Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of a Man in a Chaperon

Netherlandish Painter (1440–50)
Oil on wood
Overall 11 x 7 3/4 in. (27.9 x 19.7 cm); painted surface 10 5/8 x 7 1/4 in. (27 x 18.4 cm)
Credit Line:
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949
Accession Number:
Not on view
This young man wears a red turban, known as a chaperon; his attire suggests the work was painted in the 1440s. The sitter’s hands originally occupied a smaller area, but the artist adjusted their position so that they could hold a flower. The inclusion of the carnation (also known as a pink), is a sign of marital love and fidelity, suggesting that the panel originally was paired with a portrait of a woman. It is possible that it began as a standard portrait, but was changed to a betrothal portrait at the patron’s request.
The Painting: This portrait depicts an unidentified man holding a delicate pink. Two rings, one with colorful stones, adorn the fingers of his left hand and rest above the middle knuckles. The man wears a large red chaperon and his black jacket is embellished with a brooch and a hint of grey fur that peeks from the edges of his collar and cuffs. These details of costume generally correspond to mid-fifteenth-century fashion in the Low Countries and thus help to date the portrait. However, they do not provide any clues to the sitter’s identity.[1] The compositional decision to rest the sitter’s hands on the lower edge of the panel also links the painting to the middle of the fifteenth century when artists like Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden began to establish greater connections between their subjects and the realm of the viewer by using this compositional strategy. An example by Rogier van der Weyden is The Met’s Portrait of Francesco d’Este (born about 1430, died after 1475) (32.100.43).

Adjustments made to this small portrait likely reflect the changing marital status of its sitter. In the initial stages, the man’s hands were positioned more flatly, one hand on top of the other. This can be observed more clearly in the infrared reflectogram (see Additional Images, fig. 1) which reveals a thick, brush underdrawing in this area that establishes the placement of each finger. The infrared reflectogram also shows that the right hand was repositioned in the painted stage in order to hold a pink, both features having been executed over the completed jacket. Pinks, or carnations, were symbols of love and fidelity and were often held by men in pendant portraits where their likenesses would be paired with images of their betrothed. It is likely that the alterations were introduced in the final paint layer upon the sitter’s engagement. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to identify a suitable female pendant to this portrait.

Attribution and date: The portrait has been attributed to several early Netherlandish painters including Petrus Christus and Rogier van der Weyden, but it is not up to the standards of such masterful painters. While the face of the man has been executed in a series of fine, carefully rendered brushstrokes, details like the pink and the brooch have been somewhat clumsily painted.[2] Further evidence of this encumbered manner can be observed in the chaperon, where the painter has struggled with the complex folds of the long liripipe as it wraps around the padded roll encircling the sitter’s head. This confusion is accentuated by the pentimenti at the edges of the chaperon that fail to clarify its shape.[3]

From its earliest mentions in scholarly literature, condition issues played a role in previous attempts to settle on an attribution for the portrait. Julius Held highlighted the possibility of repainting.[4] Larsen, going further, wrote that the work had been restored so as to emphasize stylistic links to Rogier van der Weyden, and Jean-Luc Pypaert suggested the intervention of the restorer Jef van der Veken.[5] However, as described in the Technical Notes, in its current state the paint layers are generally well preserved and all elements of the work correspond to fifteenth-century materials and techniques.

Dendrochronology places the earliest possible date of creation around 1419, with a more plausible date from 1425 onwards.[6] Along with evidence from the painting technique and the sitter’s costume, this evidence further supports a date in the 1440s. Considered alongside the stylistic and material evidence, it is likely that this work was painted around 1440–50 by an artist working in the Low Countries, commemorating a moment of personal and hereditary importance for the subject at the time of his betrothal.

