Portrait of an Unknown Man

Portrait of an Unknown Man
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Portraiture, Painting, Oil on panel, 48.5x32 cm
Origin: France, Late 1560s

This superb example of French 16th-century portraiture does not limit itself to the mere depiction of an external likeness, but seeks to show those details which give away something of the sitter's character, such as the barely noticeable smile lurking at the corners of the mouth. The half-length format is characteristic of portraits of this period, while the slight turn of the figure indicates a move away from the static frontality or earlier times. The painting style is unusually soft for such portraits.

The fashionable cut of the attire, the noble face and elegant bearing are evidence of the aristocratic origins of the subject. It was traditionally thought - due to an inscription in the top right corner which reads Mr Le Duc d'Alencon - that the subject was the Duc d'Alencon, but this theory has been totally rejected. The inscription is later than the painting itself, and the sitter is now identified as the Duc d'Anjou, the future Henri III of France.

Style: Renaissance
Source of entry: Crozat Collection, Paris, 1772
Exibition: French Art: 15th - 18th centuries

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