. de Wet. Deze heeft zich zelfden afgebeeld met grys Haair. Paneel. 10 ½ x 8 ½ d.’ (‘Portrait of J. de Wet. He has depicted himself with grey hair. Panel, 10 ½ x 8 ½ inch’); H. van Hall, Portretten van Nederlandse beeldende kunstenaars: repertorium, Amsterdam 1963, p. 370.

3. Grey wash, 208 x 160 mm; inv. no. RP-T-1940-412; Van Hall, op. cit., p. 370.

4. J.J. de Gelder, Bartholomeus van der Helst. Een studie van zijn werk, zijn levensgeschiedenis, een beschrijvende catalogus van zijn oeuvre, een register en 41 afbeeldingen naar schilderijen, Rotterdam 1921, pp. 249-52.

5. Judith van Gent, Bartholomeus van der Helst (ca. 1613–1670). Een studie naar zijn leven en werk, Zwolle 2011, p. 374.

6. Black chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper, 293 x 236 mm; inv. no. 22552; Van Gent, op. cit., p. 374, no. T1.

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Attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613–1670)
Attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613–1670)
Attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613–1670)
Attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613–1670)
Attributed to Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613–1670)
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