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Follower of Jan van Scorel, A Man with Pansies and a Skull

Key facts
Full title A Man with Pansies and a Skull
Artist Follower of Jan van Scorel
Artist dates 1495 - 1562
Date made about 1535
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 27.6 × 21.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1878
Inventory number NG1036
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Man with Pansies and a Skull
Follower of Jan van Scorel

We don't know who painted this portrait or the sitter’s identity, though he was clearly a man of means. His clothes are rich but sombre – a black or dark grey hat and doublet, and a purple coat lined with grey damask. His white shirt is finely woven and the laces at his neck have gold tips; he wears four gold rings. His clothing suggests that the portrait was painted in about 1535 in the regions of the Low Countries north of the Rhine and the Meuse.

His hand is resting on a damaged skull, which has lost most of its teeth and its lower jaw. Skulls in Renaissance painting were symbols of death, while pansies could stand for thoughts (pensée, which means thought, is the flower’s French name). The man is clearly meditating on death, hence his solemn and distant expression.

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