Thomas van der Wilt
1659 – 1733
An Unknown Young Girl
Oil on canvas: 21 13/16 x 17 1/2 inches, 54.6 x 43.8 cm
- Private collection, U.S.A.
The young girl in this exquisite little portrait is whimsically presented by the artist in classical costume, adorned with pearls, symbols of her purity. She holds a rose from an urn of flowers, their fresh blooms symbolic of her ‘coming-of-age’, while a statue of the goddess Diana by a fountain in a capriccio landscape beyond alludes to her chastity. Such small-scale ‘presentation’ portraits set in imaginary, aspirational landscapes with virtuosic perspective, were a specialism of van der Wilt, of which ours is a beautiful example and in particularly well-preserved condition.
A Delft artist, Thomas van der Wilt was a pupil of Jan Verkolje, who pioneered the mezzotint engraving technique, of which van der Wilt became famously adept. His attention to fine detail, a result of this training, led him to paint wonderfully precise portraits and genre scenes. He entered the guild of St. Luke some time after 1677, and was several times appointed headman between 1690 – 1714. Van der Wilt lived on the east side of the Koornmarkt, where he received commissions from the well-heeled of Delft. In the contemporary author Boitet’s History of Delft, published in 1729, many works by Thomas van der Wilt were listed in prominent Delft collections, including an Anatomy Lesson for the Guild. Examples of his work can be seen in the collections of the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, and the Provincial Museum of Linz.
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