Pieter van der Plas the Elder was a portrait painter who remained active in Brussels for whole his life.
Here he painted with a lot of sense for psychology three couples: the elder parents at left with their two children. Their daughter stands towards the middle, her husband (an architect) and her son point towards her. At the extreme right stands their son. The servant who fills his glass points also at him, as does his daughter in a rather hidden way with her small guitar. In front of him sits his wife.
In the background probably runs the Maelbeek.
About Pieter van der Plas I
Brussels (or possibly Haarlem) circa 1595 – circa 1650/61 Brussels
Portrait and genre painter, and tapestry designer.
It is not known whom van der Plas studied painting with.
His paintings remind of his younger contemporary painters: Gonzales Coques (Antwerp 1614/18 – 1684 Antwerp?) and Gillis van Tilborgh II (Brussels (?) circa 1625 – circa 1678 Brussels).
After he became a master in the local Painters’ Guild of Saint Luke he remained active in Brussels during his complete career.
Another contemporary painter, circa 1630/1650, also signed his works with “P.V. Plas”. He was a Dutch still life painter who was active in Flanders.
As to Pieter van der Plas II (1655 – 1708) he was a Dutch sculptor, printmaker and draughtsman.
The Museum of the Centre for Social Welfare of Brussels holds a large painting signed by both van der Plas and Pieter Meert. Meert (circa 1619/20 – 1669) was a younger portrait and genre scene painter. It is not known whom he studied under.
About our painting
Our portrait is set outside Brussels, probably to the SE of the town.
This landscape might represent the Maelbeek stream that ran in those days from its source near the Abbey of La Cambre through Brussels, Etterbeek, Ixelles, Saint Josse and Schaerbeek, where it joined the Zenne, Brussels’ most important river.
Typical of the Maelbeek were the large number of ponds along it: originally 58 of which only six have survived: the ponds of the Abbey of La Cambre and the two Ixelles Ponds still remind of our landscape.
In our intriguing portrait are represented three adult couples:
- at left the parents;
- then their daughter, whom both her husband (an architect) and her son are pointing to;
- at the far right their son, whom the servant is pointing to, with his wife and his daughter.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a masterpiece by a little known painter in a magnificent frame. Van der Plas suggests intriguing family relations against the pastoral backdrop of a typical middle 17th century Brussels landscape.
Because one may wonder if this tranquil serenity will remain undisturbed; in a very subtle way the painter has shown there could be some tension in the air.