Jean Baptiste de Saive II (Namur 1571–1624 Malines)
Portrait of an aristocratic couple as vegetable sellers, oil on canvas, 138 x 105 cm, framed
We are grateful to Dr. Fred Meijer of the RKD, The Hague, who examined the original painting and endorsed it as an autograph work by Saive (personal information imparted to the previous owner).
The present painting is of great art historical interest in that it contains a blending of two categories: genre and portrait. In his composition, Saive has recularly distributed individual pictorial elements reminiscent of still lifes. In his usually large-format works, the young Saive concentrated on fruit and vegetables of unusual opulence, which he would add to a market scene in a narrative way. His large, picture-filling figures are well observed, finely drawn, and reveal his talent as a portraitist. His works belong to the tradition of Flemish market, kitchen, and seasonal pictures, which became a genre in themselves thanks to Joachim Beuckelaer and Pieter Aertsen. Whereas for them there was often a moralizing element, it appears that the younger Saive was more interested in a display of sensuality and joie de vivre.
In the present painting one must not overlook an artifice that was advanced for the times: at first glance, it seems to be a pure market scene, but neither the attire nor the jewellery of the couple fits a genre picture. The man is holding a medallion in his hand with the portrait of a child on it. Thus it is clear: this is the portrait of a married couple as sutlers. A possible court context could be surmised as its origin, for Saive also worked for the Habsburg governor, Archduke Albrecht. The palace seen in the background of the market brings to mind Coudenberg Palace, the Brussels residence of the governing couple.
Due to an unconfirmed information the couple depicted here is Carolina d’Austria, Marchioness of Austria (1591-1662), illegitimate daughter of Emperor Rudolf II., and her husband Francois Thomas Perrenot de Granvelle, Marquis d’Oiselet and Prince of Cantecroix (1589-1629).
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