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Ferdinand Bol
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Ferdinand Bol was one of the most successful and prominent history and portrait painters in Amsterdam during the “Golden Age” of Dutch art. Born in Dordrecht to a prosperous family, he was baptized on June 24, 1616. Bol probably received his first training from Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp (1594-1652), then the most prominent Dordrecht artist; Cuyp had been a student of Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) in Utrecht. Bol lived in Dordrecht until at least 1635. He probably went to Amsterdam in 1636 and was an active member of the studio of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) by 1637. Rembrandt strongly influenced Bol’s work for the next decade, particularly in the approximately sixteen etchings he made from 1642-1651. Bol's etchings are extremely expressive, often spiritual, executed in a bold and free manner with judicious management of light and shadow. About 75 surviving drawings are attributed to Bol; those from the 1630s and 1640s are often hard to distinguish from those by Rembrandt. Many of Bol’s later drawings are studies for his paintings. He left Rembrandt’s studio and set out on his own sometime around 1641; the first painting to be signed and dated by him dates from 1642 (he would not have signed his own work when part of Rembrandt’s studio). By 1649 Bol had obtained a sufficient reputation to be awarded his first commission for the group portrait of the Governors of Amsterdam’s Leper Asylum (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum). In1650 he married Lysabeth Dell, from a prominent Amsterdam family, whose family connections probably helped him secure commissions; she died in 1660. By the 1650s Bol had adopted the Flemish Baroque style that was greatly admired by his Amsterdam patrons. He purchased citizen’s rights in Amsterdam on January 24, 1652, along with other artists, presumably to assist them in obtaining official commissions. He was able to obtain clients from other Dutch cities as well, painting a group portrait of officers from the Gouda civic guard in 1653 and a series of paintings for a patron from Utrecht later in the decade. By 1655 he had become one of the governors of the Amsterdam chapter of the painters’ Guild of St. Luke. The next year he received the large sum of 1500 guilders for a painting depicting an event from ancient Roman history, Pyrrhus and Fabricius, purchased for the Amsterdam Town Hall (now Royal Palace) and still hanging there. In addition to history, allegorical and biblical paintings, Bol’s works include portraits of leading citizens, group portraits of boards of charities and other organizations, and “tronies,” paintings of a single figure in fancy or costume dress, not intended to be a portrait, which were very popular in Amsterdam at the time. Bol continued to receive official commissions during the 1660’s, including another large painting for the Town Hall, four works for the then-new Amsterdam Admiralty building and another for the Leiden Town Hall. He established a studio during this decade; the Dutch painter Cornelius Bisschop (1630-1674) may have been a student, and Godfried Kneller (1646-1723) from Lubeck, Germany, who went on to become the leading portrait painter in England during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, was an apprentice. In 1666 Bol became an officer of the civic guard in his Amsterdam neighborhood, and in 1669 he married again, to Anna van Erckel (1624-1680), a wealthy widow of a former treasurer of the Admiralty. His self-portrait from around 1669 (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum) is one of his last works. Scholars think that Bol painted few if any works after his marriage, the couple having sufficient wealth to live comfortably without income from Bol’s art, even during the hard economic times that followed the French invasion of the Netherlands in 1672. In 1673 the couple rented a large house on the Keizersgracht, complete with stable and carriage house. The same year Bol was appointed a governor of the Oudezijdshuiszittenhuis, (one of two charities in Amsterdam that distributed alms to the poor), a position he held until his death. He died shortly after attending a meeting of the charity’s governors, and was interred in Amsterdam’s Zuiderkerk on July 24, 1680. (TNB 5/2012) Selected bibliography: Bevers, Holm, Lee Hendrix, William W. Robinson and Peter Schatborn. Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference. Exhibition catalog, pp. 80-101. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009. Slive, Seymour. Dutch Painting 1600-1800. Pp. 107-108. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.