Michiel van Musscher (Rotterdam 1645 – 1705 Amsterdam)
Portrait of a Lady, seated three-quarter length
Oil on canvas, 56.5 x 45.7 cm (22.2 x 18 inch); presented in a dark stained ripple frame of 17th-century model
Signed and dated lower left ‘M.v…sch… Pinx / 1685 9/8 (?)’
Anonymous sale, Christie’s, Amsterdam, 13 November 1990, lot 19, where purchased by: Juli and Andrew Wieg Collection, until 2021
According to the artist’s biographer Arnold Houbraken, writing in the early 18th century, Van Musscher showed a talent for drawing at a young age, and had many teachers, of which he kept a record.1 His first teacher was Martinus Saeghmolen in 1660 for two months, and in 1661, he took lessons from Abraham van den Tempel. In 1665 he took seven lessons with Gabriel Metsu, and in 1667 he spent three months in Haarlem to take lessons with Adriaen van Ostade. Though his entire education spanned several years, Houbraken was astonished that he became so skilled with so few hours of professional study, and concludes that he must have had a great natural talent that he practiced extensively on his own.
Houbraken wrote that he moved to Amsterdam to work for Jonas Witsen, a wealthy artlover who introduced him to all of his friends as a portrait painter. He married twice, first to Eva Visscher in 1678 in Buiksloot (Amsterdam), and the second time in 1693 to the widow Elise Klanes. His pupils were Ottmar Elliger the Younger and Dirk Valkenburg.
Michiel van Musscher was one of the leading portraitists in Amsterdam in the last decade of the seventeenth century, and was patronised by families such as the Van Loons, in whose house several of his portraits can still be found. Van Musscher excelled in the depiction of details of fabric and surfaces, such as the carfully painted laces and silks which can be seen in the present painting, which is in excellent state of preservation. Works by Van Musscher are preserved in many of the world’s leading museums, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Our well preserved painting may for instance be compared to Musscher’s portrait of Maria Schaep (1658–1725) in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, painted in 1682 (fig.).2
This work is entered in the databases of the RKD under artwork number 136981.
1. For the artist, see R. Gerhardt, Michiel van Musscher (1645-1705): the wealth of the Golden Age, exh. cat. Amsterdam (Museum Van Loon) 2012, passim.
2. Oil on canvas, 57.5 x 51 cm, inv. no. C14; Pieter J.J. van Thiel, All the paintings in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam: a completely illustrated catalogue, Amsterdam 1976, p. 403, no. C14, repr.