HELST, Bartholomeus van der
(b. 1613, Haarlem, d. 1670, Amsterdam)

Portrait of Gideon de Wildt

Oil on canvas, 136 x 119 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

In 1657, the leaders of the United Provinces sent warships under the command of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter (1607-1676) to the Spanish port of Cádiz. where the Dutch captured two French pirate ships to prevent the pirates from obstructing Dutch trade. as a reward for their success, the admiralty of Amsterdam gave De Ruyter and three of his captains, Gideon de Wildt (1624-1665) among them, a gold chain and medallion. It was probably to mark this occasion that De Wildt commissioned a pair of portrait of himself and his wife from the Amsterdam elite's favourite painter, Bartholomeus van der Helst.

In this portrait, behind the three-quarter figure are three warships, sailing beneath a cloud-strewn sky. As was common practice in the studios of the time, such traditional details in portraits of naval commanders were generally executed by artists who specialized in marine scenes. In this painting, the task was probably assigned to Willem van de Velde the Younger.

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