Description & Technical information

The early 18th century Dutch biographer praised Cornelis Visscher’s particular skill as a portrait draughtsman in charcoal and black chalk, and further noted that several of his works were in the collection of the noted connoisseur Jeronimus Tonneman in Amsterdam. As Carlos van Hasselt has written, ‘Most of Cornelis Visscher’s portrait drawings were made between 1652 and 1658. The fact that so many have survived bears witness to the growing demand of an increasingly well-to-do bourgeoisie for a convenient yet impressive form of portraiture. In many cases the names of the subjects are unknown, which suggests that merchants and others who did not belong to the hereditary magistrature nevertheless had themselves depicted in a pose traditionally reserved for the privileged classes. Besides the influence of Van Dyck and his followers, that of the classical French portrait with its cool contrasting colors can also be felt in a style which, so to speak, anticipates the type of portrait in black chalk that became so popular about a decade later. In his many portraits Visscher avoided stiffness by emulating Frans Hals’s healthy realism and his broad, almost pictorial treatment of textiles.’

An early copy of the present sheet was on the art market in London in 2008 with an attribution to the Augsburg-born printmaker Jonas Umbach (1624-1693), and is today in the collection of the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf. It has further been suggested that the Düsseldorf drawing may have been a self-portrait by Umbach, which would mean that the present sheet is Visscher’s portrait of the printmaker as a young man. Little is known of Umbach’s life, although he is known to have lived and worked in Italy between 1645 and 1652. Umbach was four years older than Visscher, and it is certainly possible that the two artists may have met each other. 

Period:  1600-1750, 17th century
Origin:  The Netherlands
Medium: Black chalk, Laid down
Signature: Faintly signed CVisscher / fecit(?) in black chalk at the upper right.
Indistinctly inscribed and dated(?) Cornelis Visscher del. / [?] / 16[?] on the backing sheet.

Dimensions: 21 x 17.6 cm (8¹/₄ x 6⁷/₈ inches)
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints