Laughing Man in a Gorget
8 7/8 x 7 1/2 in. (22.5 x 19.1 cm)
Jan Georg van Vliet,
(c. 1610–c. 1635)
Medium and Support:
Label for "Printmakers of the Baroque: 17th-Century Explorations of Space and Light", La Salle University Art Museum, December 16, 2013 – February 28th, 2014:
The man wears a gorget, a metal breastplate with a collar that functions as armor. Van Vliet’s portrayal is much like that of the laughing cavalier, or a mounted soldier of a high rank. The cavalier was popular subject in the 17th century. At the time, there was concern about returning or off-duty soldiers in civil society. In paintings and prints of the day, the soldier is shown as possessing a devil-may-care attitude. He drinks too much, smokes too much, loses at card games, cheats at card games, seduces local girls, and visits brothels Van Vliet’s soldier, caught in a spontaneous mid-laugh, conveys something of this attitude. The manic expression might also elicit some anxiety from the 17th-century viewer. The mysterious shadow serves to deepen that anxiety.
The print is one of a series of “tronies” popular in the Baroque period. Van Vliet used a now-lost painted self-portrait of Rembrandt in costume as a model for the head. After this figure was paired with another of Van Vliet’s heads, that of a grieving man, the two earned the title of the Laughing Democritus and the Weeping Heraclitus, two ancient Greek philosophers.
Kelly Sheehan, '15