A young man stands leaning to one side, his arm resting on a stone plinth. His gaze is soft and he has a slight smile on his face. The artist has concentrated on the long curled hair, the elaborate and expensive lace, and his long fingers.
The plinth shows a relief carving of Eros, the god of love, doing battle with Pan, the horned god associated with fertility. The sculpture, then, symbolises true love overcoming lust. The portrait may have celebrated a betrothal or a marriage, when a young man would be expected to settle down to domesticity – perhaps after living a more carefree life. But since we don‘t know his identity, we can’t be sure if this has any significance for the young sitter.
This picture was once thought to be by Caspar Netscher, but the signature and date aren't in his handwriting and were probably added later.
A young man stands leaning to one side, his arm resting on a stone plinth, a brocade curtain behind him. His gaze is soft and he has a slight smile on his face, a faint moustache above his lip. The artist has concentrated on the curled hair – probably a wig – and the elaborate, expensive lace at the man’s neck and wrist. Long slender fingers show the influence of van Dyck – for example, look at his Portrait of George Gage with Two Attendants.
Behind the man, on the right outside the room, clouds billow over a sloping hill. Below the window we can see a frieze of carved classical figures but it’s difficult to make out who they are. This is hardly the background for an admiral in the British Navy, as the sitter was once thought to be; the name suggested was Admiral Lord Berkeley. Even in a wedding portrait, a leading figure in the Navy might be expected to have ships or some sort of insignia in the background. And at the date inscribed on the portrait, ‘1679’, none of the members of the Berkeley family who had reached this rank were the age of the man we see here. If he is one of the earls of Berkeley, the only likely person is Charles, 2nd Earl of Berkeley, who was envoy to the Netherlands from 1689 to 1694 – even then, this time period is too late, and our sitter doesn‘t resemble the only other known portrait of Charles.
The picture was once thought to have been painted by Caspar Netscher while he was a student of Gerard ter Borch, but it’s now considered to be a studio replica by an unknown artist, of a painting by Netscher dated 1678 (now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). The signature and date aren’t in Netscher’s handwriting and were probably added later.
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