In 1635, a talented Dutch teenager, with dreams of becoming an artist, arrived in London. Not yet 18 years old, he joined the studio of his uncle, Robert van Voerst, royal engraver to Charles I. Soon afterwards, the youth’s father, also an artist, sent him a trunk filled with clothes and art supplies, including a mannequin.
With it was a letter, offering instructions: “Use the mannequin and do not let it stand idle,” his father wrote. “Draw a lot: large, dynamic compositions.”
Evidently, the youngster took this advice to heart because, in time, he became one of the most renowned artists of the Dutch Golden Age. His work was sought after by the aristocratic elite of Amsterdam. And monarchs and rulers across Europe – including William of Orange and Cosimo III de’ Medici – desired his services.
Yet, today, Gerard ter Borch, as he was called, is hardly a household name. This is, surely, one of...
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