The biography of Adriaen van der Werff (1659 - 1722)

Adriaen van der Werff (Kralingen, Jan 21, 1659 - Rotterdam, Nov 12, 1722) was an accomplished Dutch painter of portraits and erotic, religious and mythological scenes, active mainly in Rotterdam.

Van der Werff also worked as an architect in Rotterdam, designing elegant house façades. His brother, Pieter van der Werff (1655 -1722), was his principal pupil and assistant, imitating Adriaen’s style closely and making many copies of his work.

At the age of ten he started to take lessons, two years later moving in with Eglon van der Neer, specializing successfully in clothes and draperies. At the age of seventeen he founded his own studio in Rotterdam where he later became the head of guild of Saint Luc.

In 1696 he was paid a visit by Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine and his wife Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici. The couple ordered two paintings to be send to Cosimo III de' Medici in Florence.

In 1703 he became the official court painter and a knight, when his former teacher and predecessor Van der Neer died. From 1676 van der Werff produced small portraits and genre paintings as an independent master.

Van der Werff, with a perfect technique, was paid extremely well by the Elector for his biblical or classical (erotic) paintings. In 1705 he painted a portrait of Gian Gastone de' Medici. In 1716 he lost his job when the Elector died, because the treasury was empty. His portraits date mainly from the years 1680-95. The motif of children with animals recalls van der Neer, while the careful depiction of fabrics recalls the Leiden school of ‘Fine' painters.

Van der Werff became the most lauded Dutch painter of his day, gaining a European reputation and an enormous fortune. He combined the precise finish of the Leiden tradition (learned from his master Eglon van der Neer) with the classical standards of the French Academy and became the most famous Dutch painter of his day, winning international success and earning an enormous fortune. He is now considered an extremely accomplished, rather sentimental and repetitive minor master.