VERSPRONCK, Jan Cornelisz
(b. ca. 1603, Haarlem, d. 1662, Haarlem)

Portrait of a Man and Portrait of a Woman

Oil on canvas, 81,3 x 66 cm (each)
Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede

Of the numerous individual likenesses of worthy sitters, most were intended to be seen with a "pendant," another portrait that represented the person's spouse. Pendants of married couples were the bread and butter of portrait painters such as Verspronck. This pair of well-executed portraits of an unidentified couple is characteristic of the voluminous genre, which did not change significantly over the first three quarters of the seventeenth century, except at the hands of innovative portraitists such as Rembrandt.

Even such apparently direct presentations rely on meaningful conventions. The paintings would have faced one another, perhaps on either side of a chimneypiece. Almost invariably, the woman's portrait would hang at right, the man's at left. From the perspective of the sitters, this convention placed the woman on the man's "sinister" (left-hand) or lesser side, according to theological and social formulas which valued the "dexter" (right-hand) position more highly. This rule conformed to seventeenth-century Dutch views of marriage as a partnership based on mutual affection but steered by the man.