Portrait of a man, 1641 and Portrait of a woman, 1640, Johannes Verspronck, Rijksmuseum Twenthe Enschede
During the 17th century, the great economic and cultural growth of the Dutch Republic led to a rise in portraiture. The Dutch higher classes seemed eager to acquire portraits that would capture their image in eternity.
One particular type was the marriage portraits, consisting of two pendant paintings of the married couple. These two examples were created by the famous portraitist of the period, Johannes Verspronck. The attention to the clothes and their rich texture shows that the couple was wealthy belonging to the upper parts of society. The dark background is used to place emphasis on the clothes and the sitters themselves; their faces, their hands, their postures. Conventions on gender roles are obeyed. The man in an active stance comes forward as the powerful party, while the woman is represented more restraint and obedient clasping her hands.
The paintings would face each other. The portrait of the woman was usually placed on the right so that the man would appear as having her at his left side, another indication of the position of the wife inside the marriage.