Museums and Art

Portrait of William of Oren, Adrian Kay

Portrait of William of Oren, Adrian Kay

Portrait of William of Oren - Adrian Kay. Around 1580.


The pectoral image of William I of Prince of Orangenicknamed the Silent (1533-1584). This far-sighted and secretive politician, who led the rebellion of the Dutch against the Spanish crown, apparently had neither the time nor the desire to pose for painters. Intravital portraits of him are very rare, therefore, of particular interest is the portrait, which moved to Mauritshuis from one of the palaces of the staffalter. It was performed by the Antwerp artist Adrian Thomassen Kay (c. 1544 - after 1589) in the last years of the life of William the Silent.

A comparison with Memling's “Portrait of a Man” shows how much the concept of the human person has changed over the past century. Despite its small size, Memling's portrait is distinguished by a special soundness of the artistic language; it is in color, and in the magnificent plasticity of the face, and in how proudly raised head stands out against a dark blue sky. Adrian Kay is a conscientious professional, not without talent, but he is far from Memling. His work could have gone unnoticed if the person depicted did not stop his gaze of "a face with an uncommon expression." Behind habitual restraint and isolation we see a rare strength of will and mind, a tense, restless inner life. Both the external simplicity and internal significance of the portrait correspond to what we know about William’s extremely complex personality. The new psychological content comes not only and not so much from the artist as from the model, and yet it reflects important features of the artistic consciousness of the era. No wonder the portrait of William the Silent was painted already at the end of the turbulent 16th century, when the future — the 17th century — was forged in the crucible of the Dutch revolution.


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