Portrait of a Man with a Spear
Isaak Luttichuys, Dutch 1616-1673
SN 262 Oil on Canvas About 1663

Portrait of a woman with a Rose
Isaak Luttichuy, Dutch 1616-1673
MF 818 Oil on Canvas About 1663

by Robert Anderson

This artist born in London in1616 was a painter of both still lifes and portraits. He worked for the van Loon family of Amsterdam as did Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen, the Utrecht painter who seems to have influenced his work. Luttichuys specialized in elegant portraits which were inspired by van Dyck.

These works are slightly unusual for Luttichuys in that he shows a man dressed as a hunter, with a spear and a mixture of contemporary and "classical" clothing. There was no doubt from the beginning that this painting was intended as an allegorized portrait - possibly Adonis- to be hung with a pendant showing the man's wife.

The portrait of the lady sitter - possibly Venus - is the second of the pendant portraits which were commissioned, in all probability, by an Amsterdam couple as a loving momento of their impending marriage.

Showing engaged and married couples in separate paintings is typically Dutch since 17th century townhouses in which they were hung lacked space for larger works. As separate canvases, the pendant portraits could be hung on either side of a fireplace.

These paintings show an engaged couple as classical lovers - Adonis with a hunting spear and Venus with a rose. The man is shown half-length, positioned to the right but facing the viewer. He has brown hair falling over his shoulders and is wearing a dark red cloak with white at the throat and wrists and jeweled broaches. His left hand is over his heart and his right hand holds a spear as he gestures toward the lady.

The lady wears an elaborate dress with a rather low cut neck-line with the breasts partially revealed which was unusual in Dutch 17th century portraits where scarves were normally worn around the shoulders. She is positioned to the left, faces the viewer and holds a rose in her left hand as she gestures to the gentleman.

The gestures toward one another plus the continuous landscape of pinkish clouds in a dark blue sky which flows from one to the other help to physically and psychologically unite the paintings.

These are known as “pendant portraits.” Dutch society placed great importance on the family, and they loved to commemorate domestic life with portraits; rather than have a couple portrayed on a single canvas, they preferred the pendant style. John Ringling bought the gentleman in 1930; 51 years later, in 1981, the lady’s portrait came on the market and was purchased for the Museum by an anonymous donor. Well-established convention dictates the man be hung on the left, the woman facing her husband.

Since no wedding rings are visible, it is likely the paintings celebrate a betrothal. The couple is painted in the guise of Venus and Adonis, both for the inspiration of those classical lovers - and for the opportunity to show a little high style and cleavage instead of the usual sober Dutch dress. Her pearl earrings may have been lacquered fish bladders, a popular way of imitating large pearls. The spear and the rose allude to the legend which tells us that as a result of being grazed by Cupid’s arrow, the goddess Venus fell passionately in love with Adonis, who was mortal.

Historical Context:
The Portrait of a Woman with a Rose was discovered in a Dutch private collection and was purchased by the Ringling Museum through the generousity of an anonymous donor in 1980. The pendant Portrait of a Man with a Spear had been purchased by Ringling in 1930. Over the years the pendants had become separated and were brought together at the Dutch 17th Century Portraiture exhibition held at the Ringling Museum from December 1980 to February 1981.