Two Dutch school portraits of children turned a few heads at the Rafael Valls/Sotheby’s sale, continuing a run of 17th century child portraits performing well against estimates over the past two years.
One was a portrait of a young girl next to a draped red curtain holding a fan in her proper right hand. Dating from c.1640, it was a vintage example of the kind of works commissioned by wealthy families to show their children in their finest garb, demonstrating their status, parental pride and sense of fashion.
The 3ft 6in x 4ft (1.06 x 1.21m) oil on panel had been purchased in May 2018 at an auction in Rotterdam but, having since had its underlying quality revealed, here it drew strong interest against a £8000-12,000 estimate and sold at £65,000 to a private collector.
Also drawing bidding against the same estimate but by a different hand was a portrait of a young boy depicted full-length and holding a baton and a hobby horse.
This picture was a 3ft 2in x 2ft 1in (95 x 63cm) oil on oak panel but the figure was en silhouette (meaning it was painted on a panel with the edges following the outline of the figure).
This technique sometimes known as a ‘dummy board’ or ‘silent companion’ was popular at this time. Works were often displayed without a frame so the trompe l’oeil style would fool viewers into thinking that the flat panel was a real figure.
Andrew Fletcher of Sotheby’s said it was the first example he could remember of such a work on the London market.
It sold at £24,000 to a private collector.