Klaas Muller

Antwerp School, circa 1620
Family portrait
Oil on canvas
134.5 x 159 cm

A simultaneously moving and monumental family portrait with a great psychological connection between the figures: The man clenches a fist (sign of power) but looks and touches his wife lovingly. She looks ahead as her daughter grabs her wrist and accepts an apple from the little brother, who seems to blend in with his father's rich black clothing, thereby completing the circle. Connectedness is clearly a central theme in this work.

Everything in this portrait represents wealth and prosperity (or the desire for it). The rich, brocaded clothing, the jewels, the red curtain, the apple. On the right stands a remarkable fountain with Diana (Artemis) of Ephesus, the mother-goddess and symbol of fertility. She is holding 2 dolphins that squirt water.

More than a static portrait - seekingly only to radiate power and wealth and urge for prestige - here is a family in which solidarity and humanity reign, far removed from many stiff 17th-century family portraits.

An interesting enlargement of the painting once again points to originality: an 11 cm high border was attached to the canvas (at the behest of the artist). This technique was quite common with large and monumental canvases in the Southern Netherlands in the 17th century.