Pieter Jacobsz Codde

Amsterdam 1599 - 1678

A Portrait of an Artist at his Easel


Oil on Panel




13.7(h) x 10.2(w) cms


Pieter Codde was born in Amsterdam and his artistic training and early activities are unknown. His earliest dated work, a small full-length portrait of a young man, is from 1625. Codde is known best for his genre scenes, particularly merry companies, and his manner shows the influence of his contemporaries Anthonie Palamedesz and Jacob Duck. Codde tended towards elegant interiors and family groups and his paintings produced before 1640 are characterized by a silvery tonality. See for instance Galant Company 1633 in the Rijksmuseum. Later on in his oeuvre the overall tone of his pictures becomes a deeper golden brown.

Frans Hals appears to have been another influence and it has been speculated that Codde may have been his pupil. It is well documented that in 1637 Codde completed the group portrait of the Amsterdam Civic Guards (known as The Meager Company and in the Rijksmuseum) which Hals had begun in 1633.

Codde's personal life was somewhat tumultuous. In 1623 he married Marritge Aerents Schilt, but they separated in 1636 soon after the death of their only child. In 1625 it was recorded that Codde got into fist fight at a wedding with his pupil Willem Duyster. Despite this Codde appears to have found success as an artist. He lived in comfortable circumstances in a house on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam and had been instrumental in editing out doubtful paintings from the collection of the princes of Orange.


Working away in his atelier we see a young artist absorbed in his work. In his right hand he holds a paint brush, his fingers close to the bristles to apply some minute detail. In his other hand he holds a maulstick to keep his right hand steady while his thumb hooks through a palette. Here two smears of paint, white and red, stand out brilliantly against the umber tones of his jacket and breeches.

Codde has imbued the scene with a quiet immediacy, full of studied silence and concentration. The bare studio draws the viewer's attention on the artist, who in turn focusses on his painting. A line of light, apparently cut off by the edge of a window, illuminates the side of his head and falls side-on against the easel and canvas. The artist sits with his legs akimbo so he can position himself closer to his painting, lips pursed, his attention undivided.

Pieter Codde painted several small works of artists and young men. These include one in the Museum Boijmans van Beunigen (inv. 1125), The Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille (inv. 240), Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (inv. 4411), and The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (inv. 3502). These young men have been represented wearing similar outfits of brown or black cloth, typical of professionals in the Netherlands. They all occupy spare rooms with rough wooden floors and sit informally on chairs positioned at oblique angles. The group can be dated to early 1630s.

In the 1620s some artists in the Netherlands began to simplify larger 'merry company' compositions into smaller character studies which, in turn, developed into and overlapped with tronies.


Anon. sale; Christie's, London, 2 Feb. 1945, lot 86 (as Codde, one of a pair with 'Soldiers Gambling').
Acquired at the above sale by Daan H Cevat (1913 - 1990);
By descent to the previous owner.