This painting was thought to be by Jan Vermeer (1632–1675) in the early twentieth century, when it passed from the great art dealer Joseph Duveen (1869–1939) to one of The Met’s most important donors, Jules S. Bache (1861–1944). It recalls the many head studies of anonymous young models by Flemish painter Michiel Sweerts (1618–1664), but most scholars today associate the painting with Bourdon, a French painter who studied in Rome.
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Title:Portrait of a Young Boy
Artist:Attributed to Sébastien Bourdon (French, Montpellier 1616–1671 Paris)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:23 1/4 x 19 3/4 in. (59.1 x 50.2 cm)
Credit Line:The Jules Bache Collection, 1949
Anton W. M. Mensing, Amsterdam; [Jules Féral, Paris]; [Yves Perdoux, Paris, until 1923; sold for Fr 750,000 to Duveen]; [Duveen, Paris, London, and New York, 1923–25; sold for $175,000 to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1925–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 40; 1943, no. 39, as by Vermeer)
Detroit Institute of Arts. "Loan Exhibition of Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century," January 9–25, 1925, no. 34 (as "Portrait of a Boy," by Jan Vermeer, lent by Sir Joseph Duveen, London).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 39.
New York Cultural Center. "Grand Reserves," October 24–December 8, 1974, no. 105.
August L. Mayer. "Ein unbekanntes Frühwerk des Delfter Vermeer." Die Kunst für Alle 39 (1923–24), p. 183, ill., publishes it as a portrait by Vermeer, recently discovered on the Paris art market; observes that there is not enough evidence to call it a self-portrait.
C. Hofstede de Groot. "Een nieuw-ontdekte Vermeer van Delft." Nieuwe rotterdamsche courant (May 27, 1923), p. 1, attributes this portrait to Vermeer; observes that it is in the possession of Yves Perdoux, who must have found it in a private collection.
Benno Reiffenberg and Wilhelm Hausenstein. Vermeer van Delft. Munich, 1924, pp. 2, 23, 26, ill., as probably an early work of Vermeer, revealing the influence of Fabritius, or from the Fabritius/Vermeer circle.
Frank E. Washburn Freund. "Eine Ausstellung niederländischer Malerei in Detroit." Der Cicerone 17 (1925), p. 463, ill. p. 466, as belonging to Duveen.
Royal Cortissoz. Personalities in Art. New York, 1925, pp. 47–50, ill., as by Vermeer.
W. G. C[onstable]. "Vermeer van Delft. Edited by Benno Reiffenberg." Burlington Magazine 47 (November 1925), p. 269, notes that "a few disputable works [of Vermeer] are included, as Sir Joseph Duveen's 'Head of a Boy'".
Emil Waldmann. "Ein neues Bild von Jan Vermeer van Delft." Kunst und Künstler 24 (February 1926), p. 186.
Seymour de Ricci. "Le quarante-et-unième Vermeer." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 16 (December 1927), p. 306.
F. Schmidt-Degener. Letter [apparently to or for Joseph Duveen]. August 20, 1927, calls this picture a characteristic work of Vermeer.
Edouard Brandus. "La collection des tableaux anciens de M. Jules S. Bache, à New-York." La Renaissance 11 (May 1928), pp. 196–97.
Walter Heil. "The Jules Bache Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), p. 23, ill., as by Vermeer.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill., as by Vermeer.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 40, ill.
Philip L. Hale. Vermeer. Boston, 1937, pp. vii, 131–32, pl. 21, as"Attributed by some critics to Jan Vermeer of Delft" and "more like the Italianiate work of some French or Netherland painter trained in Italy" than Vermeer.
Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 214, ill., as by Vermeer, formerly in the collection of Anton W. M. Mensing, Amsterdam.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 39, ill.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 99.
George Isarlo. La peinture en France au XVIIe siècle. Paris, 1960, p. 142, attributes it to Sébastien Bourdon.
Piero Bianconi inThe Complete Paintings of Vermeer. New York, 1967, p. 99, no. 67, ill., lists it with works attributed to Vermeer that have been rejected by recent critics.
Pierre Rosenberg. Letter to Eric Zafran. February 7, 1975, expresses doubt that it is French.
Jean-Pierre Cuzin. Letter. December 8, 1978, is convinced this portrait is by Sébastien Bourdon.
Jean-Pierre Cuzin. "Jeunes gens, par Simon Vouet et quelques autres." Revue du Louvre 29, no. 1 (1979), p. 29 n. 55, attributes it to Bourdon.
Jean-Pierre Cuzin. "New York: French Seventeenth-century Paintings from American Collections." Burlington Magazine 124 (August 1982), p. 529, as certainly by Sébastien Bourdon; calls it "an admirable Sweerts-like picture which Pierre Rosenberg appears to doubt".
Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1982, p. 347, no. 3, ill. [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines, Paris], publishes it as Bourdon (?).
Colin Simpson. Artful Partners: Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen. New York, 1986, pp. 205, 212–13, 299 [excerpt published in Connoisseur 216 (October 1986), p. 131; British ed., "The Partnership: The Secret Association of Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen," London, 1987].
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 364, ill.
Jacques Thuillier. Sébastien Bourdon, 1616–1671: Catalogue critique et chronologique de l'oeuvre complet. Exh. cat., Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Paris, 2000, pp. 492–93, no. 172, ill., publishes it with rejected works but finds the attribution to Bourdon worthy of consideration, and certainly more credible than one to Vermeer.
Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, p. 498, notes that the "painting is now considered to be a French work of the second half of the seventeenth century, i.e., a fake".
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 42, 47–48.
Jonathan Lopez. The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren. Orlando, Fla., 2008, pp. 54–55, 113, 265 n., ill.
Jean-Pierre Cuzin. Figures de la réalité: Caravagesques français, Georges de La Tour, les frères Le Nain . . . [Paris], 2010, p. 132 n. 55, p. 133 n. 55, p. 164, reprints Cuzin 1979, with an addendum, and Cuzin 1982.
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