Jan Lievens: A Dutch Master Rediscovered
Jan Lievens, The Lamentation of Christ, ca. 1640. Oil on canvas. Bayerisches Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, Alte Pinakothek.
Jan Lievens, Man in Oriental Costume (“Sultan Soliman”), ca. 1629–1631. Oil on canvas. Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg
Jan Lievens, Landscape with Willows, early 1640s. Oil on panel. Frits Lugt Collection, Institut Néerlandais, Paris.
Jan Lievens, Lute Player, ca. 1627, revised ca. 1628. Oil on panel. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, Gift of the Dr. Francis D. Murnaghan Fund.
Jan Lievens, Profile Head of an Old Woman (“Rembrandt’s Mother”), ca. 1630. Oil on panel. Collection of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader.
Jan Lievens (Dutch, 1607–1674), Self-Portrait, early 1650s. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London. Presented by Charles Fairfax Murray.
Jan Lievens, Prince Charles Louis with His Tutor, as the Young Alexander Instructed by Aristotle, 1631. Oil on canvas. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
The Lamentation of Christ
The painting reveals the influence of Anthony van Dyck, seen in fluid brushstrokes, graceful gestures, and tender emotions of the mourners surrounding the dead Christ. Lievens would have encountered many examples of Van Dyck’s religious imagery in Antwerp, where he painted this work. Christ’s body is illuminated dramatically, even though the scene unfolds at sunset. The Virgin Mary supports the body, her grief poignantly expressed by her gaze into his lifeless face while she passes the crown of thorns to Joseph of Arimathea, who reaches out to receive it on a silver-gilt platter.
The directness of this handsome self-portrait conveys the full effect of Lievens’ forthright personality. X-radiographs of the painting suggest that Lievens revised his appearance in deliberate ways. For example, he added flowing locks, popular in English and Flemish courts, and eliminated a hat, probably a painter’s beret. In portraying himself as a dashing, even aristocratic young man Lievens may have looked forward to his move to London to work at the court of King Charles I in 1632.
Man in Oriental Costume
Paintings on figures bedecked in regal, Eastern-inspired garments, set against a plain background—known as “Orientals”—began as an independent artistic genre around the 1620s in the work of Lievens and Rembrandt. Lievens probably painted this canvas to impress the court at The Hague, where such opulence was in fashion.
Prince Charles Louis with His Tutor, as the Young Alexander Instructed by Aristotle
In this portrait historie, Prince Charles Louis, eldest son of the deposed king and queen of Bohemia, is depicted with his tutor in the guise of the young Alexander the Great with his tutor Aristotle. The prince wears sumptuous yellow robes with a tasseled sash and a laurel crown to denote his royal status.
Boy in a Cape and Turban
This painting differs from other figures in Eastern garb that Lievens produced, such as Man in Oriental Costume, which typically represented imposing older men as potentates or sultans. Here the close viewpoint emphasizes the boy’s tender features and vulnerable expression rather than the exoticism of his dress. The subject may be the exiled Bohemian prince Charles Louis, for the features are strikingly similar to those in Lievens’ portraits of the prince with his tutor.