Dou was the leading figure among the Leiden fijnschilders (fine painters) who continued the earlier Netherlandish tradition of meticulous description and superb craftsmanship. Here the artist presents himself as a learned painter, with a large book and scholarly attire. The cracked flowerpot is probably meant as a symbol of transience, which art overcomes.
Dou painted perhaps a dozen or more self-portraits over the course of his life. This example is one of his latest, dating from about 1665. A similar composition, also from about 1665, is in a private collection in Naples, Florida. Liedtke (2007) records seven additional autograph self-portraits by Dou, along with one known from copies.
A variant of this composition, without the foliage at right, was sold at Parke-Bernet, New York, on May 16, 1951, no. 33. Another variant, cropped, and with a different relief of putti under the window, was sold at the Dorotheum, Vienna, on October 15, 1996, no. 282, as Circle of Jan van Mieris, wood, 33.5 x 24 cm (formerly private collection, Buenos Aires). A copy sold at Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, on December 2, 1993, no. 2050, may be the same work listed in Hofstede de Groot 1907, p. 438, no. 282a. Hall 1963 and Baer 1990 record additional copies.
The relief depicted below the window appears in several paintings by Dou and is a copy after a marble relief of 1626 by François Duquesnoy (1597–1643) in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome. There exist numerous sculpted and pictorial copies after the original. The Museum owns a version by Jacob de Wit (Children Playing with a Goat, 07.225.257).
This painting was engraved by Pierre Alexandre Tardieu (1756–1843).
[2010; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (left, on ledge): GDO[U] [initials in monogram]
?Johan de Bye, Leiden (in 1665); Voyer d'Argenson, Paris (in 1754); chevalier Sébastien Erard, Château de la Muette, Passy (1825–d. 1831; bought for Fr 25,000; his estate sale, Paris, April 23–August 7, 1832, no. 76, for Fr 19,250, bought in; his estate sale, Christie's, London, June 22, 1833, no. 40, for £603.15); [Étienne Le Roy, Brussels]; Kalkbrenner, Paris (in 1842); M. Piérard, Valenciennes (until 1860; his estate sale, Hôtel des Commissaires-Priseurs, Paris, March 20–21, 1860, no. 17, for Fr 37,000 to Baring); A. Schloss, Paris (from about 1905); ?Henry Say, Paris; [Scott & Fowles, New York, until 1907; sold for $45,000 to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1907–d. 1913)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Portrait of the Artist," January 18–March 7, 1972, no. 9.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 45.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
J. B. Descamps. La Vie des peintres flamands, allemands et hollandois. Vol. 2, Paris, 1754, p. 225, lists "le Portrait de Gerard Douw" as in the collection of the marquis de Voyer.
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 1, London, 1829, pp. 34–35, no. 101, states that the artist has depicted himself at about the age of forty; gives provenance information.
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 9, Supplement. London, 1842, p. 19, no. 60, updates the provenance information.
Édouard Pavilliez. "Les ventes de tableaux." L'Artiste, n.s., 9 (April 1, 1860), p. 138, prints the remarks of Paul d'Ivoy on the Piérard sale, who gives the name of the buyer of this work as M. Baring, and who adds that although it is a famous work of art, he finds it horrible, criticizing the finish, the anatomy, and the color.
E. W. Moes. Iconographia Batava: Beredeneerde Lijst van Geschilderde en Gebeeldhouwde Portretten van Noord-Nederlanders in Vorige Eeuwen. Vol. 1, Amsterdam, 1897, p. 242, no. 2096-22, gives provenance information.
C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 1, London, 1907, pp. 438–39, no. 283, mentions "the well-known relief by Duquesnoy of children playing with a he-goat, which is underneath the window"; provides detailed provenance information.
W. Martin. Gérard Dou, sa vie et son œuvre. Paris, 1911, p. 172, no. 57.
W[ilhelm]. Martin. Gerard Dou, des Meisters Gemälde in 247 Abbildungen. Stuttgart, 1913, p. 179, ill. (frontispiece), dates it about 1660–65.
Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. New York, 1914, pp. 27–28, no. 18, states that the picture "passed through the collections of Mr. Kalkbrenner and Mr. Say, of Paris, and so to its late owner".
François Monod. "La Galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (2e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (November 1923), p. 309, compares it with Dou's self-portrait in the Louvre.
Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, pp. 81–82, no. 43.
