Klaas Muller

Adriaen Thomasz Key (Breda 1544-1589 Antwerp)
Portrait of a bearded man, holding his gloves
Oil on panel
80 x 59 cm

Adriaenz Thomasz Key was born in Breda (1544), the son of Jan Thomas Mertens and Margriete Adriaen Keijen. After the death of his uncle Willem Key (in 1568) Adriaen Thomasz took over his studio in Antwerp and the name of his deceased and illustrious uncle by adding his surname to his own name. So Adriaen Thomasz Key was born. This was mainly for commercial reasons. Altough Adriaen Thomasz was a true calvinist and many of his paintings were therefore lost to the iconoclasm of the period, he stayed in Antwerp for the rest of his remaining career. Like his uncle, he painted several mythological and religious scenes but he was mainly renowned for his portraits.  Amongst his clientele were the political and religious leaders of his era, such as Willem of Orange, Margareta of Parma, Abraham Ortemloius and others. Keys' portraits are often set during a turbulent period of history, on the brink of the 80 Years war, in which the religious, political and social structures were shaken up and called into question. Due to professional reasons, he was in contact with protagonists from both sides of the dispute. His portraits are silent witnesses to the deep earnestness and self-awareness that characterises the Dutch Renaissance. This portrait therefore fits the Zeitgeist: This man looks (down) at us, confident and stern. The background has little life in it and doesn't detract from the force of the face in the foreground. He is holding on tight to his glove(s), the latter a symbol of both protection and violence. Two visible rings might be the indication of a female pendant.