Philip van Dijk (Oud Beijerland 1683 – 1753 The Hague)
Portrait of a Collector of Natural Curiosities
Oil on canvas, 47.3 x 38 cm (18.6 x 15 inch); presented in a carved and gilded frame of 18th-century model
Private collection, The Netherlands
Philip van Dijk was born near Rotterdam in 1683 and was taught from the age of thirteen by Arnold Boonen, and later by Adriaen van der Werff.1 Philip married Geertruyd van Beekhuysen in Rotterdam in 1708, and established his studio in the town of Middelburg in Zeeland in the same year. Ten years later Van Dijk moved to The Hague, the leading artistic centre in the country, where he rose to prominence as the portraitist par excellence of the Dutch elite, and also advised leading collectors of works by the great masters of the seventeenth century, notably Stadtholder Willem IV, Count Johan Hendrik van Wassenaer Obdam, and members of the Van Schuylenburch and Van Dishoek families.
According to the artist’s contemporary biographer Johan van Gool (1685–1763), Van Dijk had started his pursuits of works from the Golden Age during his period in Middelburg, which counted several collectors; because of the town’s proximity to Flanders, Philip would travel to Antwerp every year, buying up works by Dutch masters, which he would then sell in Holland. Van Dijk was an active collector himself as well, and by the end of his life had a collection numbering 165 works by the leading masters, including Rembrandt’s 1634 Incredulity of St Thomas.2
In 1725 Van Dijk was appointed court painter to the Landgraf-Prince of Hessen-Kassel, whom he also assisted in his collecting activities – an important position, as the Landgraf was one of the wealthiest and most enthusiastic collectors of the time. As a painter, Van Dijk was mostly renowned for his portraits, but he also produced genre pieces. His chef-d’oeuvre is the group portrait of the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel and members of his extended family, still preserved in Kassel.3
The present charming portrait depicts an as yet unidentified collector of natural curiosities, surrounded with a number of gems from his collection: exotic shells, a coin or medal, a parrot and a globe, which illustrate the subject’s intellectual interests. Although he firmly holds the gaze of the viewer, his hand is extended towards a country house in the background, which must have been owned by the sitter. Our portrait can for instance be compared to Van Dijk’s 1742 portrait of Jan Teding van Berkhout (1713–1766) (fig.).4 An example of a genre work by Van Dijk is his Lady at her Toilette, sold by the artist to Stadtholder Willem IV and now in the collection of the Mauritshuis, The Hague (fig.).5
1. For Van Dijk, see: E. Korthals Altes, ‘Philip van Dijk, een schilder-kunsthandelaar met een locale en internationale clientèle’, Oud Holland 116 (2003), pp. 34-56.
2. Oil on canvas, 53.1 x 50.5 cm, Pushkin Museum, Moscow; J. Haak a.o., Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster, vol. VI, 2015, cat. no. 127.
3. Oil on canvas, 95 x 134 cm, Schloss Wilhelmsthal, Kassel; J.W. Niemeijer, ‘Zelfportretten van Philips van Dijk’, Oud Holland 74 (1959), p. 245.
4. Oil on canvas, 51 x 42.5 cm, private collection, The Netherlands; Gerrit Verhoeven, Europe within reach: Netherlandish travellers on the Grand Tour and beyond (1585-1750), Leiden 2015, p. 232, fig. 17. Teding van Berkhout married Cornelia Hillegonda van Schuylenburch in 1742, whose portrait by Van Dijk is the pendant to this work.
5. Oil on panel, 29.5 x 23.5 cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague, inv. no. 29; Q. Buvelot and C. Vermeeren, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, Zwolle 2004, p. 108, no. 28, repr.