Jacob Fransz van der Merck
c. 1610 – 1664
A Portrait of a Gentleman standing, full Length, dressed in black, holding a Kerchief, with a square Lace Collar
Born in s'Gravendeel near Dordrecht in the early 17th century van der Merck appears to have begun his career in Delft in 1631. He moved back to Dordrecht in 1640 where he was a member of the Guild before marrying in The Hague and moving there in 1649 where he was also a Guild member. From 1658 he was established and working in Leiden until his death.
Van der Merck specialised as a portrait painter, though he also executed a few paintings of exotic birds and interior scenes. A specialty of his were small full length portraits of sitters in splendid clothes against stark backgrounds.
This portrait of a handsomely dressed gentleman is a typical example of the work of van der Merck. His full-length portraits tend to show a supremely confident man or woman against a plain background standing in a swaggering posture, with feet pointing at angles and a hand on the hip, a pose fashionable in portraits throughout the 17th century.
Some full-lengths by van der Merck show cavaliers and extravagantly dressed ladies, which are presumably imaginary sitters, such as Cavalier with a Hat in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Rather than a cavalier, our sitter is perhaps a wealthy burgher and wears sobre black clothing, though undoubtedly of fine cloth. A considerable number of paintings in this manner are dated to the 1630s and early 1640s near the beginning of van der Merck's career, and so we may tentatively date our work to this period.
Heydon Grange, Norfolk.