Portrait Reflection

Johannes of Lucas van Doetechum’s painting, “Bruyntje Springh-in ‘t-Bed en Flip de Duyvel Boerenkoppen” caught my attention. The first thing that I noticed was the sitters’ serene facial expressions. With their lips almost forming a soft smile, both seem content. The woman looks off into the distance, while the man looks inquisitively toward the viewer. His gaze begs a response. The man’s questioning gaze reminded me of Grootenboer’s analysis of Michael Sweerts’s “Portrait of a Young Man”. The man and the boy both call their viewers to action. Grootenboer describes the relationship between sitter and viewer: “Whatever need there may be for Sweerts’ young man to have a ‘you’ in order to expound himself as a subject, is dramatically undermined by the medium of painting as such that anticipates yet never requires the audience to be present for the performance of the self to take place” (Grootenboer 332). It is up to the viewers whether they engage. Viewers who do decide to engage with the painting are filled with questions regarding these people. What is the relationship between these figures? Are they a couple? 

The pendent-like positioning of these individuals suggests that this is a married couple. It is interesting that the woman is on the left-hand side. Westermann comments on the significance of the pendant positions: “From the perspective of the sitters, this convention placed the woman on the man’s sinister (left-hand) or lesser side, according to theological and social formulas which valued the dexter (right-hand) position more highly” (Westermann 133). I wonder if the artist’s positioning choice reflects that the man and women are equals? 

Aside from the pendent positioning, I was drawn to the clothing in the painting. While several Dutch painters depicted sitters adorned in lavish clothing, the people in this painting are smartly dressed, yet they do not exude an air of opulence. My eyes were specifically drawn to the woman’s clean-cut collar. Their crisp and functional clothing align more closely with practical Dutch culture than expensive clothes would. Overall, the sitters’ clothing and facial expressions impress upon the viewer a sense of calmness. 

Johannes of Lucas van Doetechum, Bruyntje Springh-in ‘t-Bed en Flip de Duyvel Boerenkoppen, 1612 – 1652

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