(b. ca. 1472, Oostzan, d. 1533, Amsterdam)


Oil on panel, 38 x 30 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Occasionally a painting contains extra information, about the scene itself, for example, or about the artist. This self-portrait by the Amsterdam painter Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen tells us important facts about his life. The note with the date 1533 and the house mark between an I and an A appear to announce that Iacobus Amstelodamensis, or Jacob of Amsterdam, painted this portrait of himself in 1533. It is known from the archives that Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, the person behind the name Jacob of Amsterdam, must have died before 18 October 1533, the date of a document stating that his wife was a widow. That and the date on the Self-Portrait appear to be conclusive evidence that the artist did indeed die that year.

However, it has been suggested that he was dead by 1532, when one of his houses was sold. So 1533 or 1532 - it is not known for sure. On top of that, there are doubts about when the Self-portrait was actually executed. It is very close in style to the paintings that Jacob Cornelisz made around 1525, and he is not known to have made any more after 1526. It is possible that the date was added later, in the year of his death, and that we are looking at a Van Oostsanen who is younger than he appeared in 1533.

There is another panel in which the same man is seated before an easel, painting the portrait of an older woman. It is by Dirck Jacobsz, the couple's son, who traced the head in the Rijksmuseum Self-Portrait and used it for the man by the easel. He then added his mother's likeness, creating an anachronistic scene: a portrait of his father as he probably looked before 1533, and one of his mother as she appeared around 1550.