COQUES, Gonzales
(b. 1614, Antwerpen, d. 1684, Antwerpen)

Family Group in a Landscape

1647
Oil on canvas, 113 x 117 cm
Wallace Collection, London

In the first half of the seventeenth century cabinet-sized portraits were created in Antwerp which can be regarded as the forerunners of the later conversation pieces. (Example: The Painter and His Family by Teniers.) In these pictures people are shown interacting in a room or a garden. Partly because of their small size and their picturesque representation of decor and emblematic attributes and details, these pictures have very distinct genre characteristics and are sometimes called 'genre portraits'.

Gonzales Coques is the real creator and most prominent representative of the conversation piece. From the start he specialized in cabinet-sized group portraits. His earliest work, of the 1640s, includes scenes located in a room with the background painted in great detail. The figures portrayed are shown fairly large, and situated close to the foreground in the parlours of prosperous burghers of Antwerp of the time. In these early portraits by Coques it is noticeable that there are no interactions between the characters, they look out of the painting in isolation.

After 1640 Coques gradually attained a manner of presentation in which more numerous figures were linked to each other by a well-conceived exchange of gestures and glances, in other words, they appear to be in conversation. Family Group in a Landscape is the first dated work illustrating this change in Coques's style. The painter is here inspired by the poses and expression of portraits by Van Dyck.