RKD Netherland Institute for art History
The country house – the key to the puzzle – turned out to be Vrijburg House at Voorburg, which was demolished around 1800 and is known only from a few eighteenth-century images. From 1724 onwards Vrijburg was the property of the Quarles Family from The Hague. The five people portrayed in the painting represent the Quarles family – Pieter Quarles (1677-1741), his wife Cornelia Splinter van Loenersloot (1677-1750) and their two sons, Willem and Lodewijk – with an otherwise unknown servant. Seated in a small carriage pulled by a tiny horse, are Willem and Lodewijk, who are the patriarchs of the two branches of the family: the Quarles de Quarleses and the Quarles van Uffords.
Once the name of the sitters was known, it also proved possible to track down the maker of the unsigned work: Gerard Hoet I (1648-1733), a painter born in Zaltbommel who worked in The Hague from c. 1714. By the time he finished this impressive painting in roughly 1727, Hoet was already approaching eighty. The discovery was made by Laurens Schoemaker, Curator of Historical Topography & Maritime Paintings at the RKD.Following Schoemaker's discovery, The Historical Museum of The Hague made a concerted effort to buy the portrait when it went under the hammer in Paris. Thanks to financial support from the Rembrandt Society, the Sebastiaan Genootschap and the historical society Die Haghe, the work was acquired and it now hangs in the museum, which is situated only a stone’s throw away from the former home of the Quarles family in the Lange Houtstraat. It was here that the portrait adorned the wall in the eighteenth century.
In an article for the art-historical journal Oud Holland, Laurens Schoemaker tells the story behind the painting. Besides giving a detailed account of the seventeenth-century country seat of Vrijburg, now long gone, he discusses the Quarles family, the painter Gerard Hoet I as well as the remarkable provenance of the piece.