|On 17 January 1654 the painter Paulus Potter died at the premature age of 28. Later that year, the popular Amsterdam portraitist Bartholomeus van der Helst painted this portrait of Potter, probably taking as his example a drawn self-portrait lent him by Potter’s widow.
Van der Helst immortalised Potter in a pose in which he appears to have interrupted his work to turn and look at us. Instead of working clothes, however, he wears an elegant black cloak, and his reddish hair curls fashionably over his shoulders. The canvas on the easel is empty, for the artist will never paint again. This portrait was thus intended as a tribute to this artist who died so young.
Potter’s descendants kept the painting until the early 19th century, at which time it came into the possession of the Mauritshuis, where it has since hung next to Potter’s famous painting of The bull.