Art/ Collection/ Art Object

A Musician and His Daughter

Thomas de Keyser (Dutch, Amsterdam (?) 1596/97–1667 Amsterdam)
Oil on wood
29 1/2 x 20 3/4 in. (74.9 x 52.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Edith Neuman de Végvár, in honor of her husband, Charles Neuman de Végvár, 1964
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 632
In this dynamic formal portrait an amateur musician with a theorbo is presented with his daughter in a spare but stylish interior. Both are expensively dressed, the girl in adult attire. Such a portrait of parent and child has teaching or, at least, setting an example as its theme. The steep perspective and, as a result, the seemingly awkward pose of the man (he is sitting, not rising) are typical of De Keyser, who until Rembrandt arrived in the early 1630s was the most prominent portrait painter in Amsterdam.
This picture, dated 1629, is one of several small-scale full-length portraits by De Keyser painted in Amsterdam during the late 1620s and early 1630s. In each case, the figures are set in a contemporary interior. At least four of them show a man with a child, and in two instances it is obvious that he is the child's father. The Museum's painting has been variously interpreted, but it is concluded here that the man is indeed the girl's father and moreover that he is an amateur musician and not a professional music teacher.

The two figures are richly dressed in what might be described as the latest conservative fashion. Especially stylish are the man's shoes and white gloves, one of which is on the table. To the modern viewer it might appear that a man wearing a hat, a mantle over one shoulder, and a glove must have just come indoors, but many contemporary pictures, including De Keyser's Constantijn Huygens and His Clerk (National Gallery, London), show that this is not the case. The child, who is perhaps ten or eleven years old, is dressed in a manner that is entirely consistent with what a woman twenty years older might wear, including a considerable amount of jewelry. Her hands are oddly mature.

The interior, athough spare, makes a similarly grand impression. The faux-marble floor is extravagantly patterned, and illustrates De Keyser's usual exaggeration of receding space. This design idea, which probably reflects the painter's early exposure to architectural drafting, complements the angular poses and arbitrary proportions (long limbs and short torsos) that he assigned to portrait patrons. The drawing of the theorbo and especially of its open case is also a demonstration of skill in the use of linear perspective. The case—here lined with paper decorated with drawn or printed images—is something of a curiosity, as lute cases were usually lined with fabric. Its cheaper lining and battered exterior may indicate that De Keyser used an actual model.

Other artists of the day, including De Keyser's Amsterdam predecessor Cornelis van der Voort (ca. 1576–1624), set full-length portraits in contemporary interiors, a trend partly indebted to English court portraiture. However, this approach and another comparatively new concept in Northern European portraiture, that of presenting figures in transitional poses, were employed more consistently by De Keyser than by any other Dutch portraitist of the 1620s.

Adams (1985) proposed a narrative that might explain the man's action in the Museum's painting, which she considered De Keyser's "strangest work," though comparison with roughly contemporary works by the artist suggests that the pose is not so exceptional, and that reading any narrative into the picture may be inappropriate. As in other portraits of seated men by De Keyser, the combination of a tall chair and an accelerated perspective recession results in what looks like a nearly standing pose, though the man here is firmly seated. The theorbo is his attribute as an amateur musician, and as a gentleman who could afford a costly instrument. The girl is probably too young to play it (smaller ones were available). The father could be described as setting an example rather than providing instruction, through his interest in one of the liberal arts. The bust over the doorway, if it represents Minerva, would support this interpretation. The goddess was often depicted as a patroness of learning and of the arts.

[2011; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (upper right, on lintel): TDK [monogram] 1629
[Nikolaus Steinmeyer, Cologne, until 1911; sold to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, Paris, 1911–12; sold for Fr 47,500 to Knoedler]; [Knoedler, New York and London, 1912–20; sold for $7,000 to Antik]; [A. B. Antik, Stockholm, from 1920]; Osborn Kling, Stockholm (by 1928–35; his sale, Christie's, London, June 28, 1935, no. 39, for £483 to Cumming); [Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, until 1935/36; sold to Neuman]; Baron Karl Neuman (Charles Neuman de Végvár), Vienna, later Greenwich, Conn. (1935/36–d. 1959; seized in Paris by the Nazis, held at Munich collecting point; restituted); his widow, Mrs. Charles (Edith) Neuman de Végvár, Greenwich (1959–64; life interest, 1964–d. 1984)
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.

Rudolf Oldenbourg. Thomas de Keysers Tätigkeit als Maler. Leipzig, 1911, p. 73, no. 32, as "Familienbild," whereabouts unknown; states that it was in an exhibition in Berlin in 1890.

Catalogue of Pictures by Old Masters the Property of Herr Osborn Kling of Stockholm. Christie's, London. June 28, 1935, p. 11, no. 39, ill. opp. p. 11, as "A Musician and his Daughter"; lists inaccurate exhibition history [see Notes].

René Huyghe, ed. Larousse Encyclopedia of Renaissance and Baroque Art. New York, 1964, p. 256, fig. 620.

[Claus Virch]. Paintings in the Collection of Charles and Edith Neuman de Végvár. [New York], [1970], p. 12.

E. Bénézit. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs. new ed. Paris, 1976, vol. 6, p. 206, mistakenly lists the Kling sale of 1935 as an anonymous sale.

Ann Jensen Adams. "The Paintings of Thomas de Keyser (1596/7–1667): A Study of Portraiture in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam." PhD diss., Harvard University, 1985, vol. 1, pp. 149–51; vol. 3, p. 53, no. 24, p. 175, under no. U-12, calls it "Portrait of a Young Girl, with a Man Holding a Cittern" and refers to it as the artist's "strangest work"; sees no family relationship between the two figures and suggests that the subject might be a double portrait of a girl and her music teacher, an amateur musician and family friend; tentatively identifies the bust over the doorway as Minerva; notes the historical interest of the depiction of the instrument case; discusses the pose of the man at length; suggests that the MMA work might be identified with a picture included in a sale in Amsterdam on April 20, 1695 (no. 23, "Een Man met een Luyt, van H. Keyser").

Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 184, calls it "charming," but doubts that it depicts a father and daughter.

Peter C. Sutton in Ben Broos. "Recent Patterns of Public and Private Collecting of Dutch Art." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis. The Hague, 1990, p. 105.

Walter Liedtke in Masterworks from the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1992, p. 102 n. 5.

Renate Trnek. Die holländischen Gemälde des 17. Jahrhunderts in der Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Wien. Vienna, 1992, pp. 200–201 n. 7, fig. 66a.

Walter Liedtke et al. Vermeer and the Delft School. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2001, p. 345, compares it with Jan Steen's "A Burgher of Delft and His Daughter" (now Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) as an image of "a commendable parent, setting an example for his child".

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 71, fig. 82 (color, MMA Vermeer gallery photograph).

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. x, 393, 400–403, no. 100, colorpl. 100; vol. 2, p. 592.

Dennis P. Weller. Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 2014, p. 116, fig. 1 (color), under no. 18.

Gunhild Osterman, Librarian of the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, writes in a letter of October 1, 1965, that the information in the Christie's catalogue of the King sale of 1935 is inaccurate. She states that the "Malmö Museum cannot identify the painting as ever having been exhibited in the museum. The copy in our photographic archive states that the painting was exhibited in Stockholm in 1926 [underlined] (not in 1933 as stated in the Christie catalogue). However, there is no gallery mentioned . . . ." [this letter cannot be found; 5/3/06]
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