Painted just after Rembrandt’s arrival in Amsterdam, this well-preserved portrait reveals the talent that enabled the young artist to quickly make a name for himself in the Dutch Republic’s largest and most artistically competitive city. The oval format was fashionable at the time, and the linen folds of the man’s ruff offered Rembrandt the chance to display his signature vigorous brushwork. Nothing is known about the man’s identity, and the inscription giving his age as forty is most likely by a later hand.
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Title:Portrait of a Man
Artist:Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam)
Medium:Oil on wood
Dimensions:Oval, 29 3/4 x 20 1/2 in. (75.6 x 52.1 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Mrs. Lincoln Ellsworth, in memory of Lincoln Ellsworth, 1964
Rembrandt painted this portrait of an unidentified man in 1632, his first year in Amsterdam. The tall oak panel, made of three boards joined together, retains its original shape and dimensions. The signature and date are authentic, but the large inscription at left center must be by another hand, and could date from a later period.
Wilhelm Valentiner proposed in 1931 that the Altman Portrait of a Woman (The Met 14.40.625), which is dated 1633, might be the pendant to this picture. In 1973, Josua Bruyn suggested the Portrait of a Thirty-nine-year-old Woman (Nivaagaards Malerisamling, Nivå, Denmark), dated 1632, as its possible companion, presumably because The Met's portrait almost certainly appeared with it in the Tolozan sale of 1801. Bruyn et al. (1986) rejected the Altman portrait as a pendant, but assumed the male portrait had a mate, possibly the Nivå panel. However, comparison with other Rembrandt portraits of the 1630s suggests that The Met's panel was intended to stand on its own.
The condition of this work is exceptionally fine.
[2010; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed: (center right) RHL van Rijn [initials in monogram] / 1632.; (center left) ÆT·40·
Claude Tolozan, Paris (until d. 1796; his estate sale, Paillet, Paris, February 25, 1801, no. 96, for Fr 4,001 to Naudou for Roëttiers de Montaleau); Alexandre-Louis Roëttiers de Montaleau, Paris (until 1802; his sale, Paillet, Paris, July 23, 1802, no. 130, for Fr 8,000 to [?Robit for] Collot); Paul Collot, Paris (1802–55; sale, Hôtel des Ventes, Paris, May 25–26, 1852, no. 26, as a portrait of Nicolas Tulp, bought in; his estate sale, Hôtel des Ventes Mobilières, Paris, March 29, 1855, no. 22, as a portrait of Nicolas Tulp, for Fr 16,000 to his son); baron Achille Seillière, Paris (until d. 1873); his daughter, Jeanne Marguerite Seillière, princesse de Sagan, Paris (1873–at least 1885; sold to Ellsworth?); James Ellsworth, Chicago and New York (by 1889–d. 1925); his son, Lincoln Ellsworth, New York (1925–d. 1951); his widow, Mrs. Lincoln Ellsworth, New York (1951–64; life interest, 1964–d. 1993)
Paris. Palais de la Présidence du Corps Législatif. "Ouvrages de peinture exposés au profit de la colonisation de l'Algérie par les Alsaciens-Lorrains," April 23–?, 1874, no. 412 (lent by the princesse de Sagan).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Hudson-Fulton Celebration," September–November 1909, no. 78 (lent anonymously).
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Rembrandt," April 17–29, 1933, no. 1 (lent by Lincoln Ellsworth).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 1.
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.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at The Met," October 16, 2018–October 4, 2020, no catalogue.
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 7, London, 1836, p. 105, no. 283, catalogues a portrait of a man "with gray hair and a short beard, seen in nearly a front view, habited in a dark dress, and a full white ruff" from the Tolozan and Montaleau sales, probably this work.
Paul Mantz. "Exposition en faveur de l'oeuvre des Alsaciens et Lorrains." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 10 (September 1874), p. 292, as in the collection of the princesse de Sagan.
C. Vosmaer. Rembrandt, sa vie et ses ouevres. 2nd ed. The Hague, 1877, pp. 493, 495, catalogues two male portraits, signed and dated 1632; gives the Collot and Seillière provenances for the first picture, and the Sagan provenance for the second, both possibly identical with this work; states that he saw the portrait in the Seillière collection that, according to its description, must be the work called a potrait of Nicolas Tulp in the Collot sales; rejects the identification of the sitter as Tulp, and states that there is another potrait in the Seillière collection, painted 1634, which he believes to be of Tulp.
Wilhelm [von] Bode. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883, pp. 399, 597, no. 305, catalogues it as an oval portrait, dated 1632, in the princesse de Sagan collection; mentions portraits of Nicolas Tulp and his wife in the Sagan collection, possibly including this work or the portrait identified as Tulp by Vosmaer [see Ref. 1877].
