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Jacob Ochtervelt
(1634–1682, Rotterdam)

Singing Violinist. Oil on panel. 18.4 x 14.6 cm. Susan Donahue Kuretsky, The Paintings of Jacob Ochter­velt (1634–1682), no. 35.


C. Hofstede de Groot attributed this astutely observed and sensitively painted genre scene to Frans van Mieris the Elder (Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, Esslingen 1907–1928, vol. 10, p. 51, no. 202). The present-day ascription to the Rotterdam painter, Jacob Ochtervelt, is the result of research carried out by Albert Blankert, who in 1975 pointed out the close sty­listic similarity between this work and the painting Young Man Singing to a Violin made by Ochtervelt in 1666 (Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, cf. Oud Holland, 89 (1975), pp. 65–66, fig. p. 65).

The young violinist with the dashing moustache is portrayed in half-length figure. He wears an exotic, gold-trimmed, feathered beret and looks at the viewer with a frank and candid gaze. His slightly open mouth indicates that he is singing while play­ing the violin. This precious little portrait is remarkable for the superb treatment of the subject matter, which is fully in keep­ing with the tradition of the Dutch fine painters of the 17th century and testifies to the widespread and surprisingly sophisticated painting culture of the time. With deft strokes of a very fine brush Ochtervelt has rendered the delicate pleats of the white puffed sleeves and the collar of the lace shirt held together by a smart red velvet bow with great clarity and haptic immediacy. The foreshortened perspective of the violin, the lustrous surface of which is enlivened by elegant highlights, is extremely effective. The restrained, evocative colouring with glowing red and brown tones forms a striking contrast to the fresh light white of the undershirt and the vibrant warmth of the player’s complexion.

The creator of this gem, Jacob Ochtervelt, studied under Nicolaes Berchem. He subsequently devoted himself to genre scenes from the middle-class domestic milieu in a style similar to that of Pieter de Hooch, who also hailed from Rotterdam. Ochter­velt’s lively palette reveals a preference for exuberant vermilion and yellow. Elegantly dressed, apparently elongated figures seen from a low position and portrayed in refined surroundings are a typical feature of his work. In stylistic terms the artist comes very close to the approach of contemporary fine painters such as Gerard ter Borch and Gabriel Metsu. A recent examination of the painting technique has revealed that the little panel was enlarged all around by 15 mm when the picture was made. Having seen the original, Hofstede de Groot noted: “Enlargement by the painter himself”.