H. van Hall. Portretten van nederlandse beeldende Kunstenaars. Amsterdam, 1963, pp. 82–83, no. 35, mentions three copies: one by W. van Mieris in the museum in Wiesbaden, one at the Galerie Abels in Cologne in 1937, and one in the museum in Havana.
John Walsh Jr. Portrait of the Artist. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1972, p. 11, no. 9, dates it about 1660–65 and compares the figure's serious expression with that in Rembrandt's self-portrait of 1660 (MMA, 14.40.618).
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 336, fig. 607.
Otto Naumann. Frans van Mieris (1635–1681) the Elder. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1981, vol. 1, p. 71, fig. 98.
Everett Fahy. Metropolitan Flowers. New York, 1982, pp. 6–7, ill. (color).
Richard Whittier Hunnewell. "Gerrit Dou's Self Portraits and Depictions of the Artist." PhD diss., Boston University, 1983, vol. 1, pp. 226–27, 232–43, 245–46, 249, 256 nn. 17–18, p. 257 n. 19, p. 260 n. 32, p. 262 n. 52; vol. 2, figs 175, 177 (overall and detail), dates it 1660–65; discusses the symbolism in detail, and sees the work as a visual commentary on the epigram "ars longa, vita brevis".
Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 184.
Eric J. Sluijter et al., ed. Leidse Fijnschilders: Van Gerrit Dou tot Frans van Mieris de Jonge, 1630–1760. Exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1988, p. 210 n. 1, mentions it in connection with a portrait of 1688 by Van Slingeland (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), where the sitter is in a similar pose.
Jacques Foucart. Peintres rembranesques au Louvre. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1988, pp. 20, 22, discusses it in connection with Dou's self-portrait in the Louvre.
Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, pp. 48–49, fig. 36, tentatively identifies it among the pictures seen in a photograph of Benjamin Altman's art gallery.
Ronni Baer. "The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613–1675)." PhD diss., New York University, 1990, vol. 1, pp. 42–45; vol. 2, unpaginated, no. 112; vol. 3, ill., dates it about 1665 and tentatively identifies it as the self-portrait with a flowerpot included among paintings by Dou exhibited by Johan de Bye in Leiden in 1665; lists a variant sold at Parke-Bernet, New York on May 16, 1951, and a copy in the collection of Werner Knoche, Münster, in 1984 [see Notes].
Peter C. Sutton. Dutch & Flemish Seventeenth-Century Paintings: The Harold Samuel Collection. Cambridge, 1992, p. 61–62 n. 3.
Walter Liedtke inRembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, , p. 143, no. 45, ill., dates it about 1665; relates it to Rembrandt's self-portrait of 1640 (National Gallery, London).
Mariët Westermann. The Amusements of Jan Steen: Comic Painting in the Seventeenth Century. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1997, p. 230, fig. 136.
Ronni Baer inGerrit Dou, 1613–1675: Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2000, p. 48 n. 98, p. 140 n. 5, under no. 20, p. 142 n. 1, under no. 27, p. 142 n. 1, under no. 29, notes that the same relief seen here appears in many of Dou's genre paintings.
Walter Liedtke et al. Vermeer and the Delft School. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2001, p. 439 n. 10.
Christoph Schölzel inThe Leiden "Fijnschilders" from Dresden. Exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2001, p. 20 [German ed., "Von der lustvollen Betrachtung der Bilder," Leipzig, 2000, pp. 19, 22 n. 27], discusses the pigments that appear on the artist's palette.
Martha Hollander. An Entrance for the Eyes: Space and Meaning in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Berkeley, 2002, pp. 65–68, 70, fig. 29.
Peter Hecht. "Art Beats Nature, and Painting Does So Best of All: The 'paragone' Competition in Duquesnoy, Dou and Schalcken." Simiolus 29, nos. 3/4 (2002), pp. 196–97, fig. 15, discusses Dou's "somewhat obsessive use" of Duquesnoy's relief [see Notes].
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 31–32, fig. 32 (Altman gallery photograph).
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. x, 38, 153, 158–66, 460, 501, no. 37, colorpl. 37; vol. 2, pp. 642, 962, dates it about 1665.
Joanna Sheers inRembrandt and His School: Masterworks from the Frick and Lugt Collections. Exh. cat., Frick Collection. New York, 2011, pp. 57–58, fig. 2 (color).