Three Brothers, Thrice Six Years Old: Thomas de Keyser’s Riddle Solved


  • Frans Grijzenhout



Since the painting was acquired by the Rijksmuseum in 1987, the identity of the three Catholic boys portrayed by Thomas de Keyser around 1630 had always been a mystery. Now this riddle has been solved. They are the brothers Hendrick (1616-1666), Jan (1623/24-1669/70) and Simon Verstegen (-1629). Their parents were important players in the organization of the clandestine Roman Catholic church in Amsterdam in the first decades of the seventeenth century. They were the immediate neighbours of Thomas de Keyser’s parents-in-law in Amsterdam’s Vijgendam. The naked state of Simon, who died young, was probably intended as an exhortation to the viewer to follow Christ in poverty and simplicity. The article explores the lives of the brothers Hendrick and Jan Verstegen, and Jan’s wife Adriana van den Berch, who was portrayed as the muse Euterpe by Jacob Backer. De Keyser’s portrait was probably in the Truchsessian Gallery in London between 1802 and 1806.


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Author Biography

  • Frans Grijzenhout

    Frans Grijzenhout is professor of early modern art history at the University of Amsterdam.







How to Cite

“Three Brothers, Thrice Six Years Old: Thomas De Keyser’s Riddle Solved”. 2022. The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 70 (1): 4-25.