Portrait of a Monk in Prayer

French Painter (ca. 1500)

Oil on wood
Overall 13 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (33.7 x 24.1 cm); painted surface 13 1/8 x 9 1/2 in. (33.3 x 24.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1937
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This unidentified sitter wears the black habit of a Benedictine monk, and probably formed the left wing of a diptych or triptych. The portrait combines a mix of artistic influences and can be compared to both Flemish and French portraits. The attention to details, like the stubble of his beard, relates to Flemish portraits, while the lighting is more dramatic and emphasizes the sculptural quality of the head and hands. A similar blue background can be seen in Clouet’s later portrait of Guillaume Budé (46.68).

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    [Jacques Seligmann, Paris and New York, until 1928, as by the Master of Moulins; sold to Rosenfeld]; Ernst Rosenfeld, New York (from 1928–d. 1937); Mrs. Ernst (Florette R.) Rosenfeld, New York (1937; sold to MMA)

  • Exhibition History

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "French Art: 1200–1900," January 4–March 12, 1932, no. 62 (as Attributed to the Master of Moulins, lent by E. Rosenfeld, New York).

    New York. M. Knoedler & Co.. "Fifteenth Century Portraits," April 15–27, 1935, no. 8 (as by the Master of Moulins, lent by Ernst Rosenfeld).

  • References

    Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Letter to Germain Seligmann. December 14, 1928, dates this portrait about 1480 and finds it more refined in execution and plastic in modelling than the portraits he knows by the Master of Moulins; considers the latter's work generally more flat and simplified in decorative design than the present picture.

    André Dezarrois. "Chroniques: L'art français à Londres." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 61 (January–May 1932), pp. 80, 83, ill., considers it an excellent portrait, but not from the hand of the Master of Moulins; attributes it to an anonymous artist from the beginning of the 16th century.

    Max J. Friedländer. "Die Ausstellung französischer Kunst in London." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 1 (1932), pp. 15–16, excludes it from the oeuvre of the Master of Moulins, noting that its accomplished chiaroscuro differs from flowerlike local coloring of his works.

    Georges Hulin de Loo. Bulletin de la classe des beaux arts (L'Académie Royale de Belgique) 15 (1933), p. 69 [see Ref. Sterling 1955], opposes the attribution to the Master of Moulins and considers it a Flemish work, stronger than the paintings by Master Michiel.

    Royal Academy of Arts. Commemorative Catalogue of the Exhibition of French Art, 1200–1900. London, 1933, p. 10, no. 30, pl. 9, list it with the works of the Master of Moulins, but note that "the attribution, originally made by Max Friedländer, is now disputed by some critics, among others by Hulin de Loo, who sees in the picture the hand of a Flemish master; while the authorities of the Department of Painting in the Louvre continue to maintain its French origin".

    Ludwig von Baldass. "The Portraiture of Master Michiel." Burlington Magazine 67 (August 1935), p. 78, pl. 1C, finds "the full, round, plastic modelling . . . especially characteristic of Master Michiel [Michel Sittow] and compares the delineation of the features to that of Sittow's Portrait of a Lady in Vienna [Kunsthistorisches Museum, where it is now identified as Catherine of Aragon].

    Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 342, pl. 248 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 326, pl. 248], dates it about 1500.

    Harry B. Wehle. "A XV Century French Portrait." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 33 (February 1938), pp. 44–46, ill. on cover, suggests this panel may have been the left half of a diptych, of which the right side was a picture of the Virgin and Child; notes that it is broader and simpler in execution than Flemish paintings of the period, and the chiaroscuro more pronounced; dates it at least as early as 1480 and rejects an attribution to the Master of Moulins; believes the painter "must have sprung from the art of Dijon and the Rhone Valley, as indicated by his tendency to weighty forms and dark shadows".

    Paul Wescher. "Das französische Bildnis von Karl VII. bis zu Franz I." Pantheon 21 (January–June 1938), p. 8.

    Charles Jacques [Charles Sterling]. Les peintres du Moyen Age. Paris, 1941, p. 56 of Répertoire B, no. 10, dates it about 1500 and supports Baldass's [see Ref. 1935] attribution of this portrait to Master Michiel [Michel Sittow].

    Maurice H. Goldblatt. "The 'Master of Moulins' Identified—Part II." Connoisseur 122 (September 1948), p. 3, attributes it to "Jean Hay Clouet".

    Martin Weinberger. "Notes on Maître Michiel." Burlington Magazine (September 1948), p. 248, fig. 5, attributes this portrait to Michel Sittow and believes that "the modelling . . . as well as the distribution of the figure on the panel, points to a late date, about 1520, perhaps even later"; claims that it must have been painted in Reval, where one would expect Michel to have found such a sitter.

    Grete Ring. A Century of French Painting 1400–1500. London, 1949, pp. 239–40, no. 308, ill., as no more by Michel Sittow or the Flemish School, than by the Master of Moulins—would "rather maintain its 'meridional' origin"; compares it with a Saint Anthony by Gregorio Lopez in the Museum of Lisbon, but considers the MMA picture of higher quality.

    Charles Sterling. "XV–XVIII Centuries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. 1, Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 9–11, ill., dates it about 1480 and sees it as a work related to the group of Franco-Flemish artists working around the court of Margaret of Austria during the first fifteen years of the 16th century; observes that the style "has affinities with that of Michiel Sittow but is broader in modeling and stronger in chiaroscuro than his known works"; notes that the Department of European Paintings, on the other hand, views this picture as being related to works of the Burgundian school, and would date it fully a generation before 1480; states that the monk wears the black habit of the Benedictine order.

    Rain Rebas. "Michel Sittow: Taasavastamine ja looming." Aastaraamat [Year Book of the Institute of Estonian Language and Literature] 1 (1973), pp. 192–93, 209, no. 13, ill., attributes this portrait to Michel Sittow.

    Jazeps Trizna. Michel Sittow: Peintre Revalais de l'école Brugeoise (1468–1525/1526) [Les primitifs flamands III. Contributions à l'étude des primitifs flamands 6]. Brussels, 1976, p. 100, observes that with our knowledge of the mature Sittow as a portraitist, it is difficult to imagine that he could have developed to this point, although we cannot exclude the possibility that this work comes from the end of his career.

    Katharine Baetjer. "Pleasures and Problems of Early French Painting." Apollo 106 (November 1977), p. 347.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History