In later centuries, altarpieces were sometimes dismantled and cut into smaller fragments. In this case, the original religious panel included a full-length portrait of the donor. At some point he was cut out from the waist up, and the background was repainted in a uniform, dark color to make the painting look like an independent portrait. With the overpaint now removed, the panel’s fragmentary condition is evident, for we see the cloak and arm of the donor’s patron saint, possibly Saint John the Baptist, presenting him to the object of his devotion.
[Édouard Warneck, Paris, by 1907–26; his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 27, 1926, no. 2, as by Dirck Bouts, for Fr 900,000 to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, New York, 1926; sold to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1926–d. 1931)
Bruges. Maison du Gouverneur. "Exposition de la Toison d'Or à Bruges," June–October 1907, no. 179 (as Attributed to Jan van Eyck, lent by Édouard Warneck).
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Flemish Primitives," 1929, no. 13 (as Attributed to Bouts, lent by Michael Friedsam).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 4–November 23, 1947, unnumbered cat. (as by a Follower of Jan van Eyck).
Iowa City. State University of Iowa, School of Fine Arts. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 9–March 31, 1948, unnumbered cat.
Bloomington. Indiana University. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 18–May 16, 1948, no catalogue.
Brussels. Palais des Beaux-Arts. "Dieric Bouts," 1957, no. 10 (as by Bouts).
Delft. Museum Prinsenhof. "Dieric Bouts," 1957–58, no. 10.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 24 (as Circle of Dieric Bouts, about 1460–65).
H. Kervyn de Lettenhove et al. Les chefs-d'oeuvre d'art ancien à l'exposition de la Toison d'or à Bruges en 1907. Brussels, 1908, p. 80, no. 179, pl. 37, find this picture stylistically closer to the Merode triptych in spite of its attribution to Jan van Eyck in the exhibition catalogue.
Émile Durand-Gréville. Hubert et Jean van Eyck. Brussels, 1910, pp. 117–19, ill. opp. p. 118, notes that the painting's owner has the courage to attribute it to Hubert van Eyck; supports this attribution and compares the sitter's costume to that of Jodocus Vijd in the Ghent Altarpiece; dates the panel shortly before 1426.
Max J. Friedländer. Von Eyck bis Bruegel: Studien zur Geschichte der Niederländischen Malerei. Berlin, 1916, pp. 39, 176, attributes it to Dieric Bouts.
Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, pp. 163–64, includes it in a group of early works by Dieric Bouts, painted before 1447.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 3, Dierick Bouts und Joos van Gent. Berlin, 1925, pp. 45, 107, no. 10, pl. 17, finds it a highly individual head, almost in the spirit of Jan van Eyck; places it fairly early in Bouts's career, noting that the haircut supports this.
Frits Lugt. Collection Warneck: Tableaux anciens et modernes. Galerie Georges Petit. May 27–28, 1926, p. 15, no. 2, ill., accepts Friedländer's [Refs. 1916 and 1925] attribution to Dieric Bouts.
Max J. Friedländer in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 145, as a masterpiece of Thierry Bouts in a wonderful state of preservation.
Franz Dülberg. Niederländische Malerei der Spätgotik und Renaissance. Potsdam, 1929, p. 71.
Belvedere 8 (1929), ill. opp. p. 464 (pl. 40), as by Dieric Bouts.
Sidney P. Noe. "Flemish Primitives in New York." American Magazine of Art 21 (January 1930), pp. 36–37, ill. p. 34.
Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), pp. 16–17, no. 15, ill., as by Dieric Bouts.
Ludwig von Baldass. "Die Entwicklung des Dirk Bouts." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 6 (1932), pp. 100, 104, 108–9, 114, fig. 95, considers it a work from Bouts's late period, although he finds it stylistically close to a group of pictures that Karl Voll (in Altniederländische Malerei, Leipzig, 1905) attributed to the "Master of the Pearl of Brabant" [an artist he saw as responsible for the Adoration triptych—known as The Pearl of Brabant—in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, and other works usually given to Bouts's late career].
"Friedsam Bequest to be Exhibited Next November." Art News 30 (January 2, 1932), p. 13.
