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Sept. 16 Art Minute: Dirck Jacobsz, Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen Painting a Portrait of His Wife

Art Minute, Art of the Week, toledo museum of art
Dirck Jacobsz (Dutch, ca. 1497-1567), Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen Painting a Portrait of His Wife. Oil on wood panel, about 1550. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1960.7

An artist stands before his easel, painting a portrait. He looks out, presumably at the woman whose likeness he is painting. Yet on further consideration it becomes apparent that both the painter and the painted gaze out, but at whom? Who was originally intended to view this painting?

Dirck Jacobsz here depicted his deceased father, Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (about 1472-1533), also a painter. The painting within the painting shows Jacobsz’s mother, who died some years after her husband, possibly around the time this panel was painted. This unusual double portrait seems to be a kind of personal memorial by the son, who would have been positioned before the panel as painter, viewer, and object of his parents’ “attention.” The picture may also have served a more public function, since it possibly was installed above the couples’ grave.

This work is currently on view in Gallery 15.