This rare modello of heads and busts of children offers a fascinating peek into the studio
practice of Simon van der Does, a painter of pastoral scenes set in Italianate landscapes.
Models such as the present constituted precious studio assets and artists used them in
preparation of finished works for the market or for particular clients. Although evidence
suggests they were valued from early on for their intrinsic artistic merits as well, few
have survived. Similar attractive oil studies of isolated, worked-out motifs are known by
Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, Jan Brueghel the Elder and
Peter Boel and by artists working in the Northern Netherlands, notably Nicolaes
Berchem. The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum’s recent acquisition of an oil study with
chickens by Melchior de Hondecoeter shows a renewed interest and appreciation for
this type of art.1 Several children’s heads on our canvas appear in several independent
paintings by Simon van der Does (figs. 1-4). Van der Does’ oil study stands out for its
crisp handling and captivating charm.
Simon van der Does was a son of the artist Jacob van der Does the Elder (1623-1673)
and the brother of Jacob van der Does the Younger (1654-1699), also an artist. Simon
no doubt trained with his father and like him specialized in Italianate landscapes
enlivened with figures but he also painted portraits. He spent some time in Friesland and
tried his luck in London before returning to his native The Hague. Here, in 1683, he
became a member of the painters’ confraternity Pictura and in 1689 married Clara
Bellechière who, according to his biographer Arnold Houbraken, was ‘extremely
wasteful’. As a result Simon’s financial situation deteriorated and he ended up living in
the infirmary. After several years he left for Antwerp where he died sometime after
Inscribed on the stretcher with pencil: “Jacob van der Does”
About the Artist
Van der Does was born in The Hague, the son of Jacob van der Does by his second wife. He was taught to paint by his father and became in turn the teacher of the later art historian Johan van Gool. He painted Italianate landscapes in the manner of his father. According to Houbraken, who got his information from Johan van Gool first hand, Simon van der Does spent time in Friesland and one year in England in his youth, and could paint portraits in the style of Caspar Netscher. He married but was barely able to make ends meet, and after both his wife and father died he was so depressed that he could not paint and stayed in the Gasthuis of The Hague for three years, and afterwards moved to Brussels for a year and then moved to Antwerp, working for the cutthroats (keelbeulen, or Houbraken's name for art dealers).
A friend of his father, Karel Dujardin, became his guardian, and after his return from Italy set up a workshop in Amsterdam where he took on the sons of Jacob van der Does (Houbraken only mentions Simon and his half-brother Jacob II van der Does). After the death of Dujardin, he worked for Gerard de Lairesse in Amsterdam until he could support himself. He was on his way to visit Paris when he died at Antwerp.