Rowloff de Haes
This picture is a photograph of a painting. The handwritten caption on this picture's cardboard folder would, if true, make it the oldest picture
known from New Castle. In any case, it makes for an interesting puzzle (with no certain solution).
It was found in a barn in Hockessin, DE owned by Laussat Rogers an artist, architect, and historian. The barn was/ had been? owned by Henry Hay and Sophia Booth Rodney Hay who had purchased the Amstel House in New Castlein 1905 and who hired Rogers to do its remodeling and restoration.
???This picture descended to the current owner via New Castle's Janvier family???
Who was the sitter?
This picture presents a puzzle as to the identity of the sitter and the artist and the date painted. It's hard to know what to make of the inscription on the folder: "Rowloff [sic] de Haes colonial settler". There were two people in the early days of the colony whose names normally were spelled "Roeloff deHaes": one who arrived in the first three years of Ft. Casimir's existence (1651-1654) , and his grandson, who died in New Castle in 1716.
The Original Land Titles also known as the Duke of York Record shows that the first Roeloff de Haes was already dead by 1656 but had acquired land in New Castle. According to the Heite c1680 parcel map, this was lot D1, the current Amstel House property and lot H2 at the corner of The Strand and Harmony.
Original Dutch records show that Norwegian (Jan) Roeloff (Jansen) de Haes' widow, Geertruyt Jacops in 1656 appeared in court to assign his property to children Johannes, Marrietje and Annitje prior to marrying Jacob Crabbe. Johannes' son Roeloff (d 1716) acquired the waterfront lot at the foot of Harmony in 1701.
More detailed biographical information on Roeloff Sr.(1623-c1655), Johannes (1644-1695) and Roeloff Jr. is available
None of the three look like great candidates for being the sitter. Roeloff Sr. was a 30-something new arrival in a not-very-rich New Castle. Johannes according to a biography had received "a token sum" as an inheritance, and was not very far above average in wealth based on tax assessments in 1683 (rank = 39/107). While Johannes was active in town affairs and business based on the court records, the only mention of Roeloff Jr. was in 1677 for being awarded "half of a cow wch is dead" in a lawsuit for property in NJ.
Clothing style may provide some clue as to the paintings date, and hence the sitter. While I have no idea of style in Norway and New Amsterdam in the 1640-1650 period, the sitter's neckware does not look Dutch. Very expensive thick lace ruffs were out of style by the 1650's, but very wide flat collars are to be seen in many Dutch paintings, including Rembrandt's famous 1662 group painting (De Staalmeesters) known from the "Dutch Masters" ads. Many other collar/neckware combinations can be seen in the Google Images listing of paintings by Rembrandt, but none look like the sitter's. Instead the neckware is not dissimilar to that of Slator Clay painted c1759. Hence Johannes or Roeloff Jr. look like better candidates if the picture actually was of a deHaes.
When/where was it painted? Who painted it?
If it is a portrait of Roeloff de Haes, Sr., it could have been brought from Europe or painted in New Amsterdam or Ft. Casimir. It could not have been painted by Henri Couturier who may have painted the well known portrait of Stuyvesant, Couturier did not arrive until 1661. If it is a portrait of Roeloff de Haes, Jr. there were no known painters around. Gustavus Hesselius, "the first portrait painter of note in America", lived in Wilmington 1711-1716??), but his portraits were much more sophisticated than this one. If portraits were largely the possessions of the wealthy, none of the deHaes of this period would seem likely candidates.
However, an intriguing possibility is that if it is a portrait of a deHaes, it might have been painted by Johannes' wife "Elizabeth Cousturier" presumed daughter of Hendrick and Elyzabeth Couturier. While I have no evidence that she was a painter, she may have learned the rudiments from her father.
In her chapter on Dutch Art and the Hudson Valley Patroon Painters, Lousia Wood Ruby points out that most paintings in the 1600's in America came from abroad, there were few skilled painters and the lack of provenance for many paintings means they are of anonymous sitters by anonymous artists. Such is probably the case for the Roeloff deHaes portrait here.