Thomas de Keyser (Dutch, 1667)


Thomas de Keyser was the son of the sculptor and architect Hendrick de Keyser I (1565-1621), famous as the designer of the tomb of William the Silent. Thomas’s brother Pieter (1595-1676) became a sculptor and architect and his brother Willem (1603-after 1674) a sculptor and mason. Thomas trained with his father in architecture from 1616 to 1618 and probably studied with the portrait painter Cornelis van der Voort (1576-1624). During the second half of the 1620s de Keyser evolved a highly influential type of small-scale, full length portrait with a free, yet meticulous touch, which appealed to the rising class of Dutch burghers and intellectuals who were his patrons. It combined the grace of court portraiture with an easy informality of pose and realistic interior settings in which the precision of architecture and care lavished on still life elements are notable. Among the best known of these small-scale works is the portrait of the Stadholder’s polymathic secretary Constantijn Huygens and his clerk, 1627 (National Gallery, London). The format influenced not only portraiture but the interior genre paintings of Pieter Codde and Willem Duyster in the 1620s
De Keyser also undertook large-scale group portraits, the most important of which wasThe Company of Captain Allaert Cloeck and Lieutenant Lucas Jacobsz. Rotgans, finished in 1632 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). By the mid-1630s de Keyser had painted several innovative family portraits in a small-scale format, such as Portrait of a couple and two children, 1639 (National Gallery, Oslo), which is an early example in the northern Netherlands of a family portrait being treated in a fully secular manner. Around 1635 de Keyser made a number of religious paintings.
Owing to the uncertain economy of the Netherlands, in the 1640s de Keyser bolstered his income by joining his brother Pieter (1595-1676) in the trading of stone and marble. They had considerable dealings with their brother-in-law, the London sculptor Nicholas Stone I, and through this contact de Keyser was influenced by English court portraiture. His clients of these years, architects, sculptors and engineers, reflected the business circles in which he moved. In 1652 de Keyser was commissioned to paint Ulysses beseeching Nausicaa for the new Amsterdam Stadhuis (now Royal Palace; in situ) while his brother Willem was working on the construction. His last known painting is the Equestrian portrait of two men, 1661 (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Zwinger, Dresden). Thomas followed his father and two brothers into service for the city of Amsterdam, acting as city mason from 1662 until his death in 1667.
The work of Thomas de Keyser is represented in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Royal Palace, Amsterdam; the Catharijneconvent, Utrecht; the National Gallery, London; the National Gallery, Oslo; the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen; the Pushkin Museum, Moscow and the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Zwinger, Dresden.