A tronie (16/17th-century Dutch for "face") is a common type, or group of types, of works common in Dutch Golden Age painting and Flemish Baroque painting that shows an exaggerated facial expression or a stock character in costume. It is related to the French word “trogne” which is slang for “mug” or head.
Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.
Flemish Baroque painting refers to the art produced in the Southern Netherlands during Spanish control in the 16th and 17th centuries. The period roughly begins when the Dutch Republic was split from the Habsburg Spain regions to the south with the Spanish recapturing of Antwerp in 1585 and goes until about 1700, when Habsburg authority ended with the death of King Charles II. Antwerp, home to the prominent artists Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens, was the artistic nexus, while other notable cities include Brussels and Ghent.
The term 'tronie' is not clearly defined in art historical literature. Literary and archival sources show that initially the term 'tronie' was not always associated with people. Inventories sometimes referred to flower and fruit still lifes as 'tronies'. More common was the meaning of face or visage. Often the term referred to the entire head, even a bust, and in exceptional cases the whole body. A tronie could be two-dimensional, but also made of plaster or stone. Sometimes a tronie was a likeness, the depiction of an individual, including the face of God, Christ, Mary, a saint or an angel. In particular a tronie denoted the characteristic appearance of the head of a type, for example a farmer, a beggar or a jester. Tronie sometimes meant so much as a grotesque head or a model such as the type of an ugly old person. When conceived as the face of an individual and of a type a tronie's aim was to express feelings and character in an accurate manner and must therefore be expressive.
In modern art-historical usage the term tronie is typically restricted to figures not intended to depict an identifiable person, so it is a form of genre painting in a portrait format. Typically a painted head or bust only, if concentrating on the facial expression, but often half-length when featured in an exotic costume, tronies might be based on studies from life or use the features of actual sitters. The picture was typically sold on the art market without identification of the sitter, and was not commissioned and retained by the sitter as portraits normally were. Similar unidentified figures treated as history paintings would normally be given a title from the classical world, for example the Rembrandt painting now known as Saskia as Flora .
Genre painting, also called petit genre, depicts aspects of everyday life by portraying ordinary people engaged in common activities. One common definition of a genre scene is that it shows figures to whom no identity can be attached either individually or collectively—thus distinguishing petit genre from history paintings and portraits. A work would often be considered as a genre work even if it could be shown that the artist had used a known person—a member of his family, say—as a model. In this case it would depend on whether the work was likely to have been intended by the artist to be perceived as a portrait—sometimes a subjective question. The depictions can be realistic, imagined, or romanticized by the artist. Because of their familiar and frequently sentimental subject matter, genre paintings have often proven popular with the bourgeoisie, or middle class.
A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person. For this reason, in photography a portrait is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the painter or photographer, in order to most successfully engage the subject with the viewer.
History painting is a genre in painting defined by its subject matter rather than artistic style. History paintings usually depict a moment in a narrative story, rather than a specific and static subject, as in a portrait. The term is derived from the wider senses of the word historia in Latin and Italian, meaning "story" or "narrative", and essentially means "story painting". Most history paintings are not of scenes from history, especially paintings from before about 1850.
The genre started in the Low Countries in the 16th century where it was likely inspired by some of the grotesque heads drawn by Leonardo. Leonardo had pioneered drawings of paired grotesque heads whereby two heads, usually in profile, were placed opposite each other in order to accentuate their diversity. This paired juxtaposition was also adopted by artists in the Low Countries. In 1564 or 1565 Joannes and Lucas van Doetecum are believed to have engraved 72 heads attributed to Pieter Brueghel the Elder that followed this paired arrangement.
This paired model was still being used by some artists in the 17th century. For instance, the Flemish artist Jan van de Venne who was active in the first half of the 17th century painted a number of tronies juxtaposing different faces.
Jan van de Venne or Jan van der Venne, also known as Pseudo van de Venne, was a Flemish painter of genre, religious scenes, and cabinets who was court painter to the governors of the Southern Netherlands. Many of his works depict "low-life" genre scenes of tooth-pullers, card-players and hurdy-gurdy players, tronies and expressive religious scenes.
Several Rembrandt self-portrait etchings are tronies, as are paintings of himself, his son and his wives. Three Vermeer paintings were described as "tronies" in the Dissius auction of 1696, perhaps including the Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Washington Young Girl with a flute . Frans Hals also painted a number of tronies, which are now among his best-known works, including the two tronies known as Malle Babbe and the Gypsy Girl (see gallery).
Adriaen Brouwer was one of the most successful practitioners of the genre as he had a talent for expressiveness. His work gave a face to lower-class figures by infusing their images with recognizable and vividly expressed human emotions—anger, joy, pain, and pleasure. His Youth Making a Face (c. 1632/1635, National Gallery of Art) shows a young man with a satirical and mocking gesture which humanises him, however uninviting he may appear. Brouwer's vigorous application of paint in this composition, with his characteristically short, unmodulated brushstrokes, increases the dramatic effect.Genre painters often returned to the old theme of the allegory of the five senses and created series of tronies depicting the five senses. Examples are Lucas Franchoys the Younger's A man removing a plaster, the sense of touch and Joos van Craesbeeck's The Smoker which represents taste.
