During his years in Deventer, Ter Borch continued to explore
the challenge of representing portrait likenesses. While continuing
to employ a small format, he concentrated on representing
his subjects in discreet, yet elaborate formal attire. He
also provided them with visual props, such as upholstered
chairs and tables protected by tablecloths. These furnishings
provide an accent of color while evoking a wealthy interior.
He experimented with his subjects’ poses. Some stand,
while others sit, which suggests a hint of informality. More
rarely, Ter Borch represented certain sitters from the waist
up. While this format refers to well-established Renaissance
conventions of the later 16th and early 17th-centuries, it
enabled Ter Borch to represent elaborate detail with an unusual
degree of finesse. He savored every starched surface, embroidered
lace, all types of ribbons and bows, as well as costly features
such as fur trim, leather gloves, and ivory-capped canes.
In one of his most remarkable later pictures, the artist scrutinizes
a seated young man, wearing a fur cap, lost in contemplation
as he reads from a printed sheet. The artist’s unwavering
concentrated focus allows us an intimate glimpse at this sitter,
whose thoughts will remain forever inaccessible to the viewer.
Posthumous Portrait of Moses ter Borch, ca. 1668;
Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.