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Essay – Adriaen Hanneman – Self portrait

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Essay - Adriaen Hanneman - Self portrait

This recently rediscovered self-portrait by Adriaen Hanneman of 1669 – painted not on the usual canvas but rather on panel – is the last dated work by this Hague portraitist. The artist, seated with his back to the viewer, looks at us over his right shoulder, elegantly gesturing towards the female bust on a socle decorated with volutes. Hanneman’s long locks, dashing moustache and goatee can be seen already in his self-portrait of 1656, now in the Rijksmuseum (fig. 1).1 His clothing, too, is unchanged: he wears a black satin doublet over a flowing white shirt, which peeps out at the wrist and neck. His black cloak is draped over his left shoulder, partially covering the arm of the chair. Two years before his death, however, his face has aged: the pouches under his eyes are deeper and his hairline has receded slightly.

The likeness exudes the same stylish elegance that won Hanneman such acclaim in the cosmopolitan court circles of The Hague in the 1640s and 50s, inspired by the work of the famous Flemish portraitist Anthony van Dyck. Having finished his studies with the Hague portrait painter Anthonie van Ravesteyn – the younger brother of the better-known Jan van Ravesteyn – Hanneman departed for London around 1626.2 England’s strong, internationally oriented portrait tradition was undoubtedly attractive to a young and ambitious painter. Hanneman probably arrived shortly after his fellow townsman Daniël Mijtens (c.1590-1647), the most important portraitist at the English court prior to the advent of Van Dyck in 1632. It seems likely that during the 1630s Hanneman worked for a time in Van Dyck’s London studio. The latter had quickly replaced Mijtens as the most prominent artist at court and his elegant style would have a lasting influence on Hanneman’s work.

Upon his return, Hanneman introduced this manner in The Hague, where he settled permanently around 1638. He was soon portraying many of the city’s most eminent citizens, as evidenced by his unusual portrait of Constantijn Huygens and his five children, in which each likeness is surrounded by its own decorative frame with putti (Mauritshuis, The Hague).3 Only rarely did Hanneman deviate from his chosen specialisation: in 1644 he accepted a commission for the large scale Allegory of Justice that still hangs in The Hague’s old town hall on Groenmarkt today.4 His career received an important boost at the end of the 1640s, with the arrival of a large number of English exiles fleeing the civil war. Hanneman quickly became their preferred portraitist. He depicted many prominent Englishmen, among them the prince of Wales (later King Charles II) – forced to reside in The Hague in 1648-1649 – and, later, his brother Henry Stuart, duke of Gloucester.5 Following in the footsteps of the English, the stadholder’s court began patronising Hanneman in the 1650s: in 1654 he painted the likeness of the four-year-old Willem III of Orange, as well as that of his mother, Princess Maria Henriëtte Stuart in 1659-60.6

In 1656 Hanneman became one of the founders and the first master of a new brotherhood of Hague painters, the Confrerie Pictura, which had split from the old Guild of St Luke – an umbrella organisation comprising diverse craftsmen, including stonemasons, glassmakers and bookbinders. Painters no longer considered themselves artisans, striving instead for a higher status – something Hanneman, as a celebrated

court painter, also would claim for himself. He may even have executed the self-portrait of 1656 (fig. 1), in which he appears as a fashionable gentleman of rank, on this occasion, as might be concluded from a description in the inventory of the association’s property compiled in 1763 by Pieter Terwesten, which lists a self-portrait by the artist.7 However, the description is somewhat ambiguous: it may refer not to the painting of 1656 but rather to an earlier work, namely the 1647 self-portrait now in the collection of the Koninklijke Academie (Royal Academy) at The Hague, an institution that grew in part from the Confrerie.8 In addition to the works mentioned above, we know of one further Hanneman self-portrait that probably dates to the late 1640s.9 In that picture the painter points with his right hand to the bust of a child. The compos­ition is reminiscent of the 1669 self-portrait, although the artist depicts himself not with his back to the spectator but rather facing front.

This type of artist’s portrait, in which the sitter regards the viewer over his shoulder, is based on Italian models of the early sixteenth century, but achieved its greatest popularity in the wake of Anthony van Dyck’s series of self-portraits of the 1630s (fig. 2).10 Hanneman took these works as the inspiration for his self-portraits of 1656 and 1669. Karel van Mander had already written of this eloquent pose in his treatise Den Grondt der edel vry Schilder-const (1604), exhorting the figure painter not to have the head and body turn in the same direction.11 Looking over the shoulder implies physical and intellectual mobility, and the pose symbolises the artist’s wealth of intelligence and inventive power. The female bust in Hanneman’s self-portrait of 1669, to which the artist draws attention with a rethorical gesture, further characterises him as an art lover. A similar bust appears in Hanneman’s portrait of Duke Henry Howard of about 1656 (fig. 3).12 It therefore seems possible that Hanneman embellished his final self-portrait with an authentic – perhaps antique – sculpture from the English nobleman’s collection. This motif had a long tradition in portraiture, where ancient sculptures frequently served to identify the sitter as a connoisseur of antiquity and a scholar.13 Striking as well is that Howard is dressed in exactly the same manner as Hanneman in his two self-portraits: this attire, which radiates a chic nonchalance, is also based on Van Dyck’s self-portraits and his likenesses of men of letters and the art world.14

The Latin inscription at the upper left, near the signature, is the same as that found on the self-portrait of 1656. The text calls on the viewer to guess the sitter’s identity: ‘Ask yourself whose face and whose features these are, look for who has painted them and you will know’.15 The self-confidence exuded by this distich is also expressed in the likenesses themselves, in which the artist models himself on his great Flemish predecessor, Anthony van Dyck. In his last self-portrait Hanneman presents himself even more definitively as a gentleman, an intellectual and – with the addition of the bust – an amateur. In 1669, when he painted his last self-portrait, the 65-year-old Hanneman married for the third time.16 This event might have provided the direct impulse for the creation of this virtuoso work.