[Nenagh Hathaway 2017]

[1] Hulin de Loo (1902) identified the sitter as Philip the Bold. J. Bruyn’s suggestion (1968) that the man resembles the chronicler Enguerrand de Monstrelet is likewise unconvincing.
[2] See Technical Notes for a thorough description of the painting’s materials and technique.
[3] Also see Technical Notes.
[4] See Held 1955.
[5] See Larsen 1960 and Pypaert 2008.
[6] Dendrochronology was performed by Dr. Peter Klein (report dated May 14, 1997, in European Paintings archives files).
Support: The support is a single oak plank, with the grain oriented vertically. Dendrochronological analysis indicated an earliest possible creation date of 1419, with a more plausible creation date of 1425. The wood originated in the Baltic/Polish region.[1] The panel has been thinned and cradled.

Preparation: The panel was prepared with a white ground, followed by a lead-white containing layer, the broad strokes of which are evident in the x-radiograph (see Additional Images, fig. 2). Unpainted margins and a partial barbe along all edges indicate that the panel was in an engaged frame when the ground was applied and that the original dimensions are preserved. Infrared reflectography reveals underdrawing in the hands and the turban (see Additional Images, fig. 1).[2] The contours of the hands were outlined with a liquid medium using broad strokes, which are somewhat evident in normal light. The contours and folds of the turban were also underdrawn.

Paint Layers: The paint layers are in good condition with the exception of two large damages located in the sitter’s turban and proper right shoulder. Integrative restoration is mainly restricted to these two areas. Upper layers of glazes in the fleshtones are slightly abraded.

The sitter’s face was painted using a particularly delicate technique: very fine diagonal hatching was used in some passages in the face to create volume, particularly around the nose, but in general the strokes were highly blended.

The rich, dark blue background is remarkably thick, built up with at least two layers of what appears to be azurite. The lower layer, visible at microscopic paint losses, contains larger, chunkier pigment particles, while the upper layer contains more finely divided particles. The upper layer could have been applied at a slightly later date, however, there are no major damages to the background that would warrant an early repainting of the entire background. More likely, the upper layer was applied by the artist, to yield an even deeper blue.

The sitter’s hands were repositioned during the painting stage. In the loose underdrawing the hands were located lower in the composition with the proper left fingers rotated more fully towards the viewer. The black costume was at least partly painted and a reserve left for the initial position of the hands—but the fingers not yet painted—when the hands were repositioned. This change may have been made to allow him to hold the stem of the pink in his right hand. The handling and craquelure of the pink is similar to the rest of the painting, suggesting that this change was made before the painting was completely finished or very soon afterwards.

The turban was painted larger than initially planned. In order to achieve the bright red of the turban a red glaze, likely a lake, was painted over a light pink underlayer. The dark blue background was painted after the contours of the figure and the turban were established. The turban was then widened by bringing the uppermost red glaze of the turban out over the very deep blue background, resulting in the dark purple, almost black, shapes to the right and left of the turban. The enlargement may have happened during the painting process or at a slightly later date. These additions would always have been slightly darker than the rest of the turban, but appear even darker today due to the increased translucency of the aged oil paint over the blue background.

[Sophie Scully 2017]

[1] Wood identification and dendrochronological analysis completed by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg, dated May 14, 1997. The report can be found in the files of the Department of Paintings Conservation. The youngest heartwood ring was formed out in the year 1408. Regarding the sapwood statistic of Eastern Europe an earliest felling date can be derived for the year 1417, more plausible is a felling date between 1421..1423…1427 +x. With a minimum of two years for seasoning an earliest creation of the painting is possible from 1419 upwards. Under the assumption of a median of fifteen sapwood rings and two years for seasoning, as probably usual in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, a creation is plausible from 1425 upwards.
Monsieur Vermeire, Bruges (by 1867); Lodewijk Gilliodts-van Severen, Bruges (by 1902); ?Gaston Müller, Brussels; [Matthiesen, Berlin]; Zatzenstein (August 1928); [Duveen, Paris, London, and New York, until 1928; sold for $160,000 to Bache]; Jules Bache, New York (1928–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 25; 1943, no. 24)
Bruges. location unknown. "Tableaux de l'ancienne école néerlandaise," 1867, no. 8 (as a portrait of Philip the Bold by Petrus Christus, lent by M[onsieur]. Vermeire) [see Campbell 1981].

