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Journal > Volumes > 45 (2014) / 3 (Autumn)
Salvation and Community in Seventeenth- Century Dutch Mennonite Portraiture: Egbert van Heemskerck’s Portrait of Jacob Hercules and His Family, 1669
Michelle Moseley-Christian
Virginia Tech

Egbert van Heemskerck the Younger’s Portrait of The Surgeon Jacob Fransz. Hercules and His Family, 1669, places the titular family’s group portrait in the setting of a barber-surgeon’s shop as a scene depicting the medical proce- dure of bloodletting. The Hercules portrait offers a striking example of genre- portraiture, a type of hybrid picture that sets an informal portrait in a genre scene of everyday life. The unprecedented choice of placing sitters within a scene of bloodletting has been overlooked as a multifaceted iconographic strat- egy that articulates the complexities of an early modern Mennonite worldview. Blood connects the merciful practice of compassionate, Christlike healing to health care in an effort to extol not only the manual and intellectual skills of the sitter’s lowly trade of barber-surgeon, but also to emphasize the Hercules family’s virtues of empathy and piety. These intersections between the personal and the professional forge an appropriate image that was informed by the most inspirational spiritual leaders and important Mennonite texts of the period. 

Pages: 599 - 630