WERFF, Adriaen van der
(b. 1659, Kralingen, d. 1722, Rotterdam)


Dutch painter of religious and mythological scenes and portraits, active mainly in Rotterdam. At the age of ten he started to take lessons, two years later moving in with Eglon van der Neer, specializing in clothes and draperie. At the age of seventeen he founded his own studio in Rotterdam where he later became the head of guild of Saint Luke.

In 1696 he was paid a visit by Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine and his wife Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici. The couple ordered two paintings to be send to Cosimo III de' Medici in Florence. During the next years Van der Werff traveled regularly between Düsseldorf and his home town. In 1703 he became the official court painter and a knight, when his former teacher and predecessor Van der Neer died. Van der Werff, with a perfect technique, was paid extremely well by the Elector for his biblical or classical (erotic) paintings. In 1705 he painted a portrait of Gian Gastone de' Medici. In 1716 he lost his job when the Elector died, because the treasury was empty.

He combined the precise finish of the Leiden tradition (learned from his master Eglon van der Neer) with the classical standards of the French Academy and became the most famous Dutch painter of his day, winning international success and earning an enormous fortune. Houbraken, writing in 1721, considered him the greatest of all Dutch painters and this was the general critical opinion for about another century. He is now considered an extremely accomplished, rather sentimental and repetitive minor master.

Van der Werff also worked as an architect in Rotterdam, designing elegant house façades. His brother, Pieter van der Werff, was his principal pupil and assistant, imitating Adriaen's style closely and making many copies of his work.