Continental European before 1800, Dress and Textiles 33 Can the coat of arms in this work be identified?

Portrait of a Burgomaster
Topic: Subject or sitter

A member of the public sent in an email to note that more information may be found about the sitter of this painting if the coat of arms can be identified.

They also wrote:
'The Burgomaster's Wife, which is a mirror image composition and gives every indication of having been by the same artist. It also has a design in the upper left-hand corner which might be a coat-of-arms. Also, the lady is identified as holding a key in her right hand, but it seems more like the handle of a feathered fan or duster.'

Jade King, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Neil Jeffares,

A detail of this coat and an image of the other might help. But the arms themselves are so simple (argent, three chevrons sable) they are unlikely to be unique

David Wille,

In heraldic language, you are looking for an armorial "d'argent a trois chevrons de sable". A search for such a device will yield quite a number of families. There is a member of a Dutch family, called Jean de Grijspere, who bears these arms. A detailed image of the armorial would of course be of help, as the crest also bears some significance.

Jochen Suy,

Is the symbol on his chest a Tau? In that case, he is a member of the Antonines.

Neil Jeffares,

One possiblity may be the Ryckel d'Oorbeek family

Neil Jeffares,

The symbol on the burgomaster’s wife’s portrait are indeed arms: "de gueules à deux fasces d'hermine". This is probably an error for "d'hermine à deux fasces de gueules", the arms of the Corswarem family which were quartered with those of the Ryckel family in later generations. But an exact match in this generation isn't immediately apparent.

David Wille,

Thank you for posting the link to the wife. If the two paintings form a pair – husband and wife - , as would seem likely, then the very different form of depicting the armorial devices is relevant. The lozenge shape is a specifically Dutch form of representation; the man’s armorial is typical for 16th and 17th century representation in Germanic speaking countries, including Switzerland.
Thus you might wish to consider the noble family from Fribourg, called d’Affry, who also settled in Île-de-France and the Bourbonnais. Their armorial device mirrors the one depicted, including the conical cap crowning the open helmet, charged with the same chevrons. Herewith included an image from a 16th century source and two links below.

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Osmund Bullock,

David, the lozenge is by no means a specifically Dutch form of escutcheon. What it is in English post-mediaeval heraldry (and seemingly in some other countries, though I know little of that) is a specifically *female* shield-shape - indeed since 1561 it has been the compulsory - form for any woman whose arms are being shown on their own. Over here that would only be if she were unmarried or widowed: a married woman would show things differently. But I won't go into that, and in any case conventions were different on the continent - notably the way a husband's and wife's escutcheons are often shown side-by-side but touching (accolée), while in England they are shown united in a single shield. All of which is barely relevant, unless it implies she is not his wife - and in all probability she is. But neither she nor the picture has to be Dutch on armorial grounds.

Back to the man. The d'Affry suggestion seems very good indeed, particularly with the "chapeau pyramidal" bearing the same charges. At this resolution, though, one can't be sure we have the arms absolutely right, and this is even more so in the case of (presumably) his wife. Neil, I'm not certain that the dark shapes on the two bars are meant to be ermine spots, they seem too heavy - could the 'fur' (if that's what it is) be VAIR (if the blue has darkened)? Alternatively the field could be semé of billets, or even chequy. Without a high-res you just can't tell - but if anyone has time to look up the wives of some early C17th d'Affrys (I don't just now), there will be plenty of possible families. In fact, even if the field *is* ermine, several early British families bore that coat, so I imagine there will be continental ones too.

Oddly, I have spent many hours researching a much later member of the d'Affry family - Adèle, known as 'Marcello' (1836-79), a rather good sculptor, and indeed born in Fribourg. Unfortunately I didn't look at her ancestry at all.

Dave Evans 01,

I don't want to further muddy the waters and it may not be pertinent at all but there are at least partial matches for both sets of arms in 'Armorial de Flandre du XVIme siècle : familles et communes flamandes métiers gantois,' Paul Bergmans, Bruxelles, G. van Oest, 1919.

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a freely available complete version online but if anyone has a Pinterest account they should be able to view the plates and index hereècle-by-paul-and-ja/

The husband's arms of 'argent three chevronels sable'' are on f28 listed as no 439 'Hedeghem (Grisperre)' and there is a differenced form of the wife's 'barry of five gules and ermine' (with the addition of 'a bordure ermine') on f25 no 387 given as 'Valkyghem'. That said my ignorance of continental heraldry is pretty profound and this may not be relevant at all and I mention it as much in the expectation that it will be discounted as considered useful.

As Osmund said the d'Affry suggestion seems good given the additional detail of the crest and a higher definition image of both sets of arms would be useful.

