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Provenance: Lent to the Laing Gallery, 1904 by Mr C. E. Carr; Private Collection, England
Exhibited: Laing Art Gallery, Special Inaugural Exhibition of Pictures by British and Foreign Artists, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1904
This remarkable portrait of a young gentleman was painted in 1639 when the unknown sitter was 22 years old. Fashionably dressed in grey doublet and ruff, he looks out directly and fixedly at the onlooker in a manner which is specific to Dutch portraiture of the time. Portrait painting in the Low Countries during the first quarter of the 17th century is to a large extent typified by an exacting stature, which sometimes, in the hands of less gifted artists, descended into rigidity. This austerity was clearly determined in part by the prevailing fashion, with its emphasis on dark hues. Portrait painters sought not only to depict their subjects as realistically as possible, but also to present them in a more natural manner.
The composition of this picture is enlivened by the vigourously painted background which in many portraits of this kind is plain throughout. In this example, shadows, sketched behind and to the side, in addition to a wide spectrum of tonal range, convey a sense of energy. This technique is seen more often in the work of Franz Hals (1582-1666). These rapid brushstrokes, applied to a preparatory ground, consist of yellow and red oche colour pigments and bring warmth to the portrait as well as a depth to the overall physical form of the image. This can be seen most noticeably on the sitter's face where the darker side is expressively highlighted by sgraffito (scratching out), creating the delicate facial hair around the lips and the moustache, further being used to similar effect on the eybrow and eye lashes. The strong nose and the high forehead with a distinctive hairline that frames the face, together with an intense expression to the eyes, all add to the lively and forthright characterisation the artist has achieved so realistically.
The present portrait bears a close resemblance to a work that was offered for sale at auction in recent times - Christies Old Master Paintings, 4th July, 2012, lot 162 - so much so that it is almost certainly by the same, as yet, unknown artist.
|Height||26.50 inch||(67.31 cm)|
|Width||21.00 inch||(53.34 cm)|