Bruges. Palais du Gouvernement. "Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien," June 15–September 15, 1902, no. 88 (as a portrait of Philip the Bold by Petrus Christus, lent by M[onsieur]. L. Gilliodts van Severen, Bruges).

Exposition universelle et internationale de Bruxelles. "Cinq siècles d'art," May 24–October 13, 1935, no. 14 (as by Rogier van der Weyden, lent by Jules Bache, New York).

Henri Hymans. "L'exposition des primitifs flamands à Bruges (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 28 (August 1902), p. 94, describes its condition as mediocre and suggests an attribution to the Master of Flémalle.

Georges H. de Loo Palais du Gouvernement, Bruges. Exposition de tableaux flamands des XIVe, XVe et XVIe siècles: catalogue critique précédé d'une introduction sur l'identité de certains maîtres anonymes. Ghent, 1902, p. 20, no. 88, as a portrait of Philip the Bold by an unknown artist.

W. H. James Weale. Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien, Bruges. Première section: tableaux. Catalogue. Exh. cat., Palais du Gouvernement. Bruges, 1902, pp. 37–38, no. 88, describes this picture in detail and calls it a portrait of Philip the Bold by Petrus Christus, noting, however, that all attributions given in the catalogue are those provided by owners; states that it was formerly in the Vermeire collection and was exhibited in Bruges in 1867, no. 8.

Max J. Friedländer. "Die Brügger Leihausstellung von 1902." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 26 (1903), p. 151, as a good, somewhat Eyckian, copy in poor condition.

Walter Heil. "The Jules Bache Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), p. 4.

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill., as "A Man with a Turban" by Rogier van der Weyden, painted about 1450–60.

August L. Mayer. "Die Sammlung Jules Bache in New-York." Pantheon 6 (December 1930), pp. 542–43, ill., as by Rogier.

Jules Destrée. Roger de la Pasture—van der Weyden. Paris, 1930, vol. 1, p. 180; vol. 2, pl. 142, as apparently a fine portrait by Rogier, judging from a photograph.

Royal Cortissoz. "The Jules S. Bache Collection." American Magazine of Art 21 (May 1930), pp. 247, 258, ill., as by Rogier.

Cinq siècles d'art: Exposition universelle et internationale de Bruxelles 1935. Exh. cat., Exposition universelle et internationale de Bruxelles. Brussels, [1935], vol. 1, p. 10, no. 14, as "Man with a Turban" by Rogier.

F. Winkler. "Fälschungen auf den Ausstellungen in Brüssel, Antwerpen und Paris 1935." Mitteilungen des Museen-Verbandes (February 1936), pp. 23–24, fig. 6, considers it a less noteworthy example of Rogier's art and wonders about its slight provenance.

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 14, Pieter Bruegel und Nachträge zu den früheren Bänden. Leiden, 1937, p. 89, lists this picture in the supplement to Rogier's oeuvre.

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 25, ill.

Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 170, ill., as by Rogier, presume the subject is Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy.

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 24, ill.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 34–35, ill., as "Portrait of a Man in a Turban" by Rogier van der Weyden.

Theodor Musper. Untersuchungen zu Rogier van der Weyden und Jan van Eyck. Stuttgart, 1948, pp. 24, 59, pl. 88, as by Rogier, dates it about 1452.

Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 1, p. 326, no. 856, ill. (cropped).

Hermann Beenken. Rogier van der Weyden. Munich, 1951, p. 99, lists it with apochryphal works of Rogier.

Erwin Panofsky. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. Cambridge, Mass., 1953, p. 478, n. 4 (to p. 294), rejects the attribution to Rogier "in view of the indifferent design and the un-Rogerian vacancy of the glance".

Julius S. Held. "Erwin Panofsky, 'Early Netherlandish Painting, Its Origin[s] and Character'." Art Bulletin. Vol. 37, September 1955, p. 206, shares Panofsky's doubts about this "evidently repainted portrait . . . which might be by Jacques Daret".

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 59, 114, fig. 10, ascribes it to Rogier; states that he knew the picture before its restoration and that in the restorer's effort to bring the portrait closer to Rogier's linear and stylized manner, its appearance was greatly hardened.

