Portrait of a young girl, bust-length, in profile signed with monogram 'L' (lower left) oil on panel 45 x 38.3 cm. (17¾ x 15 in.)
PROVENANCE: George V, King of Hanover (1797-1857): his collector's mark, GRV with crown, on reverse of panel Bussche-Hünefeldt Collection B Hausmann Collection Fidi Commiss Galerie, Berlin, 1925, no. 38 Simon Muller Sale, Amsterdam, 27 October, 1927, lot 27 Guttmann collection, acquired circa 1927, subsequently inherited by the Bett family and thence by descent to the present owners
EXHIBITED: Hanover, Provinzialmuseum, 1905 Catalogue no. 207 London, Matthiesen Fine Art, Rembrandt's Influence in the 17th Century, 20 February-2 April, 1953, cat. no. 47, illustrated Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, 1990-2006
LITERATURE: Jhr.J.Six, 'Juwel unter Unbedeutendem bei Lievens' in Oud Holland XXXVII, 1919, p.86 H. Schneider, Jan Lievens, Sein Leben und seine Werke, Haarlem, 1932, S.142, no. 216 Matthiesen Fine Art, London, Exhibition Catalogue, Rembrandt's Influence in the 17th Century, 1953, no. 47m, illustrated E. Plietzsch, Holländische und flämische Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1960, p.177 H. Schneider and R.E.O.Ekkart, Jan Lievens. Sein Leben und seine Werke. Revidierte Neuausgabe, Amsterdam, 1973, p.332 Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, Vol. III, Landau, 1983, p.1805
Lievens depicts a rosy-cheeked girl, captured in profile by a pool of golden light. The mood is one of immense tranquillity, evoking perfectly her state of quiet contemplation. The palette is subtle, the pale pink of her dress, which is reflected more strongly in her cheeks and her hair-band, complementing the golden luminosity of her long, flowing hair, the form of which is masterfully conveyed by the virtuoso use of impasto in tandem with the artists favoured technique of working with the back of the brush in wet paint. Lievenss extraordinary talent as a portraitist was remarked on by Constantin Huygens, who was one of the most notable patrons of the arts in the United Provinces: in painting the human countenance he [Lievens] wreaks miracles, one would be rendering him good service by endeavouring to curb this vigorous, untameable spirit whose bold ambition is to embrace all nature, and by persuading the brilliant painter to concentrate on that physical part which miraculously combines the essence of the human spirit and body (C. Vogelaar et al. Rembrandt and Lievens in Leiden, Zwolle and Leiden, 1991, p.133).
Once easily overlooked as yet another Rembrandt follower, Lievens has more recently secured his place in art history as an innovatory force to be reckoned with in his own right, some art historians now arguing that his early work is equal to that of Rembrandt. Often simplistically labelled as one of the Rembrandt School, it is not at all the case that Lievens was Rembrandts pupil. On the contrary, Lievens, considered at the time to be a child prodigy, was apprenticed alongside Rembrandt to Pieter Lastman and indeed had the initial advantage, starting his training in 1614, while Rembrandt did not begin his until about 1620. Between 1625 and 1631 the two artists worked closely together, possibly sharing a studio. The early works show borrowings of composition and subject and the two used such a similar technique that unsigned works from this period can be difficult to ascribe accurately. Constantin Huygens ranked the two artists together in his 1631 autobiography, when he referred to a pair of noble and young painters (op. cit.,p.132). Indeed, in comparing the two artists talents, Huygens even went so far as to say that in some respects Lievens was better than Rembrandt because his magnificent invention and daring subjects and designs were greater.