Maerten de Vos: Portrait of Gillis Hooftman and Margaretha van Nispen (1570)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A nice portrait by the Flemish artist Maerten de Vos (1532-1603). The depicted couple on this work is the Flemish Gillis (aegidius) van Eyckelenbergh Hooftman (1521-1581) and his Dutch wife Margaretha van Nispen (1545-1598). Gillis van Eyckelenbergh Hooftman was lord of Kleydaal, Stovers, Artzelaar en Kauwesteyn. a member (in Dutch 'schepen') of the city council of Antwerp, banker, navigation expert and 1 of the most important shipowners and traders in Antwerp (at his peak he owned more than 100 ships!). He organized tradingsexpeditions to Russia, Morocco and The White Sea (a southern inlet of the Barents Sea located on the northwest coast of Russia), especially in lumber. He also exported Hebrew Bibles to the local Jews in Morocco. Gillis was a friend of Prince William of Orange, founding father of the Netherlands, who was the leader of the Dutch protestants in their struggle against Spain and supported them with money, arms and provisions. Because of this his name appaered on the 'to be persecuted protestant'list of the Spanish but becasue he outwardly he pledged allegiance to the Spanish throne and the catholic faith (privatly he was a protestant). Gilles owned several houses in Antwerp, he lived in the steenstraat in Antwerp. Gilles also owned a large collection of maps for his ships which became the basis of the 'Theatrum Orbis Terrarum' of Abraham Ortelius - the first true atlas in history. Gilles married three times - in 1547 with Marie Petitpas, in 1551 with Joanna van Achtenhout and in 1568 with Margaretha van Nispen. In total he got at least 11 children, divided between his three wives. At his death in 1581 the value of the real estate of Gilles was estimated at 82,252 guilders (today about 2 million euro) - a very high figure at that time. In his will he ordered that after his death 50,000 ducats were to be equally distributed under the arms of the city, regardless of their denomination. The painting also has several Latin inscriptions: above the head of Gilles the text 'ÆTATIS. SVÆ / XXXXVII' (age 47), above the head of Margaretha the text 'ÆTATIS. SVÆ / XXV' (age 25) and in the center the text 'AEGIDIO HOFTMAN, ET / MARGARITAE VAN NISPEN / EIVS CONIVGI. PINGEBAT / MARTINVS DE VOS ANTVER- / PIAE MENSE IVLIO ANN.A.R.S. / M D LXX.' (Gillis Hooftman and Margaretha van Nispen, his wife / painted by Maerten de Vos of Antwerp in July 1570).

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