Wolfgang Schöne. Dieric Bouts und seine Schule. Berlin, 1938, pp. 39–41, 170, no. 53, pl. 59, rejects the attribution to Bouts and ascribes it to the painter responsible for the Betrayal of Christ and Resurrection in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich; compares the head with that of the man in the spiked helmet, just above Saint Peter, in the Betrayal; dates the Munich panels between 1455 and 1465 and places our portrait in the same period, or (in his catalogue entry) about 1460.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 16–17, ill., attribute it to a follower of Jan van Eyck from the middle of the fifteenth century, observing that the sitter is not "inward-looking" in the manner of Bouts's subjects; date this picture between 1430 and 1450 on the basis of his costume and haircut; note that x-rays reveal the hand of a patron saint resting on the sitter's shoulder, evidence that the portrait was cut from a larger panel.
J. Francotte. Dieric Bouts: Zijn Kunst—zijn laatste Avondmaal. Louvain, 1951, pp. 51, 183, pl. 30, as by Bouts, dates it about 1460.
Dieric Bouts. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts. Brussels, [1957?], pp. 40–41, no. 10, ill., as by Bouts; notes that there are surviving portraits that postdate 1450 in which men wear their hair cut above the ears.
Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 34–35, 108, attributes it to an anonymous fifteenth-century follower of the Van Eycks.
Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 3, Dieric Bouts and Joos van Gent. New York, 1968, pp. 28, 60–61, 87 n. 32, no. 10, pl. 19, as by Bouts; suggests a relatively early date.
Sylvia Hochfield. "Conservation: The Need is Urgent." Art News 75 (February 1976), p. 26, ill., illustrates the picture before and after the 1949 cleaning, when the background figure was revealed.
Colin Eisler. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Vol. 4, European Schools Excluding Italian. London, 1977, p. 54.
Lorne Campbell. Unpublished text for MMA Bulletin. 1981, suggests that the presenting saint is John the Baptist; notes that the style shows some similarity to Albert van Ouwater's "Raising of Lazarus" in the Berlin Museum [Staatliche Museen, Berlin] and suggests that it may be from his circle, possibly executed about 1450.
Guy Bauman. "Early Flemish Portraits, 1425–1525." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 43 (Spring 1986), p. 16, ill. (color), rejects Friedländer's [see Refs. 1916, 1925] attribution to Dieric Bouts; notes stylistic similarities to Ouwater's "Raising of Lazarus," and ascribes the portrait to a "very gifted follower of Ouwater in Bouts's circle, probably before 1450".
Peter Klein. "Dendrochronological Findings of the Van Eyck–Christus–Bouts Group." Petrus Christus in Renaissance Bruges: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth. New York, 1995, p. 152, gives 1437 as the estimated felling date for the tree from which this panel was cut.
James Snyder inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 4, New York, 1996, p. 593, ascribes it to Dieric Bouts.
Peter Klein. Letter. May 13, 1997, suggests "from 1447 upwards" as a probable date of creation for this picture.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "A Meeting of Sacred and Secular Worlds." From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 156–57, no. 24, ill. (color), catalogues it as "Circle of Dieric Bouts" and dates it about 1460–65 on the basis of the man's costume; notes that an attribution to the young Bouts should not be ruled out, although his heads are usually more elongated; calls the patron saint probably John the Baptist.
Catheline Périer-d'Ieteren. Dieric Bouts: The Complete Works. Brussels, 2006, pp. 194, 201–2, 205–6, 343, no. A6, ill. p. 343 and fig. 189 (color), includes it in a group of five works, including the Adoration triptych in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, that she attributes to Bouts and the Master of the Munich Betrayal [see Schöne 1938].
Before 1949, when overpaint was removed from this panel's dark background, it appeared to be an independent portrait. The presence of a patron saint, probably John the Baptist, makes it clear that it is instead a fragment of a larger work. It was either the left wing of a triptych or part of a single devotional panel, and must have shown the sitter at prayer, in contemplation of a devotional subject such as the Virgin and Child. The picture is difficult to date. Peter Klein (1997), who studied the growth rings of the tree from which the panel was cut, suggests a probable date of creation of "from 1447 upwards"; the man's hair is cut in a style that would be unusual after 1450, and the arm and drapery of the patron saint have a Rogierian appearance. Bouts was stylstically closest to Rogier between about 1450 and 1458. The Betrayal of Christ (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), with which this panel is sometimes associated stylistically (see Schöne 1938 and Périer-d'Ieteren 2006), was produced on a panel whose estimated felling date Peter Klein reports as 1476; Dieric Bouts died in 1475.