Neil Jeffares,

We have to remember that the portraits appear t be Flemish rather than Swiss, so the Flanders suggestions are more relevant. The wife's arms may have been misread, but at the resolution I can see the "fasces échiquitées d’argent & de sable” is probably a pixellation effect (I can find no such arms for any family on a gueules shield). If my interpretation as ermine is correct, the only match I can suggest for the right time, place and arms is Henri Scroots ( d.1640), échevin and secrétaire de la ville de Saint-Trond, who married Cécile Van Vorssen (born before 1579). See Herckenrode pp. 5, 125:;="scroots"+"van+vorssen"&hl=en&sa=X&ei=V3WEVKTJKMzuULy3gPgP&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q="scroots" "van vorssen"&f=false

Osmund Bullock,

Could we make an official request for a high (or at least higher) res image of this, please? Or at least close-ups of his and her (the other portrait) coats-of-arms, of his intriguing brooch, and perhaps also of his signet ring (on the thumb by the sword hilt) - the last will probably prove too small to be useful, but I'm interested by how obviously he is displaying it.

Osmund Bullock,

CANCEL THAT - Neil, my congratulations, you've done it!

Here are the arms of van Vorsen [sic]:
"Vorsen (van) (en français de Frésin) P. de Liège - De gueules à deux fasces d'hermine..."
(This is from the transcription of Rietstap's armorial here: )

From the same source the arms of Scroots:
"Scroots Saint-Trond, Tongres - (Les Noirs Scroots:) - D'argent à trois chevrons de sable. Cimier - un bonnet conique aux armes de l'écu..."

So the crest is also right.

There seems no serious doubt that these are portraits of Henri Scroots, alderman and joint Burgomaster (1597) of the town of Saint-Trond (now Sint-Truiden, 20 miles or so NW of Liège), and of his wife Cécile Van Vors(s)en.

There are masses of details of his civic life to be found in the book here:

Only time to skim just now, but he seems to have been a draper, appointed one of his guild's two delegates to the town in 1590, elected joint burgomaster in 1597, with a lot of further distinguished activity into the 1620s. He seems to have died in December 1629, but had a son (and possibly a father) of the same name to confuse matters. When I have a moment I'll read more carefully, and also see if I can track down the date of their marriage.

Bruce Trewin,

Could the drapery on the upper left be a 'nod' to his metier?

Osmund Bullock,

I don't know about the drapery, but I would guess his brooch and/or signet ring might well relate to his civic position(s). So perhaps still worth close-ups.

David Wille,

Back online, I read with interest that Neil might have solved the puzzle - congratulations. I do think it would still be of great interest to see details of his armorial device, his pendant and his ring, as well as her armorial device and her rather amazing six-petal rose pendant, mabe centred by a Virgin Mary?
I am grateful to Osmund for having set me right about the lozenge-shaped armorial.
The result does surprise me slightly, as, based on style and the ruff collar specifically, I would have dated the paintings around 1625 - and assumed his age around 30-35.

Tim Williams,

The drapery is just a compositional device used by many painters of the period. The top bar of the brooch is a style that was used to fasten jewellery of the period, so the main section of the brooch is probably a relatively simple cross, in this portrait of Johan Kelffken below a similar bar is used to fasten a medallion.[kunstenaar]=Wedig,+Gotthardt+de&query;=&start=17

I would expect the cross and ring both have some symbolic significance and second the call for close ups!

The artist is circle of Jan van Ravesteyn, someone like Jan Urbeijns de Salle but even closer to some of the 'Anonymous' attributions in the RKD database.

Osmund Bullock,

David, I think your 1625 date doesn't have to be far off.

The very confusing dates ("née le 22 novembre 1519, morte le 15 septembre 1579") given at the top of the Google books page (Herchenrode) that Neil linked us to must (from the gender) refer to Cécile Van Vorssen's grandmother, Cécile Van den Putte, not (as it first appears) to her father, Jean Van Vorssen. This becomes clearer if you scroll to the page before, where the illustration of Jean's tomb bears a death or burial date of 1631. [Actually the same illustration shows the Van Vors(s)en arms we were looking for, together with an analogous pair of husband and wife shields].

Thus Cécile, the wife of Henri Scroots, does not need to have been born before 1579. And in fact according to this webpage
Cécile Van Vorsen was baptized at St-Trond on October 1584 (the same year her sister-in-law, Anne, was born, according to Herchenrode). Internet sources of course need to be treated with caution, but in this case there is a good and detailed reference given for the record.

I would put the ages of the man and woman in the portraits somewhat older than you - 33-38 for her, he perhaps a little older. Assuming her birth year to be 1584, this takes us to 1617-22, and within spitting distance of your thoughts.

I've now realised there are no less than six volumes of Saint-Trond Archives, and all but one are online at So there may be much more to discover, unless their division is by date. Perhaps that's where Cécile's baptism is to be found...

There has been some great work identifying, with some certainty, the armorilas and thus the sitters. To help confirm these I think we need more documentary evidence of their birth dates, more opinions on their ages (I would go for even older than Osmund), and, crucially, opinions from dress historians on their distnct dress. Lou Taylor has now been included in this discussion.

