Jan Mijtens was one of the most important Dutch portrait painters of the middle of the 17th century.
Maria of Orange-Nassau was the youngest of nine children of the Dutch Stadtholder Prince Frederick Henry and his wife Amalia of Solms-Braunfels. Our painting dates from the years prior to Maria’s wedding in 1666 with Louis Henry, Count Palatine of Simmern-Kaiserslautern.
About Jan Mijtens
The Hague 1613/14 – 1670 The Hague
He must have been a pupil of his two uncles, Daniel I and Isaac Mijtens.
Our painter, who is documented in The Hague between circa 1638 and 1670 was one of the main portrait painters of that town, together with Adriaen Hanneman and with Pieter Nason. Circa 1660 arrived two more important portrait painters in The Hague: Jan de Baen and Caspar Netscher (who had started painting genre scenes and from circa 1670 turned to small portraits).
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. Depite that important position The Hague was smaller than the other main Dutch towns. It actually received the title and the rights of a town in 1811, during a visit by Emperor Napoleon.
In 1642 Mijtens joined the local Painter’s Guild of Saint Luke in his native The Hague: it grouped both so-called fine and so-called decorative painters. In 1656 48 fine painters dissociated themselves from their original guild; they founded their own Confrerie Pictura. The so-called decorative painters continued to register in or to join the ancient Guild of Saint Luke. Our Jan Mijtens was one of the founding members of Confrerie Pictura.
His colours are very light, his technique fluid.
About Maria of Orange-Nassau
The Hague 1642 – 1688 Kreuznach
Youngest of nine children of the Dutch Stadtholder Prince Frederick Henry and his wife Amalia of Solms-Braunfels. Her father’s reign, which started in 1625, is considered the Golden Age of Holland: military (he successfully ended the Eighty Years War with the independence of Holland from Spain), economically and artistically. Her father passed away in 1647, when Maria was only four and a half years old.
She was named after Mary Henrietta Stuart, wife of her eldest brother and successor of her father as Prince of Orange and as Stadtholder, William II.
When she was 18 negotiations started for her marriage. She was in the running for marriages with Charles II of England (who married a Portuguese princess) and with John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen (an old cousin of her father who actually never got married).
In 1666 Maria married her second cousin, Louis Henry, Count Palatine of Simmern-Kaiserslautern (1640 – 1674) in Kleve, near the Dutch border. The couple lived at the Pfalz-Simmerner Hof in (Bad) Kreuznach. Their marriage lasted only for 7 years and remained childless.
Now a widow, Maria returned often to the Dutch Republic: she visited her young nephew William III in 1675 when he fell ill with the chickenpox (and she also fell ill with it) and she must still have been in Holland a few months later when her mother, Amalia, passed away. William III gave in usufruct the Lordship and Castle of Turnhout to his aunt, our Maria, after he had inherited it from Amalia. Maria continued its restoration and regularly visited Turnhout.
In 1684 she started restoring an abandoned nunnery outside Kreuznach, which she turned into a country house, Oranienhof.
Maria passed away in March 1688 from pneumonia. That same year in September started the Nine Years’ War (1688 – 1697) which saw the most barbaric destruction by the troops of the French King Louis XIV of the Electoral Palatinate (and its capital Heidelberg) and neighbouring areas; Simmern, Kreuznach and Oranienhof were completely destroyed by the French.
About our painting
The author of the monograph about Jan Mijtens, Alexandra Nina Bauer, dates our painting circa 1660/65. She thinks it must have been part of a series of portraits of members of the Orange-Nassau family, that was most probably in Castle Oranienstein in Diez an der Lahn in Rhineland-Paltz in 1726. That castle was build by our Maria’s elder sister, Countess Albertine Agnes of Nassau between 1672 and 1681.
Our painting dates from the years just before Maria’s wedding in 1666.
About the family of Jan Mijtens
Jan Mijtens belonged to a very important dynasty of painters active in seven European countries : Holland, Flanders, Italy, England, France, Sweden and Austria.
Aert Mijtens (1556 – 1601) was a Flemish painter from Brussels who moved to Italy in the early 1570s; he was active in Rome and in Naples.
Barend van Someren (1572 – 1632/33) was a Flemish painter, who was an apprentice of Aert Mijtens in Rome. In 1600 he married his master’s daughter and two years later, after the death of Aert Mijtens, he moved to Amsterdam, where he settled as a painter, engraver, art dealer and innkeeper.
Hendrick van Someren (1615 – circa 1684/85) was the son of Bernard van Somer, he was a painter in Amsterdam.
Of these three painters little to nothing is known.
Maerten Mijtens, the brother of Aert Mijtens, was a saddle maker at the court of the Prince of Orange. He was also active as an art dealer. Two of his sons were painters: Daniel I and Isaac.
Daniel Mijtens I (circa 1590 – circa 1647/1648), son of the saddle maker Maerten Mijtens, was a leading portrait painter in England from 1618 until the coming of Anthony van Dijck (1632), where after he returned in 1634 to The Hague. He married in 1612 an aunt of Daniel Cletcher (1599/1600 – 1632), a military painter and engineer in The Hague. His second wife was Susanna Droeshout, a painter of miniatures.
Isaac Mijtens (1602 – 1666), son of the saddle maker Maerten Mijtens and younger brother of Daniel I, was a little-known painter in The Hague.
Two other sons of Maerten Mijtens were saddle makers, like their father. One of these sons, David Mijtens, had a son, our Jan (or Johannes) Mijtens (circa 1614 – 1670), who was an important portrait painter in The Hague. Our Jan Mijtens married his full niece, Anna Mijtens, who was the daughter of Daniel Mijtens I.
Daniel Mijtens II (1644 – 1688) was the son of Jan and Anna Mijtens. Not many paintings are known by him: history subjects and a few portraits.
Martin Mytens I (1648 – 1736) spelt his last name indeed with an “Y”. He was a son of Isaac Mijtens. He was a successful portrait painter at the Swedish court in Stockholm.
Martin van Meijtens II (1695 – 1770), the son of Martin Mytens I, chose for yet another orthography of his last name. He travelled extensively (especially in Italy), before settling in 1731 as a successful painter at the court in Vienna.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a beautiful portrait of an elegant lady, painted by an important painter, in whose monograph of 2006 it is published.