Bartolomäus Bruyn - Discover the portraits
We are thrilled to anounce the acquisition of the portrait of Jakob Omphalius, painted by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder. The panel forms a diptych together with the portrait of Jakob's fiancée Elisabeth Bellinghausen, on view at the Mauritshuis since 1951, as a long-term loan from the Rijksmuseum. This reunites a husband and wife who were separated at an auction almost 125 years ago.
Elisabeth Bellinghausen and Jakob Omphalius from Cologne were married on 8 February 1539. But here they are still only engaged, because Elisabeth’s braids are poking out from under her cap. And this wasn’t how married women wore their hair. The engaged couple had their portrait painted by the Cologne artist Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder (1493-1555), who produced many double portraits of this type.
Bruyn’s portraits catch the eye thanks to the vivid colours he used. The most striking is the azure blue in the background. This features in many portraits made by German masters in the 16th century. Bruyn also worked with other bright colours – look at Jakob’s red sleeves and Elisabeth’s yellow belt. He used fine brushstrokes to portray the faces of his clients, making them appear lifelike.
Jakob Omphalius holds a letter in his hand – whether there is something written on it remains hidden from view. His arm rests on a parapet, which continues through into the portrait of Elisabeth. As a result, the two panels form a visual whole. Elisabeth holds a flower in her slender fingers. For Jacob. It is a sprig of bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara), a flower which often appears in Cologne engagement portraits from the early 16th century.
Bruyn painted his sitters’ clothing in meticulous detail, such as Elisabeth’s ornate belt and the fine embroidery on her blouse. Elisabeth’s cap – a Stickelchen – is decorated with gold embroidery and pearls. Only her braids are visible, the rest of her hair is hidden beneath her cap. To make her forehead appear fashionably high, Elisabeth has shaved away her hairline.
With serious expressions and in their Sunday best, Elisabeth and Jakob were immortalised by the leading society painter in Cologne, where they lived. As a lasting reminder of their engagement.