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Petrus Christus, Portrait of a Young Man

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Young Man
Artist Petrus Christus
Artist dates active 1444; died 1475/6
Date made 1450-60
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 35.4 × 26 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2593
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of a Young Man
Petrus Christus

We don‘t know the identity of the young man in this small painting, but he is clearly a person of wealth and taste. He wears a bright red robe trimmed with fur, and at his waist is a black bag with a ’notebook' of wax tablets inside. He holds a small but luxurious manuscript, probably a Book of Hours (a devotional book) or prayer book.

He is perhaps an Italian merchant – Christus often worked for Italian patrons and the painting was in an Italian collection in the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. The tablets in his bag show that he often had to make notes, as a merchant would.

On the wall behind him is a piece of parchment with a prayer in Latin, and a picture of a miraculous image of Christ. Perhaps the young man is reciting the prayer in his book and was originally looking across at another image, now lost.

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