Constantijn Netscher followed in the footsteps of his father, Caspar, as portrait painter. Both were active in The Hague, the residence of the Stadtholder, of the States of Holland and of foreign diplomats.
Our portrait is dated 1701. That very year an important treaty was signed in The Hague, shortly before the start of a pan-European war, the War of the Spanish Succession: it was an alliance between the Dutch Republic, Great Britain and Austria against King Louis XIV of France.
Our portrait is said to represent the Count of Martigny. Charles du Han de Martigny, Colonel of a Regiment of Cuirrassiers and General of the Cavalry must have travelled with the Holy Roman Austrian Habsburg Emperor Leopold I to The Hague. At this occasion Netscher painted our portrait. The Castle of Martigny was situated in Lorraine, close to the present-day Belgian and Luxemburg borders. There is just one minor flaw: Charles’ nephew Louis Philippe (aged circa 23 in 1701) was to be the first Count of Martigny, Charles was only Knight and Lord of Martigny.
About Constantijn Netscher
The Hague 1668 – 1723 The Hague
Son and pupil of Caspar Netscher (Prague or Heidelberg circa 1635/36 – 1684 The Hague), who had twelve children.
Brother of Theodorus Netscher (Bordeaux 1661 – 1728 Hulst), who was also a painter.
In 1709 Constantijn married the daughter of Jan (or Johannes) van Haensbergen (1642 – 1705), who was also a painter (of Italianate landscapes influenced by Cornelis van Poelenburgh and of portraits in the line of Caspar Netscher).
Constantijn’s father, Capsar Netscher, was an important portrait and genre scene painter of German origin. After the death of his father, a sculptor, his mother fled to Holland, where Caspar finally became a pupil of Gerard ter Borch. He lived for a few years in Bordeaux, before finally settling in The Hague around 1662. After 1670 he almost exclusively painted portraits, which there was a good market for in the capital, The Hague. He painted for the court, government, nobility and foreign diplomats. Caspar Netscher specialised in small, informal, elegant portraits inspired by French painting. Behind the sitting or standing figure one usually sees part of a park or garden.
Constantijn Netscher painted under the strong influence of his father, in a somewhat more conventional style. Paintings by Constantijn have regularly been attributed to his father Caspar. He almost exclusively painted portraits.
Our painter was the master of Coenraet Roepel (1678 – 1748, still life painter) and of Mattheus Verheyden (1700 – 1777, portrait painter).
About our Count of Martigny
The Castle of Martigny is situated in the village of Colmey in the Lorraine in Eastern France. Today it lies very close to the Belgian border; the Belgian town of Virton lies some 13 km N. of it. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Avioth (in France) is some 20 km to the NW. As to the border with Luxemburg that is some 30 km to the E. The original castle was built in 1573, but the building that one sees today dates from the start of the 19th century, except for two older towers in its rampart.
In 1701 Constantijn Netscher must have portrayed in this elegant, small-length portrait one of three candidates belonging to the du Han de Martigny family: either one of two brothers (sons of François du Han de Martigny and Louise de Wopersnou), Charles and Gabriel, or Gabriel’s son Louis Philippe.
1701, that is the year that our portrait was painted, was an important year for Europe, for that year the War of the Spanish Succession started; that devastating war, which lasted until 1714 was fought in major parts of the continent. In 1701 an anti-French league was being negotiated in The Hague. This resulted in the signing of the Treaty of The Hague, in fact a new Grand Alliance, signed September 7th 1701 between the Dutch Republic, Great Britain and Austria.
Only one of our three members of the du Han de Martigny family could have been in 1701 in The Hague, Charles. He served as a Colonel of a Regiment of Cuirrassiers and as General of the Cavalry of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (1640 – 1705). Count Johann Wenzel Wratislaw von Mitrowitz had been the Austrian negotiater, but Emperor Leopold I came in person to The Hague to sign the Treaty. Charles du Han de Martigny must have belonged to his staff.
As to Charles’ brother, Gabriel, he served as Ensign of the body guards of Duke Charles IV of Lorraine (1604 – 1675), so there is no link there with The Hague. He married in 1666 with Philiberte de Rivers or de Rivière. He passed away either before May 24th 1709 or already May 10th 1691.
The third candidate, Louis Philippe was born circa 1678 and passed away in 1733. He married in 1703. So he was just too young to have been portrayed here by Netscher.
But there is one last technical detail that I should mention here: Charles du Han was Knight and Lord, but not Count of Martigny. The Land of Colmey became only in 1727 a County, known as the County of Martigny. It was created for Gabriel’s son, Louis Philippe du Han de Martigny.
About the War of the Spanish Succession
In 1701 started the War of the Spanish Succession. It was a horrible war, fought all over Europe, in the S., W. and centre of the continent. It followed the childless death of Charles II, the severely handicapped last Habsburg King of Spain. Both the French Bourbons and the Austrian Habsburgs claimed the throne. Many European states were afraid that a strong alliance of France and Spain would be too powerful a threat for the balance of power in Europe. The War opposed France, Spain and Bavaria against Austria, the Dutch Republic, Great Britain, Prussia, Savoy and Portugal.
About The Hague
The Hague took a particuliar position in Holland. Since the end of the 16th century it has been the residence of the Stadtholder (and of his court and of foreign diplomats) and of the States of Holland, the highest sovereign power within the Dutch Republic. But on the other hand The Hague was known as a stain: it was larger than a village, but it only received the title and the rights of a town in 1806 from King Louis Bonaparte, who had been installed as King of Holland by his brother Napoleon Bonaparte.
Because of its particular position as the centre of power and government The Hague has always attracted an important number of painters, especially of portrait painters, although it was much smaller than the other Dutch towns.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because this is history in the making: the orange curtain, tablecloth and sash are referring to the Dutch Republic, where this beautiful, small full-length portrait was painted, but the clouds of war are already threatening this foreign commander in his brightly lid armour.
Because this is one of Netscher’s very rare full-length portraits.