Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of a Man (Self-Portrait?)

Willem Drost (Dutch, Amsterdam 1633–1659 Venice)
1653 or 1655
Oil on canvas
34 1/8 x 28 1/2 in. (86.7 x 72.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Given in memory of Felix M. Warburg by his wife and children, 1941
Accession Number:
Not on view
This portrait has long been accepted as the pendant to Drost's Portrait of a Woman (the Painters Fiancée?) (Museum Bredius, The Hague), which is signed and dated "Drost f—/1653." The two canvases first became known in a London sale of 1884; they were separated in the art market after they appeared in a London sale of 1903. When the paintings were exhibited side by side in 1992, it was obvious that they are consistent in execution (although the female portrait is better preserved) and work well as a pair, providing that the woman's portrait is placed to the viewer's left. This departure from the conventional placement of the man to the left—that is, on the woman's right-hand side (or "heraldic right")—usually indicates that the sitters were betrothed rather than married.

The form of the signature on the male portrait and whether there is any evidence of a date have been variously reported (see Refs.). As revealed by Abraham Bredius (1913 and 1929), the cartellino bearing Drost's signature and a date of 1653 or 1655 had been covered over by someone in the art trade in order to sell the painting as a Rembrandt. Removing the overpaint must have caused damage to the inscription. There is enough space for the "Wilhelmus" (the Latin form of Willem) read by Hofstede de Groot (1913), but only a possible period can now be discerned following the much abraded "Wilhelm." Above the artist's name is a decorative flourish that may have been read in the past as a date, but this is doubtful. In the center of the cartellino, which is now nearly void, are the remains of a capital A followed by slight traces of other painted marks. Presumably, “Ao 16??” was once in this area, but disappeared a long time ago. The remains of "Amsterdam.,” with flourishes, are at bottom center.

Bredius, who owned the pendant portrait, proposed in 1929 that the New York painting is a self-portrait by Drost. This identification has fallen out of favor in recent literature, but it deserves to be more closely considered.

First, the young man resembles Drost as he appears in his etched Self-Portrait of the previous year (Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), which could have been made as little as a month or as much as about twenty-three months earlier. The wide-spaced eyes, the arching eyebrows, and the shapes of the nose, mouth, and chin are similar. The hair looks the same, but is cut shorter in the painting, where there is also a small amount of facial hair.

Second, the importance of the cartellino bearing Drost's inscription has been underestimated. The motif is not comparable (as has been claimed) with Rembrandt's monogram on the letter held by Marten Looten in the portrait of 1632 (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), where the sitter’s name is far more prominent. The notion of an almost unknown artist making such a conspicuous display of his signature on the formal portrait (or, more unexpectedly, the betrothal portrait) of a person other than himself is implausible, without some special explanation. By contrast, the illusion of a sheet of paper stuck between the surface of the painting and the frame is precisely the sort of device, or demonstration piece, that Netherlandish artists (following their Italian colleagues) employed to draw attention to their skill and their name at the same time. Examples are found in a variety of genres, including still life (by Edwaert Collier and others), marine painting (Jan Porcellis's Stormy Sea, of 1629, in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich), and portraiture. The fact that Drost, on this one occasion, signed with his full name and added the place, probably the date, and calligraphic flourishes strongly suggests that the painting is indeed a self-portrait. It should also be noted that the placement of the hand on the chest, while found in portraits of diverse gentlemen (for example, Rembrandt's Marten Looten), is especially common in Dutch and Flemish self-portraits and portraits of fellow artists. The gesture is often meant as a reference to artistic temperament, and has origins mainly in sixteenth-century Venetian painting.

Third, the young woman in the pendant portrait bears a strong resemblance to the model in Drost's Bathsheba with King David’s Letter, of 1654 (Musée du Louvre, Paris), and in his Young Woman in a Brocade Gown (Wallace Collection, London), of about the same date. The long, thin, slightly upturned nose, the high brow, the slim ovoid face, and other features are quite similar. This is not a matter of the artist's having a standard female type, from which he did not vary, even when attempting to capture an individual's appearance. The most likely explanation is that Drost, like Rembrandt, employed his young wife (or companion, in Rembrandt's contemporary pictures) as a convenient model in paintings of Bathsheba and other erotically charged characters.

At present, Drost's possible engagement in 1653 and his marriage in 1653, 1654, or at any other time are not indicated by known documents. It may well be that an Amsterdam record (like that of Drost's baptism) has long been overlooked, or that the painter's presumed fiancée was from another city or town and the marriage took place there (where records may or may not survive). If Drost was married before he went to Italy, his wife probably would have stayed at home; a number of cases are known in which married painters made the expensive and potentially risky trip on their own. For example, about 1642 Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1660/61) went to Rome, leaving behind his wife and fourteen-month-old son, Jan Weenix, to whom he did not return until about four years later.

