Completed Continental European before 1800 25 Could this work definitely be by Frans van Mieris the younger?

The Artist Willem van Mieris with a Black Cap and Spectacles
Topic: Artist

The identity of the sitter (as Willem van Mieris, father of Frans) was proved by Betsy Wieseman at the National Gallery but she has been unable to do further research for us because the NG doesn’t answer enquiries about other people’s paintings. The picture has been restored and a previously illegible date (1738) was found but perhaps precisely on account of the restoration, experts might be reluctant to give a firm answer as to its original artist. Nevertheless if there are no other versions of this (other than the preparatory sketch in the Rijksmuseum) perhaps some authority somewhere could pronounce on whether or not it is indeed by the artist we think. (Certainly the auction house catalogue from where we bought the picture was utterly wrong and is therefore no guide to our research).

College of Optometrists, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade King,

The artist of this painting is now definitively considered to be Frans van Mieris the younger (1689–1763): the uncertain attribution note has been removed from the record.

These changes will appear on the Your Paintings website by the end of November 2014. Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.

24 comments

Alice Read,

Hi Bendor, thank you for your comment. I will be sending the high resolution image to your email as per the request of the collection.

Alice Read,

If anyone else would like to see the high resolution image please let me know and I can send directly on an individual basis.

Bart Cornelis,

It does seem to have all the hallmarks of a FvM II painting. Compare the relatively good pic of the painting at the Lakenhal, Leiden, here: http://www.bb-art.com/en/product/320 (hover with mouse over the image at the right).

Alice Read,

Do we think we can firmly attribute this work to Frans van Mieris the younger?

Al Brown,

Without the help of an opinion of Betsy WIeseman from the National Gallery, it might be useful to made inquiries of, say, Otto Nauman or Quentin Buvelot who have both published works on Frans van Mieris the Elder. I notice too that Fred G Meijer has been asked by auction house to authenticate examples of the Younger's work.

Alice Read,

Would you be able to invite them to this discussion?

Neil Handley,

Otto is certainly aware of this painting as we were in correspondence shortly after obtaining it...and he regretted not having spotted it himself! His expressed wish to inspect the painting in person has not yet been facilitated, but I assume that no firm attribution of the artist could be made without such personal inspection. The painting now belongs in perpetuity to a museum so is going nowhere and there is no commercial reason to pursue this enquiry, only the interests of augmenting the art historical record. As a small museum with no money we can only hope that an appropriately qualified expert would be willing to assess it for us pro bono.

It has been successfully shown that the sitter is Willem van Mieris. Frans van Mieris the Younger drew and painted his father several times. The style of the portrait and the existence of a preparatory drawing in the Rijksmuseum attributed to Frans suggest that he is indeed the painter. It is surprising that the painting is not signed. Perhaps there are vestiges of a signature?

David Wilson,

The fulsome handling of the folds of the robe in this painting is very close indeed to the Leiden painting.

The reflected light in the shadows of all the faces are very close in both paintings - note particularly the warm reflected light defining the old man's jaw line & neck in the Optometrists ' picture and compare it to the the younger man in the Leiden picture. The nostrils too. Form is defined in the same way, in both paintings, and this bespeak the identical painter's eye... and hand.

The fact that the painting differs from the Rijkmuseum's drawing - the added spectacle case (?) on the tble, and the added cap (making the image closer to the Leiden painting) - also feels right, no?

Gregory Martin comments: 'The man is a portrait of the artist Willem van Mieris and the picture connects closely with a drawing in the Rijksmuseum Rijksprentenkabinet by his son Frans van Mieris II; so the painting could well be by Frans tho it would have to be seen, as the digital image may flatter. The drawing is thought to have been made in preparation of a painting of 1742 by Frans showing the three generations, Frans I, Willem and Frans II (grandfather, father and son); in the painting another drawing of Willem was preferred.

Although this one seems to have been happily resolved, it might be worth contacting Christiaan Vogelaar at the Museum in Leiden - if only because this would surely be of interest to him and he could have further data on file.

Neil Handley,

So the question now is whether someone familiar with authenticated works by Mieris can confirm whether that it is the style in which he signed his pictures. Ultimately, however, the only true answer to my query (and the one for which I was originally fishing) is if someone who is a recognised authority on Mieris' work can come and make a physical inspection and then pronounce on its authenticity or otherwise.

Toby Campbell,

Otto Naumann will be in London this week. This may be an opportunity to show the painting to him first hand? In my opinion the painting looks very typical of Frans van Mieris ygr.

Toby Campbell,

I did show this photograph to Otto while he was here last week and he remembers it well. As far as I made out from our discussion he believes the painting to be by Frans van Mieris the younger of his grandfather Willem van Mieris. I am sure he would have liked to have seen the painting in the flesh and probably to be absolutely sure he should.

Toby's report of Otto Naumann's view confirms the conclusion we had reached that this is indeed a work by Frans van Mieris the younger - son, not grandson, of Willem van Mieris. The signature and date 1738 may well be genuine. Willem van Mieris was seventy-six years old in 1738.

Toby Campbell,

Apologies. Son of Willem. It seems very likely that the date and signature would be genuine. In fact it is very unlikely that anyone would have attempted to deceive by putting on a fake signature of F van Mieris ygr.

Otto Naumann,

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a painting by Frans van Mieris the Younger, and that he used his famous father, Willem, as model. The preparatory study in black chalk, heightened in white, is fully signed “F. van Mieris de Jonge del” and is in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. No 1975:51). The reproduction is so good that I don’t really need to see the painting to be confident in this attribution.
To see an image of the Rijksmuseum drawing, simply google "Frans van Mieris the Younger" and go to Images.

We are most grateful to all those who took an interest in our painting. In the light of this authoritative statement from the acknowledged world expert in this artist's work we would accordingly invite the administrators of the Your Paintings website to remove the 'attributed to' statement from the entry for this picture. With its new status as an authenticated van Mieris work we look forward to interest from other art galleries in making possible loan requests for temporary exhibitions. We also hope that members of the public will book appointments for our 'full-option' building tours in order to see this painting the way it is best appreciated - in the flesh.

Thanks to Otto Naumann's very helpful comment, we can confirm what we have long suspected, that this painting is the work of Frans van Mieris the younger, signed and dated (17)38, which depicts his seventy-six year old father, the painter Willem van Mieris. A preparatory study for the figure in black chalk, heightened in white, fully signed “F. van Mieris de Jonge del”, is in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. No 1975:51). Frans van Mieris the younger (1689-1763) was the grandson of the outstanding 'fine painter' Frans van Mieris the elder (1635-1681), the son of a Leiden goldsmith and a pupil of Gerrit Dou, an early pupil of Rembrandt in Leiden. Frans the elder had two sons who were artists, Jan van Mieris (1660-1690), who died in Rome and was influenced by Italian painting, and Willem van Mieris (1662-1747), the father of Frans the younger, both of whom produced highly detailed paintings somewhat in the manner of Frans van Mieris the elder, but lacking his refinement of execution.