Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a gentleman 1620c.

 Anglo-Flemish School 

Portrait of a gentleman,  Anglo-Flemish School
Oil on Panel
17th Century
43 1/4 x 35 1/3 inches 110 x 89.75 cm
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This portrait of a young man sitting against a tree before a - perhaps imaginary - Flemish town is an interesting expression of themes in portraiture that had begun to emerge towards the end of the sixteenth century and were to remain a consistent part of its language for the next two hundred years. There is an attempt to integrate the sitter with his landscape surroundings, and to suggest that beyond the simple employment of a backdrop he might really be reading a book in a grove just outside a town. The mood, of course, is one of gentle melancholy. The sitter's costume of an impeccably tasteful and aristocratic black assists the mood, as does the book that it ignored for a moment''s reflection. This motif of the book held with a finger marking the place becomes the stock-in-trade of a great many later rococo portraits, where it confers education and discernment upon its subjects. Even the gentle melancholy remains within the repertoire of later painters.

Equally of its time, however, and as suggestive as the sitter's face of an English influence, is the meticulous - almost miniaturist's - attention to the details and fabric of the costume. With exquisite care the artist distinguishes the many shades of black that make up the silk sheen of the doublet and contrasts them with the flashes of crimson visible through the slashing. It is a technique reminiscent of the draperies of such contemporary English painters as Henry Larkin.
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