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Flemish, Portrait of a Man

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Man
Artist Flemish
Date made probably 1645-55
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 100 × 80.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Miss Pilbrow, 1900
Inventory number NG1700
Location Room 20
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Man

This painting was bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1900 but we have no record of earlier owners, nor of the name of the sitter or artist, nor of the date. It’s hard even to be sure where it was made. Until the 1950s it was thought to be Dutch, but now it’s believed that the style of painting suggests it probably comes from Flanders.

The black coat with the simple, straight-edged collar and cuffs does help us narrow down the date: it’s in the French style of the 1650s. The sitter’s pose also tells us something about how he wanted to be perceived. By looking away from us and turning his head towards the light, he presents his features in the most flattering way and creates a sense of calm, superior detachment. The hands are placed carefully too, one suspended in front of him and the other resting on the top of a cane perhaps. This is a man at ease with himself and his position in society.

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