Surely a live model served for this dashing character in romantic costume and a brilliantly brushed beard. The picture is a tronie (meaning face or expression), in which both the subject and technique were meant to appeal to art lovers. Flinck painted this picture over his own finished formal portrait of a woman, thus saving the wood panel from a commission that somehow went awry.
This tronie, an imaginary portrait based on a live model, would be recognized as typical of Flinck in the 1640s even if the panel were not signed and dated. X-radiographs show that Flick painted his dashing if no longer youthful character over a female portrait, which itself seems consistent with the artist's work in the early to mid-1640s.
Originally the colors of the costume were set off against a deep olive background, but this has darkened almost to black with age. The gold pendant is a type often employed by Rembrandt and artists in his circle to suggest antiquity or the exotic Middle East.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the picture is the wispy white beard, which was something of a signature motif for Flinck, especially in the 1640s. Even in more carefully descriptive pictures such as The Apostle Paul, of about 1636 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), Flinck lends a rhythmic flair to flowing facial hair. Here, however, the effect is much more artificial. The manner of execution is a clear instance of how far Flinck had distanced himself from his teacher Rembrandt by the time he was thirty and had been out of the master's studio for about eight years.
The most similar works by Flinck in type and style include the Bearded Old Man with Beret and Gold Chain (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) and the so-called Portrait of a Rabbi (formerly Guterman collection, New York), both of about 1642. A good number of similar figures were depicted in a generally comparable style by the Amsterdam artist Salomon Koninck (1609–1656) during the 1640s.
[2013; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (left center): G. flinck f. 1645
Collis P. Huntington, New York (until d. 1900; life interest to his widow, Arabella D. Huntington, later [from 1913] Mrs. Henry E. Huntington, 1900–d. 1924; life interest to their son, Archer Milton Huntington, 1924–terminated in 1925)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 49.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
J. W. von Moltke. Govaert Flinck, 1615–1660. Amsterdam, 1965, p. 117, no. 249, ill., as "Portrait of a Man"; reads the date as "1645(?)"; states that the top corners are later additions and that the same model appears in Flinck's history painting "Marcus Curius Dentatus" (Town Hall, Amsterdam), dated 1656.
Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 2, G. van den Eeckhout–I. de Joudreville. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], pp. 1003, 1035, no. 682, ill. p. 1114, reads the date as 1645; considers it of inferior quality.
Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, p. 37.
Walter Liedtke inRembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, , pp. 60, 100, 147, no. 49, ill., records the date as "164[5?]".
Hubert von Sonnenburg. Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 1, "Paintings: Problems and Issues."New York, 1995, p. 114, figs. 154, 155 (overall and x-radiograph).
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 18.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 208–10, no. 47, colorpl. 47, fig. 53 (x-radiograph); vol. 2, p. 724.
Old Master & British Paintings. Christie's, London. December 6, 2011, pp. 50, 52, fig. 2 (color), under no. 13.
Old Masters & British Paintings. Christie's, South Kensington. July 6, 2012, p. 14, under no. 26.
Artist: Attributed to Govert Flinck (Dutch, Cleve 1615–1660 Amsterdam)Date: mid-17th centuryMedium: pen and brown ink over red chalk, with red wash and traces of white heightening. Traces of framing line in pen and black ink.Accession: 1998.176On view in:Not on view