Dutch master's 17th century selfie, bought by wartime socialite for £771, moves from Surrey to The Hague for Golden Age show

By Culture24 Reporter | 29 September 2015

Frans van Mieris's self-portrait shows the importance of selfies to 17th century Dutch Masters

An image of a painting showing a man at his easel by the 17th century Dutch artist Frans van Mieris
Frans van Mieris the Elder, The Artist as Virtuoso at his Easel: Self-portrait, aged 32 (1667). Oil on panel and gilt© National Trust
When an exhibition of the slightly self-absorbed, Selfies of the Golden Age, opens at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague next month, its 27 beautiful works will partly demonstrate the importance of the self-portrait as a statement of intent to artists during the 17th century.

One of the works, by Frans van Mieris, is temporarily holidaying in The Netherlands from Polesden Lacey in Surrey. Van Mieris, who was only eclipsed by Rembrandt in the production and variety of his self-portraits, presents himself as a gentleman of rank in his portrait: curators say he wished history to remember him as a self-confident, distinguished artist at the height of his fame, leaning on a balustrade to create distance from his viewers.

The tools of the trade are dotted around this member of the fijnschilders group of fine painters. He holds brushes and a palette, while a painter’s easel stands behind a drawing and a book.

A black panel behind the artist is ready to be furnished with one of his planned works in a painting bought on behalf of Margaret Greville for £771 – around £17,000 today – at a Christie’s auction in 1919. Van Mieris’s age and the year in which the painting was made, 1667, appear to be cut into the stone.

Greville lavished her wealth on Polesden Lacey’s furnishings during her time as a society hostess. Royalty and the well-to-do of the Edwardian social scene could have seen her fine art collection at the house and estate near Dorking, admiring the talent of van Mieris – a figure known by Gerard Dou, the founder of the school in Leyden where the artist was born and died, as “the prince of his pupils”.

  • Frans van Mieris’s self-portrait will return to Polesden Lacey in early 2016 and go on public display again from March.

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The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace
The Dutch artists of the 17th century painted ordinary people doing everyday things. The forthcoming exhibition, Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer, offers a glimpse into the rumbustious life of village taverns and peasant cottages, and the quiet domesticity of courtyards and parlours. Runs November 13 — February 14.

Ferens Art Gallery, Hull
The gallery's first-class permanent collection of paintings and sculpture spans the medieval period to the present day. These include European Old Masters, particularly Dutch and Flemish, portraiture, marine paintings, modern and contemporary British art, including videos.

Shipley Art Gallery, Newcastle and Gateshead
As well as a collection of more than 700 breathtaking pieces by the country's leading craft makers, the gallery also houses a collection of historical paintings including Dutch and Flemish old masters.
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