FLEMISH OR ITALIAN/VENETIAN SCHOOL (18TH CENTURY)
Portrait of an African boy
Oil on canvas, 69.5 x 49 cm
Portraits of African people were quite popular in the Netherlands during the second half of the 17th and most of the 18th century. Rembrandt, Govert Flinck, Jacques de Gheyn II, Caspar de Crayer, Frans van Mieris, Cornelis Troost and many others made portraits of Africans. They were often portrayed as young servant boys standing behind a white man or lady, but also as a Moorish prince or king, occasionally Africans who stayed in Holland as diplomats or students were portrayed but most portraits were studies of anonymous figures. Although the present portrait fits well in the Dutch tradition of portrait paintings of Africans, because of the Christian cross the boy is holding so prominently it is more likely to be from a Catholic country like Flanders or Italy than from Calvinist Holland.