It is also possible that Drost's wife died, or that he was never betrothed, in which case The Met's picture would have to be considered as a portrait of an unidentified gentleman.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and inscribed (lower left): Wilhelm Drost f / Amsterdam
?C. G. van Valkenburg, Aerdenhout (until 1850; sale, Roos, Amsterdam, December 17, 1850, no. 30, with pendant, as by J. Drost, both "hoog 82 d., breed 68 d. Paneel.," for fl. 30 to Roos); Albert Levy, London (until 1884; posthumous sale, Christie's, London, May 3, 1884, no. 24, for £54.12 to Lesser); [Lesser, London, from 1884]; James MacAndrew, Belmont, Mill Hill (until 1903; his estate sale, Christie's, London, February 14, 1903, no. 128, as "Portrait of the Artist," for £462 to Lesser); [Lesser, London, from 1903]; [Ehrich Galleries, New York, in 1913]; Felix M. Warburg, New York (by 1929–d. 1937; his estate, 1937–41)
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 99 (as "Self-portrait," lent by Mrs. Felix M. Warburg, New York).

Louisville. J. B. Speed Art Museum. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," December 1, 1948–January 23, 1949, no catalogue.

Madison. Memorial Union Gallery, University of Wisconsin. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," February 15–March 30, 1949, unnumbered cat.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," April 24–June 30, 1949, no catalogue.

Palm Beach. Society of the Four Arts. "European Masters of the XVII and XVIII Centuries," January 13–February 5, 1950, no. 2 (as by Geraert Drost).

New York. Hunter College. "Dutch Celebration," April 27–May 11, 1953, no catalogue?

Raleigh. North Carolina Museum of Art. "Rembrandt and His Pupils," November 16–December 30, 1956, no. 21 (of pupils; as "Portrait of a Middle-aged Man [Jacob Gerritsz van Velsen?]").

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Rembrandt and His Pupils," January 9–February 23, 1969, no. 39.

Toronto. Art Gallery of Ontario. "Rembrandt and His Pupils," March 14–April 27, 1969, no. 39.

Art Institute of Chicago. "Rembrandt after Three Hundred Years," October 21–December 7, 1969, no. 40 (as "Self-portrait[?]").

Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Rembrandt after Three Hundred Years," December 29, 1969–February 1, 1970, no. 40.

Detroit Institute of Arts. "Rembrandt after Three Hundred Years," February 24–April 5, 1970, no. 40.

The Hague. Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder. "The Hoogsteder Exhibition of Rembrandt's Academy," February 4–May 2, 1992, no. 5.

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.

A[braham]. Bredius. "Darf die Kritik sich nicht mit Bildern in Privatbesitz befassen?" Kunstchronik, n.s., 24 (February 14, 1913), col. 275, as in the Ehrich Galleries, New York, formerly with Lesser, London; records the inscription as "Wilhelm Drost 1655"; identifies the portrait of a woman now in the Bredius Museum, The Hague, as the pendant.

C. Hofstede de Groot in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 9, Leipzig, 1913, pp. 576–77, records the inscription as "Wilhelmus Drost f 1655".

A[braham]. Bredius. Künstler-Inventare. Vol. 3, The Hague, 1917, pp. 887, 890, no. 2, suggests that two pictures by Drost included in the 1655 inventory of Jacob Gerritsz van Velsen, Leiden, as portraits of the deceased and his wife are the MMA and Hague paintings; records the inscription of the MMA work as "Wilhelm Drost f 1653".

Algernon Graves. Art Sales from Early in the Eighteenth Century to Early in the Twentieth Century. Vol. 1, London, 1918, p. 238, as sold for £462 to Lesser at the 1903 MacAndrew sale.

John C. van Dyke. Rembrandt and His School. New York, 1923, pp. 60–63, pl. X-35, mentions only a signature, not a date; calls it "an excellent portrait than which there are few better in the Rembrandt 'œuvre'".

G[erard]. Knuttel. Museum Bredius: Gids met beknopten Catalogus van de Schilderijen en Teekeningen. [The Hague], 1926, p. 8.

A[braham]. Bredius. "Een portret van Willem Drost." Oud-Holland 46 (1929), pp. 96–98, ill., recounts seeing this picture in the Warburg collection, New York; calls it very Rembrandtesque; suggests that the MMA and Hague portraits represent the painter and his wife; questions whether the date is 1655 or 1653.

