Picture of the Day

This unknown man, painted c.1640, is currently resident at the Heckscher Museum of Art in New York.

Unknown 1640
Portrait of a Man, c. 1640, Unknown Artist (English, Seventeenth Century)

Oil on wood panel, 15-1/2 x 11-3/4 in., August Heckscher Collection. 1959.122

The museum website (www.heckscher.org) gives the following information:

“Although neither the artist nor the subject of this portrait has been identified, the armor worn by the sitter is typical of English manufacture during the first half of the seventeenth century. The hinged shoulder clasps distinguish the fine quality of the armor and suggest that it may have been produced at the royal workshops in Greenwich that were established by Henry VIII in 1514. While the noble bearing of the officer and the sensitive delineation of the textures is characteristic of portraiture of the period, the small scale of the portrait is uncommon in mid-17th century England, raising the possibility that it is a replica of an unidentified larger-scale portrait.

I really like this painting. The salmon/pink sleeve under the shorter upper sleeve (is that a buff coat under the armour?) is an unusual combination, and I haven’t seen anything similar except in regard to the colour, which reminds me of the pink silk shirt on Dobson’s unidentified naval officer at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. No obvious artist names jump out at me though,  and sadly there are no hints around the sitter to offer any guess at his identity, but from the fashion,  could we tentatively add a few years to the estimated date and suggest he is a Royalist officer…?

I’d never heard of the The Heckscher Museum, but it looks like one that would be worth a visit if you’re in the neighbourhood, especially as they offer visitors and supporters a great way of helping conserve the collection. By adopting a work of art you can help pay for repairs or other necessities, such as in this case, damage to the frame. What a brilliant idea! If I had $2,550 spare I’d definitely be adopting this one!

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1 Comment

  1. That’s definitely a buffcoat under his breastplate. What a beautiful portrait. Maybe “school of Van Dyck” would cover it, since the painter, or original work, are unknown? It certainly shows his influence. I wonder if it showsone of the many English gentlemen who learned their soldiering trade during the Thirty Years’ War? That would cover both the earlier suggested date and the military references.

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