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Piet Mondrian in around 1910 created a double sides portrait for use as a pendant. On this side we find a picture of H.H. van Aalst-Haagedoorn, whilst on the reverse is S.J.C. van Aalst. The artist was not famous for his portraiture, but actually put a lot of time into perfecting his skills within this important genre.
The woman in front of us here is middle aged and bears a very strong, aggressive expression on her face. She is dressed smartly in line with the fashions of the day and clearly much preparation was made. We believe that the paintings of her and her husband were completed by Mondrian after they had already passed, as a means to remembering their legacy. Mondrian was willing to take on commissions such as these, and found it to be an excellent means to increasing his income. Prior to the widespread use of photography, painted portraits was perhaps the only means by which one's visual appearance could be preserved for future generations. The lady here is dressed predominantly in black, though with some carefully planned touches of white, such as in half of the decoration in her hair, as well as around the neckline on her outfit. Both portraits have the same light brown tone in the background which helps to provide some contrast with the models themselves and thre rest of the scene.
This portrait of H.H. van Aalst-Haagedoorn was completed in around 1910, where as the lady herself lived during the years of 1806-1891. She was born in Den Haag, which many refer to instead as The Hague. She is believed to have married S.J.C. van Aalst in 1832, and so she would have passed away around two decades before this painting was completed by Mondrian. Both works were around 68cm tall by 54cm for the purposes of being joined together within a pendant design. The item would pass through the same family for many years but did surface at auction in the late 1980s in Amsterdam. Mondrian's paintings are as popular today as they ever have been and so owners of his work can put them up for auction with relative confidence, even for lesser known works such as this. Many provincial galleries will jump at the chance of featuring Mondrian within their permanent collections and the more high profile pieces would be well outside the budgets of most of them.
A catalogue raisonne for Mondrian was produced towards the end of the 20th century and featured both of these portraits, further confirming their authenticity. Efforts were made to provide art followers with a more comprehensive view of his achievements, and so it was important to seek out all of these lesser known pieces which help us to better understand the artistic path taken by Mondrian across his own lifetime. Portraiture was something he valued and should not be underplayed, even though he ultimately achieved more success elsewhere in his later abstract work instead. Today he remains regarded as one of the most influential 20th century artists from the western world and retains his popularity with the public as well.