Colin Eisler. "Erik Larsen, Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York, 1960." Art Bulletin 46 (March 1964), p. 102, agrees with Larsen that the picture is not well preserved but notes that the greatest damage is not in key areas; wonders if it might be French in origin.

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 2, Rogier van der Weyden and the Master of Flémalle. New York, 1967, p. 89, supp. no. 135, pl. 139, lists it in the "Supplement to the Catalogues" and illustrates it as by Rogier.

J. Bruyn. "Een Portret van Enguerrand de Monstrelet door Rogier van der Weyden." Miscellanea Jozef Duverger: Bijdragen tot de Kunstgeschiedenis der Niederlanden. Vol. 1, Ghent, 1968, pp. 92–101, ill., as by Rogier, from about 1440; identifies the sitter as the chronicler Enguerrand de Monstrelet, comparing his features with those of a figure in the dedicatory miniature of a manuscript made for Philip the Good.

Peter H. Schabacker. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. December 10, 1969, identifies this picture with the work exhibited in Bruges in 1867 and 1902 as a portrait of Philip the Bold by Petrus Christus.

Charles Sterling. Letter. February 20, 1971, would call it "attributed to" or "close follower of Rogier van der Weyden"; compares it with the "Portrait of a Man" in the Merton collection, which he considers an early work, but notes that the costume here does not seem earlier than about 1445.

Robert A. Koch Bernard Berenson in Letter. February 23, 1971, observes that it "may well be correctly put in Rogier's camp".

Martin Davies. Rogier van der Weyden: An Essay, with a Critical Catalogue of Paintings Assigned to Him and to Robert Campin. London, 1972, p. 230, pl. 120, finds an attribution to Rogier "very doubtful"; notes that Bruyn (Refs. 1968) unconvingly identified the sitter as de Monstrelet.

Peter H. Schabacker. "Martin Davies, Rogier van der Weyden." Art Quarterly 35, no. 4 (1972), p. 423, notes that Davies rightly rejects the attribution to Rogier.

Lorne Campbell. Unpublished notes. 1972, believes the costume and background are "entirely transformed" by restoration, but calls the head, except for the eyes, reasonably well preserved.

Lorne Campbell. Unpublished notes. 1981, notes that the 1928 photo in Friedländer archives [R. K. D.], annotated "Zatzenstein [?], August 1928," shows this picture already in a restored state, and that the Witt library photo is annotated "Matthiesen, Berlin".

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, p. 409, ill., as "Attributed to Rogier van der Weyden".

Dirk De Vos. Rogier van der Weyden: The Complete Works. New York, 1999, p. 413, no. C12, ill., notes that it has little in common with Rogier's style; finds the "fairly plastic and shiny character of the head" similar to that of Heinrich Werl (Prado, Madrid), although the hands are more reminiscent of Van Eyck.

Maximiliaan P. J. Martens. "Patronage." Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception and Research. Ed. Bernhard Ridderbos et al. English ed. Amsterdam, 2005, p. 346, fig. 150 [Dutch ed., "'Om iets te weten van de oude meesters'. De Vlaamse Primitieven—herontdekking, waardering en onderzoek," Nijmegen, 1995], illustrates it as "Rogier van der Weyden (?), 'Portrait of a Man with a Turban (Enguerrand de Monstrelet?)'".

Jean-Luc Pypaert. "Early Netherlandish Painting XV?: Joseph van der Veken." Autour de La "Madeleine Renders": Un aspect de l'histoire des collections, de la restauration et de la contrefaçon en Belgique dans la première moitié du XXe siècle. Ed. Dominique Vanwijnsberghe. Brussels, 2008, p. 247, no. 166, ill., lists this portrait among works that appear to have been heavily restored by Van der Veken; remarks that a manuscript note in a copy of Ref. Wehle and Salinger 1947 in the library of the CPF [Centre national de recherches 'Primitifs flamands,' Brussels] identifies this picture as coming from the Gaston Müller collection, Brussels.

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