<< Go Back

William I, Prince of Orange (1533-1584)

Artist

After Michiel Jansz. van Miereveldt, 18th century

product

William I, Prince of Orange (1533-1584)

Artist

After Michiel Jansz. van Miereveldt, 18th century

Guide Price:

SOLD

Oil on canvas; 24.5 by 19 ins; 62 x 48 cm; held in period gilded frame; inscribed and labelled reverse

Provenance: English Country House collection, 19th century; Christies inventory, 1979; private collection

William I, Prince of Orange, also widely known as William the Silent, was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish that set off the Eighty Years’ War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1648. He was born into the House of Nassau as a count of Nassau-Dillenburg. He became Prince of Orange in 1544 and is thereby the founder of the branch House of Orange-Nassau. A wealthy nobleman, William originally served the Habsburgs as a member of the court of Margaret of Parma, governor of the Spanish Netherlands. Unhappy with the centralisation of political power away from the local estates and the Spanish persecution of Dutch Protestants, William joined the Dutch uprising and turned against his former masters. The most influential and politically capable of the rebels, he led the Dutch to several successes in the fight against the Spanish. Declared an outlaw by the Spanish king in 1580, he was assassinated by Balthasar Gerardt in Delft four years later. He had, however, already laid the foundation of Dutch independence, and it was finally secured by his sons, Maurice of Nassau (1568-1625) and Frederick Henry (1584-1648).

Van Miereveldt was one of the most successful Dutch portraitists of the seventeenth century. Born in Delft, he was trained both there and in Utrecht, devoting himself entirely to the art of portraiture from about 1590 onwards. In 1607, he was appointed official painter to the court of the Prince of Orange-Nassau, whom he portrayed in the same year. His role as court painter also emphasised his status as the most fashionable portrait painter of his day, receiving commissions not only from noble families of the Dutch Republic and but also from visitors abroad.

The painting presented here is an 18th century version of the seemingly lost original by Mierevldt. Today we are familiar with this portrait through Houbraaken’s engraved version which actually was based on a copy by Dutch artist Aert Schouman (1710-1792). The present portrait shows slight differences in composition to that version and therefore suggests perhaps a direct copy of the original.