In the first part of this post, using the Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting Doubting Thomas, we explored the biography and style of Dutch artist Adriaen van der Werff (a self-portrait of him from the Rijksmuseum is to the left). This week, we’re going to trace the provenance of Doubting Thomas and see what it tells us about the history of taste in art and trends in collecting.
Van der Werff was one of the most famous painters of his day and was known internationally throughout his career. He was in demand in his earlier career for his rich portraits in the popular “Fine School” style. One example of his early work is the 1685 painting in the National Gallery, London called Portrait of a Man in a Quilted Gown.
Then in the 1690’s van der Werff’s paintings became more and more influenced by the classical style admired in France. He already had a tendency to use richer detail and elegant lines in his Fine School paintings. An important reason for this transition is the fact that the new style was preferred by patrons in the late Baroque period. If you want to make a living, you paint want people want to buy!