Osmund Bullock,

I am already working on this, Andrew, but will only be able to give it intermittent attention during the next month. Also having no Dutch, and no prior knowledge of Flemish-Belgian records, it's tough. However, I have already found an official C19th index showing the marriage of Henri Schroots & Cécile Vorssen on 26th Dec 1610 at Notre-Dame, Sint-Truiden - but the original register has either been lost or is not (?yet) online. In the C19th Saint-Trond Civic Archives book(s) I mentioned in a previous post, there are records from the mid-1620s that seem to speak of his adult son, also Henri: so I think this must have been a second marriage. But I've yet to list the archive entries systematically to understand the chronology - there are 100 or more Sc(h)roots entries, with many spelling variants.

I've also found an index entry/part-transcription of his death/burial at N-D on 7th Dec 1629 - but the scale of the problems ahead is illustrated by the presence of three other deaths recorded for a Henri Schroots in the index for Sint-Truiden in 1624, 1629 (a different one) and 1640!

I'm attaching an image of the marriage index entry.

Osmund Bullock,

It is of course very possible, but far from certain at the moment, that the (?)21st Feb 1590 marriage entry for 'Henri Schroots' (two above his 1610 one to Cécile) is his first one. Incidentally, if anyone feels like making a stab at deciphering the surname of the bride, Cathérine, I would be grateful. It looks like 'Chaegen', but that doesn't seem to be right.

Osmund Bullock,

Ah, of course - once more, thank you, Neil.

The genealogy you link to is most interesting, but perhaps even more important is the tomb described by Herckenrode (1845) on page 15 - see;=#v=onepage&q="henric scroots"&f=false . They show that the Henri Schroots who married Cathérine Thaeyen in 1590 could not have been the Henri Schroots - 'our' Henri - who married Cécile (Van) Vorssen in 1610: (1) Cathérine did not die until 1622, so cannot have been succeeded as second wife by Cécile in 1610; and (2) the two Henris had different arms - our Henri is of 'Les Noirs Scroots', while the other was of their cousins 'Les Rouge...'. We also learn from the tomb that Henri (Rouge)'s son Henri is the one who died in 1640. I may get to the bottom of this family yet...

Yes, I'd spotted that reference to Cécile's birth (see my last-post-but-two of about 5 days ago, and subsequent discussion vis à vis her age) - but although an archival source is given, I need if possible to check that direct.

Neil Jeffares,

Daniel Peeters has now found in the Fonds Schaetzen de Schaetzenhoff, archives of Tongres, 28 December 1610, a mention of a “postnuptial contract”:
Hendrik Schroots370 en Cecilia van Vorssen.
1960 Huwelijksvoorwaarden, 28 december 1610.

Note 370 confirms that Hendrik was “Secretaris van sint-Truiden, zoon van Hendrik”: his father’s name also appears in the marriage register but some may have found to difficult to read. It would appear (from Straven’s Inventaire, p. 505) that he succeeded his father as échevin of Sint-Truiden in 1622, and in turn died on 7 December 1629. He appears to have been a fishmonger (his father was the draper). I’m sorry if this makes Cecilia a fishwife.

Has the museum any more information about the provenance of the work before Lord Leverhulme?

Is it time perhaps to look at painters active in Saint-Trond c.1625 to see if a possible attribution can be made? I can find virtually nothing by Déodat Delmont. The expressions seem quite distinctive, and seem to rule out the main liégeois portraitist at this time, Gérard Douffet. There is mention in Straven of Schroots’s trips to Brussels in the 1620s: perhaps we should look there for the artist. This is not my field however.

Neil Jeffares,

With the assistance of Daniel JSM Peeters and Dr Med René Victor de Clercq, the somewhat difficult entry in the marriage register has been decrypted. The date (which we knew from the index was 26 December) is not given in numerals, but as St Stephen's Day. The couple's parents names are also given, as already known.

The research posted by Neil and Osmund about the sitters of these portraits has been most impressive and compelling. Neil, could I ask you please to post for the Bolton Museum a concise statement of the identities of the sitters and their dates of birth, marriage and death. I shall not yet conclude the discussion as it may be possible eventually to identify the artist, despite the very provincial nature of the works.

Neil Jeffares,

He is Henri or Hendrik Scroots or Schroots (?–1629), échevin and secrétaire de la ville de Saint-Trond, who in 1610 (on St Stephen's day, 26 December) married Cécile van Vorssen (1584–?). He succeeded his father (also Hendrik) as échevin in 1622. It seems that among his civic responsibilites he was "expert du poisson".

Thank you very much, Neil. This is effectively the answer to the question we were set. There is much supporting material in earlier postings for the museum to explore. I shall not yet conclude the discussion in the hope that we can identify a probable attribution.

Since so much research was carried out on this painting three years ago, and the original question effectively answered, could we perhaps revive this discussion to try to find a likely attribution, as Tim suggested?

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

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