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Catharina van Hemessen, 'Portrait of a Man', possibly 1552

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Man
Artist Catharina van Hemessen
Artist dates 1527/8 - after 1566?
Date made possibly 1552
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 36.2 × 29.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1878
Inventory number NG1042
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Man
Catharina van Hemessen

The Latin inscription in the top right corner names the female artist: CATHARINA. FILIA /IOHANNIS DE HEMES/SEN PINGEBAT. 1552. (‘Catharina, daughter of Johannes de Hemessen was painting [it]. 1552.’).

We don't know the sitter’s identity but he was clearly a wealthy man. His belt has gold ornaments and his sword too is golden. He wears gold rings on his fingers – one set with a shield, quartered in red and blue – and another hangs from a chain around his neck. In the mid-sixteenth century it was relatively common for people to wear rings on necklaces, possibly as pledges of affection.

The pose – one hand on the hip and the other grasping the hilt of a sword – seems to have been taken from portraits painted at the Habsburg courts in the 1540s.

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