Portrait of a Boy Holding a Parrot (Primary Title)
Portrait of a Boy, aged 2 ¼, Holding a Parrot (Former Title)

Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort, Dutch, born 1610 or 1611, died 1680 (Artist)

Oil on panel
41 x 30 1/4 in.
The artist inscribed this portrait with his sitter’s age, “2 ¼ years,” although the identity of the child remains unknown. Contrary to more recent and familiar gender norms, the child’s sumptuous outfit and elaborate jewelry clearly indicate his status as a male heir of the wealthy Dutch bourgeois class. The parrot perched on his wrist is a reminder of the colonial trade routes that were the major source of wealth for the Dutch elite. It is also a symbol of the young boy’s program of education; he will learn to mimic his parents’ behavior just as the bird imitates the voice of its human keeper. By the 1630s, Santwoort had established himself as the premier painter of children in Amsterdam. In 17th-century Europe, portraits of very young children like this one often served important commemorative functions, since less than half survived until adulthood and most premature deaths occurred before the age of five.
The Jordan and Thomas A. Saunders III Collection

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