Corn[elis]. Hofstede de Groot. "Rembrandt of W. Drost?" Oud-Holland 46 (1929), p. 36, as formerly in the Mac Cormick collection [sic for MacAndrew?].

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "Willem Drost: Pupil of Rembrandt." Art Quarterly 2 (Autumn 1939), pp. 300, 303–4, 325 n. 4, fig. 4, as in the collection of Mrs. Felix M. Warburg, New York; states that it is "clearly signed Wilhelm Drost", adding that "the German form Wilhelm instead of the Dutch Willem makes it probable that Drost was of German origin"; supports a date of 1655 for both this work and its pendant; calls the two paintings very Rembrandtesque and states that they were attributed to Rembrandt before the signatures were found; identifies the two pictures with pendants included in a sale in Amsterdam on December 17, 1850.

Walter Pach in Masterpieces of Art: Catalogue of European and American Paintings, 1500–1900. Exh. cat., World's Fair. New York, 1940, p. 74, no. 99, calls it a self-portrait and reads the date as 1655.

Harry B. Wehle. "A Gift of Paintings and Drawings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 38 (June 1942), pp. 160–61, ill., records the inscription as "Wilhelm Drost F / Amsterdam", without a date.

W[ilhelm]. Martin. De Schilderkunst in de tweede Helft van de zeventiende Eeuw. Amsterdam, 1950, p. 56, under no. 35, states that it is dated 1655.

W. R. Valentiner. Rembrandt and His Pupils. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 1956, pp. 38, 116, no. 21 of pupils, calls it "Portrait of a Middle-aged Man (Jacob Gerritsz van Velsen?)" and records the date as 1655.

Neil MacLaren. The Dutch School. London, 1960, pp. 107–8, states that the Hague portrait is dated 1653, not 1655, and that the MMA pendant is definitely of the same date, though not itself dated.

H. van Hall. Portretten van nederlandse beeldende Kunstenaars. Amsterdam, 1963, p. 86, no. 2 under Willem Drost.

Hermann Kühn. "Untersuchungen zu den Malgründen Rembrandts." Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württemberg 2 (1965), p. 206, dates it 1665.

Gerhard Ewald. Johann Carl Loth, 1632–1698. Amsterdam, 1965, pp. 36–37 n. 3.

Bob Haak. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, His Time. New York, [1969], p. 223, fig. 371.

J. Richard Judson in Rembrandt After Three Hundred Years. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. [Chicago], 1969, pp. 53–55, 148, no. 40, ill., reads the signature as "Wilhelmus," the Latinized form of the Dutch Willem, thus rejecting the proposed German origins of the painter; sees a date inscribed on the picture, which could read either 1653, 1655, 1656, or 1666, but supports a date of 1653 based on the picture's association with the dated Hague painting and on the costume of the sitter; tentatively agrees with Bredius that the picture is a self-portrait and the Hague pendant the painter's wife.

Benjamin A. Rifkin. "Rembrandt and His Circle, Part 3." Art News 68 (November 1969), p. 33.

Werner Sumowski. "Beiträge zu Willem Drost." Pantheon 27 (September–October 1969), pp. 376, 383 n. 23, calls it a portrait of Van Velsen [see Ref. Bredius 1917] and dates it 1655.

C. C. Cunningham in Rembrandt After Three Hundred Years. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. [Chicago], 1969, p. 19.

Josua Bruyn in Rembrandt and His Pupils. Exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. [Montreal], 1969, pp. 35, 79–80, no. 39, ill.

Walther Bernt. The Netherlandish Painters of the Seventeenth Century. London, 1970, vol. 1, p. 33, no. 331, ill.

Eduard Plietzsch. Holländische und flämische Maler des XVII. Jahrh. 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1972, p. 181.

Albert Blankert. Museum Bredius: Catalogus van de Schilderijen en Tekeningen. The Hague, 1978, pp. 51–52, fig. 12, under no. 49, believes that the two pendants represent neither the artist and his wife nor Van Velsen and his wife, but possibly members of the Van Valkenburg family, based on the pictures' presumed inclusion in the 1850 sale in Amsterdam, composed of works from the collection of C. G. van Valkenburg of Aerdenhout.

Master Paintings 1470–1820 and a Group of Watercolours by J. M. W. Turner, R.A. Exh. cat., Thos. Agnew & Son. London, 1982, under no. 34, calls it "a possible self-portrait".

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 1, J. A. Backer–A. van Dijck. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], pp. 610, 617, no. 335, ill. p. 644, gives the inscription as "Wilhelmus Drost F. / Amsterdam 1653"; rejects all former identifications of the sitters in the two pendants.

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 6, Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], p. 3598, provides updated bibliographic information.

