Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of a Man

Quentin Metsys (Netherlandish, Leuven 1466–1530 Kiel)
Oil on wood
Overall, with arched top and engaged frame, 18 1/8 x 13 1/2 in. (46 x 34.3 cm); painted surface 15 5/8 x 11 1/4 in. (39.7 x 28.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
Accession Number:
Not on view
Inscription: Inscribed (on collar): LEVER
Leicester Fitzgerald Charles Stanhope, 5th Earl of Harrington, Elvaston Castle, Derbyshire (by 1857–d. 1862); the Earls of Harrington, Elvaston Castle (1862–1917); Dudley Henry Eden Stanhope, 9th Earl of Harrington, Elvaston Castle (1917–24; sale, Christie's, London, July 18, 1924, no. 85, as by Holbein, "Portrait of a Gentleman [said to be the Protector Somerset]," for £399 to Sabin); [Frank T. Sabin, London, 1924]; [Agnew, London, 1924; sold to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1924; sold to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1924–d. 1931)
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.

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.

George Vertue. Notebook entry. 1731–36 [published in "Vertue Note Books Volume IV" in Walpole Society, vol. 24, (1935–36), pp. 115–16], mentions a male portrait [tentatively identified by Lorne Campbell with our picture, see Ref. Campbell 1981] in the collection of a Mr. Robert Martin, Thetford, and observes that it was formerly at "Westrop [Westrope] Hall the mansion w[h]ere Queen Mary wife of Ch. Brandon liv[e]d—and she dyd"; notes an inscription at top: "Johannes Barrow filius Mauritii Barrow Militis," and one on its cover [no longer extant?]: "ætatis mea anno 30 die Johannis evangelista 26 decembris/ factum per Quintin Metsiis. anno D[omi]ni 1521. die 6º Junii" under a coat of arms and a moto: "en dieu est tout"; in a subsequent anotation observes that the picture was bought lately by the Earl of Oxford.

[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain. London, 1857, p. 495, mentions this portrait, most probably by Quentin Massys, in the collection of the Earl of Harrington at Elvaston Castle.

Max J. Friedländer. Letter to F. Kleinberger. December 16, 1924, calls it a "fine and characteristic work by Quentin Massys".

Max J. Friedländer. "Neues zu Quentin Massys." Der Cicerone 19 (1927), p. 7, ill., dates it about 1505; finds the composition similar to that of works by Joos van Cleve.

Max J. Friedländer in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 125, as by Quentin Massys, painted toward 1510.

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 7, Quentin Massys. Berlin, 1929, pp. 65, 121, no. 41, pl. 39, dates it probably between 1510–20.

Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), p. 28, no. 40, note that the "unexplained word 'Lever'" is embroidered on the sitter's vest.

Ludwig Baldass. "Gotik und Renaissance im Werke des Quinten Metsys." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 7 (1933), p. 163, dates it before 1509 and regards it as representative of Massys's earliest portrait type, directly related to portraits by Jan van Eyck.

E. P. Richardson. "Quentin Massys." Art Quarterly 4 (1941), pp. 165, 169, ill., places it in the earliest phase of Massys's development; reads the inscription on the vest as "LEVEL" rather than "LEVER," and reads "something like C (lover's knot) M, F O" on the sleeve.

K. G. Boon in "Bouts–David–Geertgen tot St Jans–Moro–Breugel." Palet-Serie: Een reeks monografieën over hollandse en vlaamse schilders. Amsterdam, [1942], pp. 49–50, ill.

Eleanor C. Marquand. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. October 29, 1943, identifies the flower held by the man as borage (Borage officinalis), based on its form, bright blue color and the character of the bud and leaves; cites references in Banckes's Herbal of 1525, John Gerard's Herbal of 1597, Cesare Ripa's Iconologia of 1598 and John Parkinson's Theatrum Botanicum of 1640, all of which note that this plant induces merry and joyful states; notes that in this picture the flower is a reference to his lady.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, p. 106, ill., date it before Massys's altarpiece of Saint Anne (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels), completed in 1509; note that the pommel of the sword closely resembles early 16th-century specimens from northern Italy.

Luigi Mallé. "Quinten Metsys." Commentari 6, no. 2 (April–June 1955), p. 98.

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 128–29.

Gert von der Osten and Horst Vey. Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands 1500 to 1600. Baltimore, 1969, p. 150.

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 7, Quentin Massys. New York, 1971, pp. 34, 64–65, no. 41, pl. 45.

A. de Bosque. Quentin Metsys. Brussels, 1975, pp. 227–28, 368, fig. 280, finds the attribution to Massys improbable, arguing that at the time this picture was painted—about 1515–20, according to the costume—the artist's style could not have shown the problems evident here.

Lorne Campbell. Letter to Mary Sprinson. February 28, 1981, notes that the costume dates from about 1521; tentatively identifies our picture with a portrait by Quentin Metsys in the collection of Robert Martin at Thetfield, described in Vertue's Notebooks [see Ref. Vertue 1731–36]; cites the inscription, according to which, the sitter was John, son of Sir Maurice Barrow and the painting was dated June 6, 1521; notes that the same portrait was later in the Earl of Oxford's sale, London, March 8, 1742.

Larry Silver. The Paintings of Quinten Massys with Catalogue Raisonné. Montclair, N.J., 1984, pp. 169, 172, 232, no. 51, pl. 151, titles it "Wealthy Man" and notes that attribution should be considered with caution, especially as the "pomp and display so prominent" here are "anomalous among Massys' portraits"; suggests the influence of Jan van Eyck's portrait of Jan de Leeuw (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).

Lorne Campbell. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. March 5, 1984, notes that its frame appears to be original and reiterrates his hypothesis that this is the portrait of John Barrow described by Vertue [see Ref. Vertue 1731–36]; provides biographical information about Barrow.

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. 143, 410, ill. (color), lists it as "Attributed to Quentin Massys"; dates it about 1515–20.

Mary Sprinson de Jesús. Letter to Martha Wolff. July 23, 1999, observes that the artist lacks confidence in dealing with the sitter's neck and hands and cites the verbal oppinion of Hubert von Sonnenburg, according to whom, even allowing for its abraided surface, the painting "cannot be ascribed to Massys with much confidence".

Martha Wolff. Letter to Mary Sprinson de Jesús. July 8, 1999, notes that the costume of the sitter looks closer to 1520 than to the years just after 1500.

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