In his famous Schilder-boeck (1604), the artist and historian Karel van Mander (1548–1606) described how "the making of portraits from life comprises the largest part of the work which occurs in these lands for young painters, and others, and that for this reason and for the sake of profit, many keep themselves to a greater extent or entirely busy with that." The "others" to whom van Mander, the "Dutch Vasari," obliquely refers were probably draftsmen and printmakers, whose works could be had for comparatively lower prices than their painted counterparts.
In the first installation of Portraying the Golden Age, drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection reveal the blossoming of drawn portraiture in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century. In addition to commissioned portraits of individuals in which the sitter's identity is of upmost importance, a new genre, tronies, developed. Though presented in bust- or half-length formats and often executed from life in the manner of conventional portraits, these works were appreciated chiefly as studies of various figural types whose subjects often remained anonymous. Exemplifying both the technical mastery of the artists that produced these drawings and the discerning eye of the Abramses, the present exhibition marks the first time an exhibition devoted exclusively to a selection of works from this collection, regarded as among the finest in private hands, has been shown in the mid-Atlantic.
The second installation builds on the first and looks at the production of portraits and tronies in print, a medium that enabled the production of numerous examples of the same image. As tronies became increasingly popular in the course of the seventeenth century, they began to appear in print. Likewise, printed portraits of historical, political, and religious figures afforded buyers the opportunity to acquire portraits of public figures with whom they identified. Works from The Fralin's collection document this evolution, including prints by Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck, and Jan Lievens.
The Fralin Museum of Art's programming is made possible by the generous support of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.
The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Dennis M. Luzak Fellowship Fund, the Office of the Provost & the Vice Provost for the Arts, albemarle Magazine, and Ivy Publications LLC's Charlottesville Welcome Book.