print study / drawing

Portrait of Constantijn Huygens; HL turned to l, looking to front, with long hair, moustache and beard, wearing skull-cap, falling lace collar, and cloak, holding in his hand a paper, on which is inscribed: "vive le Roy de Roys" Black chalk, indented for transfer


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • Full: FrontFull: Front

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1836,0811.342

Bibliographic reference
Sumowski 1979 continuing 1598
Hind 1915-31 6
Royalton-Kisch 2010 Lievens.J.6

Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
print study (scope note | all objects)
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Drawn by Jan Lievens (biographical details | all objects)
1639 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Portrait of Constantijn Huygens; half-length turned to left, looking to front, with long hair, moustache and beard, wearing skull-cap, falling lace collar, and cloak, holding in his hand a paper, on which is inscribed: "vive le Roy de Roys". c.1639
Black chalk, the outlines indented with the stylus for transfer; framing-lines in graphite and in pen and brown ink.
Verso: see Inscriptions.
No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed to right, signed with the artist's initials in black chalk: 'IL'; inscribed in black chalk on the sheet the sitter holds: 'vive Le / Roy des / Roys'; inscribed verso (visible only through backing), lower left, in pen and brown ink (17th century): 'Constantin Hugens. na't Leven / getekent door J. Lievensz' and in graphite: 'hoog 9 / breed 7'.

Height: 238 millimetres (chain lines vertical, 24mm apart)
Width: 174 millimetres

Generally good, but slightly rubbed and discoloured around the top edges; a short tear at top centre edge; a diagonal crease through nearer upper arm; a discoloured, yellowish spot to left of the face; ink from the verso inscription shows through to the recto (in the hand); the whole laid down on thin tissue paper.

Curator's comments
This is the preparatory drawing for the print by Vorsterman, see S.6206.

Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Jan Lievens, cat. no.6:
The sitter, Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), was from 1625 the secretary to Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, the Dutch stadholder. Although chiefly active at court as a diplomat and administrator of the affairs of the House of Orange, which he served until his death, he was also a poet and composer and had a particular interest in the fine arts. In c.1628-9 he draughted an autobiography in which he praised the work of Rembrandt and Lievens, including Lievens' painted portrait of Huygens, made in 1628-9, now on loan to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.[1] He was probably responsible for commissioning Rembrandt's series of scenes from the Passion of Christ for the stadholder in the 1630s, as well as for the programme of decorations in the Huis ten Bosch near The Hague (1648-52), decorated as a memorial to Frederick Henry.
The present drawing was probably made when Lievens was in Holland in 1639. The sitter would then have been 43 years old. The inscription on the sheet he holds, 'Long live the King of Kings', is evidence of Huygens' Calvinist piety (although it was not transcribed onto the related print). The drawing was engraved soon afterwards by Lucas Vorsterman, in reverse, and the outlines are indented to transfer the design to the copper plate.[2] The print is inscribed 'Ioannes Livius delin:', in reference to this drawing, and was published in Antwerp by Martinus van den Enden, with an engraved quatrain in Latin written in praise of Huygens by Nicolaes Heinsius.
A drawing in the Rijksmuseum shows the head only, in the same direction as the print, and is an early copy apparently based on the engraving.[3] It is possible that Lievens, in emulation of Van Dyck, was planning a series of portraits.

[1] From the Musée de la Chartreuse in Douai (see Sumowski, 'Gemälde', III, 1983, no.1286, repr.).
[2] Hollstein, XI, p.80, no.55 and vol.XLIII, p.167, no.163, repr.
[3] Inv.1913:53, described in Amsterdam, 1942, p.93, no.13, repr. pl.165.

LITERATURE (always as by Lievens, of Huygens):
London, 1915, p.85, no.6, repr. pl.LII (notes Vorsterman print); Schmidt-Degener, 1915, pp.124 and 126, repr. (c.1639); Van Dyke, 1927, p.104 ('later manner'); Henkel, 1931, p.90; Schneider, 1932/73, p.196 [1973 ed., also pp.361-2], no.Z.60 (dates to 1639 visit of Lievens to Holland); Brière-Misme, 1936, p.200, repr. p.199, fig.4; Amsterdam, 1942, p.93, under no.13 (version in Rijksmuseum, 1913:53, a copy); Hollstein, XI, p.80, no.55; van Gelder, 1957, pp.23-4, no.11, repr. fig.18 (1639); Gerson, 1968, repr. p.474, fig.b; Kai Sass, 1971, p.71, repr. (perhaps a portrait series intended by Lievens); Exh. Paris-Antwerp-London-New York, 1979-80, p.114, under no.81; Sumowski, 1979 etc., VII, 1983, no.1598, repr.; Sumowski, 'Gemälde', III, 1983, under no.1286; Spicer, 1986, p.542, repr. fig.9; Held, 1991, p.657, repr. p.659, fig.6; Hollstein, XLIII, p.167, under no.163; Haarlem, 1997, under nos.237 and 240 (on provenance - see n.1 above; compares 'Portrait of Vondel' in Haarlem, inv.PP.1276); Exh. Washington-Milwaukee-Amsterdam, 2008-9, no.103; Christian Tico Seifert, 'Pieter Lastman: Studien zu Leben und Werk', Petersberg, 2011, p.67, fig.53.

Associated names
Portrait of Constantijn Huygens the elder (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from William Smith, the printseller (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection John Sheepshanks (L.2333) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
B. de Bosch?; Cornelis Ploos van Amstel?;* John Sheepshanks (L.2333); purchased with his collection through Messrs William Smith, 1836. * Plomp, in Haarlem, 1997, under no.237, suggests that either a drawing in Haarlem (inv. P6), previously identified as a portrait of Huygens, or the present sheet, was that sold in the B. de Bosch sale, 5 October, 1767, lot 245, and in the Ploos van Amstel sale, 3 March, 1800, lot C-16, bt Josi. The inscription with the measurements on the verso resembles those written by Ploos van Amstel on his drawings, but is not certainly his. However, Sheepshanks did acquire another portrait that had previously belonged to de Bosch and Ploos van Amstel (see Royalton-Kisch, 2009, no.10; 1836,0811.344).

Exhibition History
London, 1895, no.404 (by Lievens, of Huygens);
1988/9 Nov-Jan, Amsterdam, Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Jan Lievens, no.40, repr
2008/9 Oct-Jan, Washington, N G of Art, Jan Lievens (1607-1674)
2009 May-Aug, Amsterdam, Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Jan Lievens (1607-1674)
2016 Jun-Sep New York, Morgan Library, Rembrandt's First Masterpiece

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