The tronie is related to, and has some overlap with, the "portrait historié", a portrait of a real person as another, usually historical or mythological, figure. Jan de Bray specialised in these, and many portraitists sometimes showed aristocratic ladies in particular as mythological figures.
Frans Hals the Elder was a Dutch Golden Age painter, normally of portraits, who lived and worked in Haarlem. He is notable for his loose painterly brushwork, and he helped introduce this lively style of painting into Dutch art. Hals played an important role in the evolution of 17th-century group portraiture.
A conversation piece is an informal group portrait, especially those painted in Britain in the 18th century, beginning in the 1720s. They are distinguished by their portrayal of the group apparently engaged in genteel conversation or some activity, very often outdoors. Typically the group will be members of a family, but friends may be included, and some groups are of friends, members of a society or hunt, or some other grouping. Often the paintings are relatively small, about the same size as a half-length portrait but in horizontal or "landscape" format; others are much larger.
Adriaen Brouwer was a Flemish painter active in Flanders and the Dutch Republic in the first half of the 17th century. Brouwer was an important innovator of genre painting through his vivid depictions of peasants, soldiers and other 'lower class' individuals engaged in drinking, smoking, card or dice playing, fighting, music making etc. in taverns or rural settings. Brouwer contributed to the development of the genre of tronies, i.e. head or facial studies, which investigate varieties of expression. In his final year he produced a few landscapes of a tragic intensity. Brouwer's work had an important influence on the next generation of Flemish and Dutch genre painters.
David Teniers the Younger or David Teniers II was a Flemish painter, printmaker, draughtsman, miniaturist painter, staffage painter, copyist and art curator. He was an extremely versatile artist known for his prolific output. He was an innovator in a wide range of genres such as history, genre, landscape, portrait and still life. He is now best remembered as the leading Flemish genre painter of his day. Teniers is particularly known for developing the peasant genre, the tavern scene, pictures of collections and scenes with alchemists and physicians.
Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne, was a versatile Dutch Golden Age painter of allegories, genre subjects and portraits, as well as a miniaturist, book-illustrator and designer of political satires and a versifier.
Bartholomeus van der Helst was a Dutch painter. Considered to be one of the leading portrait painters of the Dutch Golden Age, his elegant portraits gained him the patronage of Amsterdam's elite as well as the Stadtholder's circle. Besides portraits, van der Helst painted a few genre pictures as well as some biblical scenes and mythological subjects.
Frans Pourbus the Elder was a Flemish Renaissance painter painter who is known primarily for his portraits and religious compositions. He also painted a few genre scenes. He was the son of the prominent Bruges painter Pieter Pourbus and the father of Frans Pourbus the Younger who became an international portraitist of the European ruling class.
Events from the year 1662 in art.
Jan Cossiers was a Flemish painter and draughtsman. Cossiers’ earliest works were Caravaggesque genre works depicting low life scenes. Later in his career he painted mostly history and religious subjects as well as portraits. Cossiers was one of the leading painters in Antwerp after Rubens’ death in 1640 and one of the most original colorists in 17th-century Flanders.
Lucas Franchoys the Younger or Lucas Franchoys II was a Flemish Baroque painter from Mechelen, who painted numerous altarpieces and portraits in a style reminiscent of Anthony van Dyck.
Joos van Craesbeeck was a Flemish baker and a painter who played an important role in the development of Flemish genre painting in the mid-17th century through his tavern scenes and dissolute portraits. His genre scenes depict low-life figures as well as scenes of middle-class people. He created a few religiously themed compositions.
Malle Babbe is a painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals, painted between 1633 and 1635 and now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The painting has also been titled as Hille Bobbe or the Witch of Haarlem. It was traditionally interpreted as a tronie, or genre painting in a portrait format, depicting a mythic witch-figure. The painting is now often identified as a genre-style portrait of a specific individual from Haarlem, known as Malle Babbe, who may have been an alcoholic or suffered from a mental illness.
Frans Badens was a Flemish-born painter who was active in Amsterdam where he was known for his mythological and religious scenes and portraits. In his lifetime he was regarded as one of the most important painters who had moved to Amsterdam and was admired for his realistic treatment of the skin.
Het Gulden Cabinet vande Edel Vry Schilder-Const or The Golden Cabinet of the Noble Liberal Art of Painting is a book by the 17th-century Flemish notary and rederijker Cornelis de Bie published in Antwerp. Written in the Dutch language, it contains artist biographies and panegyrics with engraved portraits of 16th- and 17th-century artists, predominantly from the Southern Netherlands. The work is a very important source of information on the artists it describes. It formed the principal source of information for later art historians such as Arnold Houbraken and Jacob Campo Weyerman. It was published in 1662, although the work also mentions 1661 as date of publication.
Louis Bernard Coclers was a Southern Netherlandish portrait painter and engraver who worked mainly in Liège, Maastricht, Leiden and Amsterdam.
The dozens of self-portraits by Rembrandt were an important part of his oeuvre. Rembrandt created approaching one hundred self-portraits including over forty paintings, thirty-one etchings and about seven drawings; some remain uncertain as to the identity of either the subject or the artist, or the definition of a portrait.
The Gypsy Girl is a painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals, painted in 1628 and now in the Louvre Museum. It is a tronie, a study of facial expression and unusual costume, rather than a commissioned portrait. The display of cleavage was not a common feature of costume seen in public in Hals' time and place.