Portrait of a Bruges family

This is a Flemish Masterpiece


Jacob I van Oost

Period and date

17de eeuw


The toddler in the maid’s arms is one year old, as we can read on the piece of bread that he is holding in his little hands. But is it a boy or a girl? In the 17th century, the youngest all wore dresses, regardless of gender. This had a practical reason: it was much easier to change small children in a dress. Depending on the region, little boys invariably wore a dress until they were three to five years old. This painting does, in fact, depict a little boy.
The toddler is wearing a headguard on his head. This kind of cap, with a wide bumper, protected children’s heads in case of a fall. Here, the bumper has a rose-red colour and the cap is decorated with white and red plumes to give it a prettier appearance.
A bell rattle hangs from the side of the dress: a typical 17th-century rattle made of gilded precious metal with a wolf’s tooth at one end and a whistle at the other; bells were attached in the middle, hence the name bell rattle. The wolf’s tooth had a dual function: it was used to bite on when the first teeth came through and to ward off evil. This kind of bell rattle was a real status symbol.


signatuur en datering (rechts onderaan): I.V. OOST. F 1645
leeftijd geportetteerde (rechts onderaan): AETAT. SVAE 46
leeftijd geportetteerde (rechts onderaan): AETAT. SVAE 26
leeftijd geportetteerde (rechts onderaan): AETAT. SVAE 3
leeftijd geportetteerde (rechts onderaan): AETAT. SVAE 15
leeftijd geportetteerde (rechts onderaan): AETAT. SVAE 17
leeftijd geportetteerde (rechts onderaan): AETATIS / 1... / 1645
geheel, height: 150.5 cm
geheel, width: 255.5 cm
met lijst, height: 174.5 cm
met lijst, width: 280 cm
met lijst, depth: 10 cm


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