HELST, Bartholomeus van der
(b. 1613, Haarlem, d. 1670, Amsterdam)
Regents of the Walloon Orphanage1637
Oil on canvas
Maison Descartes, Amsterdam
A marked change in the Dutch portraitist's conception of his task becomes apparent in the work of Bartholomeus van der Helst. His portraits take on some of Van Dyck's elegance, which began to affect Dutch art about 1640. Adriaen Hanneman (1610-71) returned to The Hague with Van Dyckian motifs about 1637, after more than a ten-year stay in England, and the portraits he and his pupils made for courtly patrons helped to set the new fashion.
Van der Helst's marriage in Amsterdam in 1636 suggests he had settled there by then. In the following year, at the age of twenty-four, he was commissioned to paint the Regents of the Walloon Orphanage, his earliest existing dated work. Its crowded composition and dry touch recall the portraits of Nicolaes Eliasz Pickenoy; these similarities are the basis for the hypothesis that Pickenoy was his teacher.