Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp


Portrait of a Child, 1640
Oil on wood / 118.5 x 85 cm
Signed on lower left: G Cuyp / ANNO 1640 / I ½
Inv. no. D1324 / Dr. Clemens Sels Collection

Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp is principally known for his attractive portraits of children. In his time childhood was not viewed as a separate phase of life, but children were considered unfinished adults. Accordingly the girl in this portrait is dressed in grown-up clothing. While the child's face and outfit are given an individual treatment, the rose and cherries she is holding belong to the painter's standard symbols. The rose stands for the beauty of the growing girl and emphasizes the feminine character of the picture. But taken together with the red cherries, the flower also has an allegorical meaning. An old Dutch proverb says – in rough translation – that green cherries should grow red and little children should grow big. At a time when child mortality was high, the rose in full bloom and the ripe cherries also express the hope of the parents to see their child "ripen" into adulthood. The meticulously painted child portrait is an expression both of parental love and of the desire by a self-assured middle class to show off its prosperity.