Portrait of Jan de Witt; head turned to l, looking to front, with long curly hair, and skull cap Black chalk Verso: Slight sketch of a face (probably of the same person) Charcoal


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • VersoVerso

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1895,0915.1196

Bibliographic reference
JCR 728
Hind 1915-31 8
Royalton-Kisch 2010 Lievens.J.11

Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Drawn by Jan Lievens (biographical details | all objects)
1662 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)
British (all objects)

Head of Jan Vos; head turned to left, looking to front, with long curly hair, and skull cap, formerly Jan de Witt. 1895

Black chalk (recto and verso).

Verso: Head of a Man

Watermark: crown from a crowned shield with fleur-de-lys.

Inscription Content: Inscribed, verso, in graphite, top left: ‘A’; lower left: ‘716 / m/- / Jlivens’; lower centre: ‘Jan Livens / portrait of the grand pensionary / de witt’; lower right: ‘17 / Gu’; lower left in pen and brown ink: ‘86’.

Height: 155 millimetres (chain lines vertical, 25/28mm apart , slanting slightly to right near the top)
Width: 140 millimetres

The chalk has been severely rubbed in the sitter's face on the recto.

Curator's comments
See Hind for a discussion on the sitter.

Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Jan Lievens, cat. no.11:
Despite the inscription on the verso which identifies the sitter as the Grand Pensionary, Johan de Witt (1625-72), the sitter is Jan Vos (c.1622-1667), the Amsterdam poet. An etching by Karel Dujardin was used as an illustration in an edition of the poet's works published in Amsterdam in 1662.[1] The print compares convincingly with Lievens' drawing of Vos, now in Frankfurt.[2] This shows him seated, three-quarter-length, and turned more towards the viewer; but the thin moustache, the long curls of hair and other features suggest strongly that the present sheet represents the same sitter. The features of the face on the verso, with the hint of a moustache again and the broad set of the nostrils, is also comparable to the Frankfurt portrait and argue that this, like the recto, was a false start for the more elaborate drawing of the poet. Allowance must be made for the condition of the drawing in assessing its autograph status.[3]
The Frankfurt drawing agrees with Dujardin's print in the style of Vos' clothing and both images show him holding a scroll. Thus the drawings by Lievens could well date from the same time, circa 1662.[4]

[1] Jan Vos, 'Gedichten', published by J. Lescaille, Amsterdam, 1662. The print is described by Hollstein, no.52a.
[2] Inv. 836; Sumowski 1614.
[3] Hirschmann, 1918 (see Lit. below) studied it from a reproduction and concluded that it was merely a copy of the Frankfurt sheet, which was unknown to Hind (in London, 1915).
[4] This would accord with the style, which already led Sumowski (1983, see Lit. below) to suggest a date c.1660.

Robinson, 1869/76, no.716/728 (of Jan de Witt); London, 1915, p.86, no.8, recto repr. pl. LIII (not convincing as of Johan de Witt; nor as of the Burgomaster of Dordrecht of this name); Hirschmann, 1918, p.24 (copy after Frankfurt drawing; another copy in Amsterdam); Van Dyke, 1927, p.104 ('later period'); Schneider, 1932/73, pp.201-2, no.Z.80 (identification of sitter not convincing); Amsterdam, 1942, p.94, under no.14 (possibly represents Jan Vos); Sumowski, 1979 etc., VII, 1983, under no.1614 (dates c.1660; both sides represent Jan Vos; perhaps composed in connection with Frankfurt portrait).

Associated names
Portrait of Jan de Witt (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Col John Wingfield Malcolm (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection John Malcolm of Poltalloch (biographical details | all objects)

Exhibition History
No exhibitions recorded.

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