Continental School, circa 1675 A pair of portraits of Cornelis (1623-1672) and Johan de Witt (1625-1672): the former, wearing doublet with sash and lace falling collar, his curling hair worn long; the latter, wearing black robe with white lawn collar, his curling hair worn long beneath a black skull cap
Lot 6Y
Continental School
circa 1675
A pair of portraits of Cornelis (1623-1672) and Johan de Witt (1625-1672): the former, wearing doublet with sash and lace falling collar, his curling hair worn long; the latter, wearing black robe with white lawn collar, his curling hair worn long beneath a black skull cap
Sold for £2,500 (US$ 3,661) inc. premium

Lot Details
Continental School, circa 1675
A pair of portraits of Cornelis (1623-1672) and Johan de Witt (1625-1672): the former, wearing doublet with sash and lace falling collar, his curling hair worn long; the latter, wearing black robe with white lawn collar, his curling hair worn long beneath a black skull cap.
Engraved on ivory, gilt-metal frames.
Oval, 65mm (2 9/16in) high (2)
Provenance: Bonhams, London, 21 May 2008, lot 21.

Footnotes

  • Johan de Witt was a key figure in Dutch politics during the mid-seventeenth century, at a time when the Republic of the United Provinces was one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world.

    In 1653 de Witt became 'raadpensionaris' of Holland and so, de facto head of the Dutch governing body. In this capacity, he was able to bring his expert mathematical knowledge to bear on the Republic's financial and budgetary problems - partly by strengthening the all-important Dutch Navy, a key factor in the Republic's increase in wealth and influence around this time. The following year, 1654, de Witt also brought about peace with England, brokering the Treaty of Westminster after the First Anglo-Dutch War.

    Influenced by the values of the Roman republic, he consolidated his position by publicly endorsing the theory of republicanism. De Witt's principal power base, the so-called 'States faction', was the wealthy merchant class, who stood in opposition to the 'Orange faction', which drew the bulk of its support from the working class. During the Dutch 'rampjaar', or 'disaster year', of 1672, when the combined forces of France and England attacked the Republic, the Orange faction took power by force and expelled him. Recovering from an earlier attempt on his life in June, he was brutally murdered by a carefully organised lynch mob whilst visiting his brother Cornelis in prison, where he was being held on trumped-up charges of treason.

    Immediately after their deaths, the bodies of the De Witt brothers were stripped and eviscerated, and their hearts gouged out, before being strung up on a lamp-post. This episode, the subject of a gruesome painting by Jan de Baen in the collection of Rijksmuseum, has come to be regarded as the most violent and shameful in the history of Dutch politics. A statue in Dordrecht commemorates the pair.
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