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De Keyser, William (DNB00)


DE KEYSER, WILLIAM (1647–1692?), painter, was a native of Antwerp and by profession originally a jeweller, with a large and prosperous business at Antwerp. Being devotedly attached to art, he occupied his leisure hours in painting, and executed several altar-pieces for churches at Antwerp. Having occasion to go to Dunkirk on business, he painted an altar-piece for the convent of English nuns there which pleased them so much that they persuaded him that he could make his fortune as a painter in England. De Keyser, being provided by the nuns with an introduction to Lord Melfort, availed himself of a fair wind and a returning ship and crossed then and there to England. There he was well received by Lord Melfort, who introduced him to James II, and he soon obtained many commissions. He then sent over to Antwerp for his wife and family, with instructions to dispose of his establishment in the jeweller's trade. Soon after their arrival the revolution occurred, and De Keyser found himself deprived of his best patrons; as his affairs got gradually worse, he took to studying the possible discovery of the philosopher's stone. This folly soon brought him to an early grave, and he died in reduced circumstances about 1692, aged 45. He left a daughter, whom he educated with great care from her youth as an artist. She attained some note as a painter of portraits and in copying pictures in small. She married a Mr. Humble, and died in December 1724. Vertue, who knew her personally, states that she had several paintings by her father, including an altar-piece of St. Catherine, commissioned by the queen for Somerset House Chapel, and others which showed him to have studied carefully the style and colouring of the Italian masters.

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painters, ed. Dallaway and Wornum; Vertue's MSS. (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 23069); Immerzeel's Levens en Werken der Hollandsche en Vlaamsche Kunstschilders, &c.]

L. C.