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Italian, Emilian, Portrait of a Painter

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Painter
Artist Italian, Emilian
Date made about 1650
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 64.1 × 51.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by the Misses Cohen as part of the John Samuel collection, 1906
Inventory number NG2106
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Painter
Italian, Emilian

A young man is shown in half length, his body turned slightly but with his gaze fixed firmly on us. His features are quite particular – a wide mouth, long and prominent nose, dark wavy hair and brown eyes – but his identity remains a mystery. He is clearly a painter: he holds a brush in one hand, with which he is mixing colours on the painter’s palette he grasps with the other.

This may be a portrait of an artist or possibly a self portrait – it is difficult to tell which because in both instances artists were often shown in the act of painting. When this work entered the National Gallery’s collection in 1906, it was thought to be a self portrait by the Bolognese painter Benedetto Gennari (1633–1715). Although both the artist and sitter have yet to be convincingly identified, the picture is probably Emilian (painted by an artist from Emilia-Romagna) and datable to the mid-seventeenth century.

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