Bob Haak. The Golden Age: Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. New York, 1984, p. 369.

A[lbert]. Blankert and Th. van Velzen, ed. Dutch Masterworks from the Bredius Museum: A Connoisseur's Collection. Exh. cat., National Academy of Design, New York. The Hague, 1985, p. 50, under no. 10, believe that the two pendants are more likely to depict members of the Van Valkenburg family than the painter and his wife.

Mary Ann Scott. Dutch, Flemish, and German Paintings in the Cincinnati Art Museum: Fifteenth through Eighteenth Centuries. Cincinnati, 1987, pp. 51, 54 n. 3, notes that the inscription confirms that Drost worked in Amsterdam.

Jacques Foucart. Peintres rembranesques au Louvre. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1988, p. 95, states that it is dated 1653.

Neil MacLaren revised and expanded by Christopher Brown in The Dutch School, 1600–1900. 2nd ed. London, 1991, vol. 1, pp. 113–15 n. 3.

Albert Blankert. Museum Bredius: Catalogus van de Schilderijen en Tekeningen. The Hague, 1991, p. 74, fig. 49A.

John Ingamells. The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Pictures. Vol. 4, Dutch and Flemish. London, 1992, p. 87.

Paul Huys Janssen in The Hoogsteder Exhibition of Rembrandt's Academy. Exh. cat., Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder. The Hague, 1992, pp. 110–11, 113–14, no. 5, ill. (color), considers that the two pendants may depict members of the Van Valkenburg family or the artist and his wife.

Werner Sumowski in The Hoogsteder Exhibition of Rembrandt's Academy. Exh. cat., Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder. The Hague, 1992, p. 72, refers to the two pendants as portraits of a married couple.

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/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, [1995], pp. 28–29, 106, 108, 119, 144, no. 46, ill., as dated 1653.

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. 24.

B. P. J. Broos in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 9, New York, 1996, p. 300, as signed and dated "Wilhelmus Drost F. / Amsterdam 1653"; perpetuates the theory of the artist's German origins.

Christopher White. Dutch, Flemish, and German Paintings before 1900. Oxford, 1999, p. 33, as dated 1653.

Thomas Ketelsen in Rembrandt, oder nicht? Exh. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle. Vol. 2, "Die Gemälde."Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 2000, pp. 32, 40 n. 145, dates it 1652.

Jonathan Bikker. "Willem Drost (1633–1658): A Rembrandt Pupil in Amsterdam, Rome, and Venice." PhD diss., Universiteit Utrecht, 2001, pp. 123–27, no. 23, ill., states that although the painting is not dated, it does date from the mid-1650s; discusses the various attempts to identify the sitter, rejecting his identification as Van Velsen, and finding arguments against his identification as a self-portrait and as a member of the Van Valkenburg family; questions whether the MMA and Hague works are in fact pendants.

Rudi Ekkart. Hidden Dutch and Flemish Paintings of the 16th and 17th Centuries from the Collection W. C. Escher. Exh. cat., Centraal Museum. Utrecht, 2002, pp. 70, 72, 120 n. 6 under no. 11, as "until recently considered" the pendant to the Hague portrait.

Jonathan Bikker. Willem Drost (1633–1659): A Rembrandt Pupil in Amsterdam and Venice. New Haven, 2005, pp. 7, 17, 33, 67, 74, 92, 95–99, 101–2, 106, 163, 183 n. 1 (under no. 18), p. 184 nn. 1–20 (under no. 22), p. 190 n. 1 (under no. L1), no. 22, ill. (color).

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 167–73, no. 38, colorpl. 38.

Related Objects

Young Woman with a Pearl Necklace

Artist: Copy after Willem Drost (Dutch, late 17th or early 18th century) Medium: Oil on canvas Accession: 14.40.629 On view in:Not on view

The Sibyl

Artist: Willem Drost (Dutch, Amsterdam 1633–1659 Venice) Date: ca. 1654 Medium: Oil on canvas Accession: 30.95.268 On view in:Not on view

The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John

Artist: Hendrick ter Brugghen (Dutch, The Hague? 1588–1629 Utrecht) Date: ca. 1624–25 Medium: Oil on canvas Accession: 56.228 On view in:Gallery 631

The Disillusioned Medea ("The Enchantress")

Artist: Paulus Bor (Dutch, Amersfoort ca. 1601–1669 Amersfoort) Date: ca. 1640 Medium: Oil on canvas Accession: 1972.261 On view in:Gallery 631

Man in Oriental Costume ("The Noble Slav")

Artist: Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam) Date: 1632 Medium: Oil on canvas Accession: 20.155.2 On view in:Gallery 637