Male Portrait (Primary Title)

Gerard Ter Borch, Dutch, 1617 - 1681 (Artist)

ca. 1640
oil on copper
Unframed: 20 × 14 7/8 in. (50.8 × 37.78 cm)
Framed: 27 1/2 × 22 in. (69.85 × 55.88 cm)

Gerard Ter Borch specialized in domestic interiors and in small, apparently simple, yet sophisticated portraits of well-to-do clients. He painted these portraits of an unidentified husband and wife on expensive sheets of copper; the metal’s smooth surface allowed artists to paint with meticulous detail.

The figures stand before empty, neutral backgrounds; the irregular outlines of their hats, ruffs, and outfits enliven the paintings. Ter Borch’s subtle characterization of the sitters also adds interest and variety. The man stands resolutely, cocking his head and pressing one arm behind his back. The woman turns sideways. The wide drape of her garments and her demure stance contrast with her husband’s more active figure, conveying distinct ideals of manner and behavior considered then to be appropriate for each gender.

Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Collection
Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., Gerard Ter Borch exhibition catalogue (New York: American Federation of Arts, 2004) pp. 9, 56, 58, 197, cat. no. 5, color ill. p. 57,

Hanneke Grootenboer, “How to Become a Picture: Theatricality as Strategy in Seven-teenth-Century Dutch Portraits,” Art History, Vol. 33, No. 2, April 2010. fig. 2 (b&w) p. 324.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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