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This portrait shows Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, almost full-face, in three-quarter length. He is shown wearing a black coat with gold buttons over a long-sleeved gold-brocaded waistcoat, and is clasping a commander’s baton with his right hand. Around his neck he wears a pendant depicting St Michael slaying Satan, which alludes to the Order of St Michael into which he was admitted in 1666. Following victory in the Four Days Battle, between 1 and 4 June 1666, the Amsterdam Admiralty presented de Ruyter with the gold chain and gold-filigree sword belt proudly displayed in this portrait.
In the lower left of the painting a large Blaeu celestial globe with a navigational chart and two pairs of dividers sit on the red-draped table. One of the dividers points to the chart which shows a faint illustration of Walcheren, an island at the mouth of the Schelde estuary, where de Ruyter was born in the town of Vlissingen (Flushing). The explicit emblematic presence of the town serves to immortalize de Ruyter as a local and national hero.
Technical examination has revealed that the ships in the background were painted on a separate canvas which was subsequently inserted into the main portrait. This seascape was painted by Willem van de Velde the Younger. It depicts the Dutch fleet accompanied by de Ruyter’s flagship, the 'Zeven Provincien'. Collaboration between portraitist and marine painter, such as this one, is unusual but is not an isolated case. Bol’s image of de Ruyter effectively unites a portrait with a history painting, forming an iconic, indivisible whole.
oil on canvas
H 150 x W 127 cm