Bartolomäus Bruyn - The Search
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.
The anonymous lady
The search to the identity of Elisabeth started decades ago. We knew that it was painted by Bartholomäus Bruyn, but not who the young woman was. On the reverse of the panel is the coat of arms of Peter Bellinghausen, professor of civil law in Cologne. And the father of four daughters, but which of the Bellinghausen girls was depicted here?
Almost twenty years ago, we discovered that the painting had originally formed one half of a diptych. The panels were sold individually at an auction in London in 1896, as two anonymous portraits by Jan Gossaert, also known as Jan Mabuse.
Notes in an auction catalogue
One of our curators found an auction catalogue in which the art historian Hofstede de Groot had made some notes when he had seen the portraits in London. He also made sketches of the coats of arms on both portraits. A starting point.
Thanks to his coat of arms, we were able to identify the man as the Cologne chancellor and lawyer Jakob Omphalius. His portrait was last auctioned in 1955, but where it had ended up was a mystery. Fortunately, there appeared to be an old black and white photograph of the painting. When it became clear that the man in the painting was Jakob Omphalius, we were also able to identify which of the four sisters appeared in our painting since Jakob was married to Elisabeth.
The research reunited Jakob and Elisabeth on paper. Good news, which the Dutch newspaper Trouw reported in 2005. But there was still no trace of Jakob. Until he suddenly reappeared last year. In early 2020 we were able to purchase Jakob’s portrait.
As a result, the young woman was reunited not only with her name, but also with her fiancé. To celebrate the reunion, we gave the couple new frames. These were made in imitation of old examples since the original frames had been lost. Jakob and Elisabeth now once again form a diptych, and are together again at last.