Conservators working on one of Prince Charles’ pictures at Highgrove have come across a truly remarkable self-portrait.
One of the still-life pictures, which has been at Highgrove for around a quarter of a century is called “A Vanitas” by the seventeenth century Dutch painter Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten. Part of the picture is a suspended glass ball. When this was cleaned recently it was revealed that the ball includes a painted reflection of the artist within his studio. This is perhaps the best reference we have seen as to what a studio of that period actually looked like.
He was born in Holland in 1630, and was a student of Frans Hals. He painted mainly still life pictures. According to Anna Reynolds one of the curators of the Royal Collection the technique of painting a reflected self-portrait appears in quite a few pictures he painted, so it was probably something he enjoyed. Pieter was obviously close to the Hals family, as he married Frans Hals daughter, Ariaentje. After living in Amsterdam for a while, they moved to London in 1666. This proved unfortunate as he was injured in the hip during The Great Fire of London and walked with a limp the rest of his life.
It is possible that it was during this period the painting was produced, possibly for Charles II, although it does not appear in records until the Georgian period. The general public can see this picture, and indeed many others which feature the artists in an exhibition “Portrait of an Artist” in the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace from 4th November. Although this is the only picture in the exhibition, where the artist is shown in truly reflected glory!