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Un Univers intime. Paintings from the Frits Lugt Collection
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Cornelis Saftleven
(Gorinchem 1607-1681 Rotterdam)
Copper, 21.1 x 15.5 cm
Acquired in 1962; inv. 7640

In pictures of painters in their studios, Cornelis Saftleven sometimes included himself in the scene, and on occasion his artist brother Herman Saftleven as well. Here he seems around twenty years old, which means that the painting must be one of his earliest works. Later Saftleven specialized in witty portrayals of animals, but the drawing of a baboon he holds up to the viewer is probably more a reference to imitatio, copying from nature, which according to seventeenth-century beliefs formed the basis of all painting and was typified by the ape that mimes everything. The fact that the animal is giving us its least flattering view suggests that the image is tinged with irony.