FRANS DE NEVE I
(1606 – Antwerp – after 1688)
Portrait of a Man
Monogrammed and signed: FN 1635
Oil on panel, 24 ¼ x 19 in.
Born in Antwerp in 1606, Frans de Neve was a painter and etcher active in Flanders, Italy, and Austria. He married the daughter of painter Adriaen Wortelmans in May of 1630. After working several years in his hometown, de Neve traveled to Rome where he lived from 1660 to 1666, and earned an important commission to create paintings for the Palazzo Doria-Pamphili. There are fourteen extant etched landscapes of mythological and pastoral themes after his own designs that were executed while in Italy. Selecting classicizing compositions, de Neve created the etchings to appeal to contemporary taste. There are unaccounted for gaps in the artist’s biography; following his time in Rome de Neve is next recorded in Salzburg in 1672, where he was active for two years as a portrait and landscape painter. He appears again in Vienna from 1680 to 1681 and then, again, in Salzburg in the last couple years of his long life.
Monogrammed and dated 1635, our portrait was painted relatively early in de Neve’s artistic career and reveals the influence of his famous contemporaries, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. The sitter appears to be the Dutch sculptor Andreas Colyns de Nole (c. 1590 – 1638) based on an engraving after a grisaille by van Dyck (fig. 1) from the Iconographia series that predates our panel by just a few years. De Nole must have sat for van Dyck in the early 1630s since the artist left Antwerp for England in 1632. Van Dyck includes a sculpted marble bust in his portrait, an identifying attribute that de Neve omits, but the resemblance of the two men is striking. Each artist has captured the sculptor’s wistful gaze and the fullness of his face, framed by coarse wavy hair, and punctuated by the upturned corners of his handlebar mustache.