Portrait of a Child

Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp (1594 1652)

Oil on wood
Height: 118.5 cm
Width: 85 cm
Signed on lower left: G Cuyp / ANNO 1640 / I ½
Inventory Number
Dr. Clemens Sels Collection

Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp is principally known for his attractive portraits of children. At this period 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. The flower, taken together with the red cherries, 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 portrait of a child is an expression both of parental love and of the desire by a self-assured class of burghers to show off their wealth.


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