We currently believe that J. Schul may be Johan Christoffel Schultz, a Dutch painter and printmaker who lived from 1749-1812, or perhaps his uncle, Jeremias Schultsz, (dates unknown). Several of Johan’s prints survive, depicting affluent, well-dressed sitters from the 1770s, '80s, and '90s, signed in a variety of manners, including “J. C. Schulz pinxit” in 1796 and “J. C. Schultsz delin. et sculp.” in 1787 ("J. C. Schultsz drew and engraved this"). Two painted portraits from the 1780s signed "J. Schultz fecit," currently attributed to Jeremias Schultz, also survive. It was not entirely uncommon for an artist to spell his name differently at different moments in his career. As a result, we see signatures Schul, Schult, Schulz, Schultsz, all by the same artist, often using a Latin verb, in the 1770s, '80s, and '90s.
We are working quickly to learn more about these artists in order to determine if either traveled outside of Europe, although it appears both were based in Amsterdam. This research will have an important impact on how we understand the Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom and the woman depicted.
Very few portraits of people of colour by European artists survive from this period. In our collection, Black subjects appear in several paintings, where they are cast in positions of servitude and enslavement. Four examples appear below.