Eugène Dutuit. Tableaux et dessins de Rembrandt. Paris, 1885, pp. 11, 18, 52, 62, 66, no. 247, lists the portrait in the Tolozan sale without a current location, and identifies the ex Collot picture, which he says is wrongly called a portrait of Tulp, with the work in the Sagan collection.
Alfred von Wurzbach. Rembrandt-galerie. Stuttgart, 1886, text vol., no. 322.
"Art Notes." New York Times (September 11, 1889), p. 4, notes its purchase by James Ellsworth; calls it "Portrait of Dr. Tulp".
Emile Michel. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, and His Time. English ed. New York, 1894, vol. 2, p. 248, as "'Portrait of a Young Man,' erroneously called a 'Portrait of Dr. Tulp,'" from the Collot and princesse de Sagan collections; lists it among works recently acquired by American collectors.
Wilhelm [von] Bode with the assistance of C. Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. Vol. 2, Paris, 1897, pp. 5, 42, no. 81, pl. 81, as engraved by M. Desboutin; calls it "Bust of a Man of Forty," rejecting the identification of the sitter as Tulp; gives its earliest provenance as the Tolozan collection, Paris, in 1801, and later the collections of Robit, Montaleau, Collot, Seillière, and Sagan, "whence it passed to its present owner" [Ellsworth].
Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1904, p. 256, ill. p. 37.
E. W. Moes. Iconographia Batava: Beredeneerde Lijst van Geschilderde en Gebeeldhouwde Portretten van Noord-Nederlanders in Vorige Eeuwen. Vol. 2, Amsterdam, 1905, p. 485 n. 1, states that the portrait in the Ellsworth collection is not of Nicolas Tulp.
Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1906, p. 395, ill. p. 67.
Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Ed. W. R. Valentiner. 3rd ed. Stuttgart, 1909, p. 552, ill. p. 82.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1909, vol. 1, p. 79, no. 78, ill. opp. p. 79.
C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 6, London, 1916, p. 357, no. 761.
John C. van Dyke. Rembrandt and His School. New York, 1923, p. 37.
William Howe Downes. "The Great Rembrandt Question." American Magazine of Art 14 (December 1923), p. 663.
W. R. Valentiner. "Important Rembrandts in American Collections." Art News 28 (April 26, 1930), p. 3, ill. following p. 4, in text, calls it a portrait of a cleric; in caption, calls it a portrait of a man of forty.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931, unpaginated, under no. 36, suggests that it is the pendant to the "Portrait of a Woman" in the Altman collection [MMA 14.40.625], stating that "the lady might well be the wife of a preacher, as the model in the Ellsworth painting seems to be".
A[braham]. Bredius. Rembrandt Gemälde. Vienna, 1935, p. 7, no. 160, pl. 160.
Kurt Bauch. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966, p. 19, pl. 357.
Horst Gerson. Rembrandt Paintings. Ed. Gary Schwartz. Amsterdam, 1968, p. 494, no. 122, ill. p. 265, states that while this portrait and MMA 14.40.625 are believed to be pendants, the execution of the woman is weaker and he is not wholly convinced of the attribution.
Paolo Lecaldano inL'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt. Milan, 1969, p. 98, no. 98, ill. p. 99.
Horst Gerson, ed. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings.. By A[braham]. Bredius. 3rd ed. London, 1969, pp. 560, 576, no. 160, ill. p. 136.
Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 172 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].
Josua Bruyn in "Round-Table Discussion: Problems of Attribution." Rembrandt After Three Hundred Years. Chicago, 1973, p. 34, suggests that the "Portrait of a Woman" in the Hage collection (Nivaagaards Malerisamling, Nivå, Denmark) is the possible pendant to this picture.
J. Bolten and H. Bolten-Rempt. The Hidden Rembrandt. Milan, 1977, p. 177, no. 117, ill.
Walter L. Strauss and Marjon van der Meulen. The Rembrandt Documents. New York, 1979, p. 83.
Gary Schwartz. Rembrandt, His Life, His Paintings. New York, 1985, p. 155, fig. 146 (color), states that it is not the pendant to MMA 14.40.625.
Christian Tümpel. Rembrandt: Mythos und Methode. Königstein, 1986, p. 428, no. A79, ill. p. 89, as probably the companion to MMA 14.40.625.
J[osua]. Bruyn et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings. Vol. 2, 1631–1634. The Hague, 1986, p. 5 n. 9, pp. 6–8, 238–42, 261–62, 417, 765, 860, 865, no. A59, figs. 1–4 (overall, details, and x-ray detail), rejects MMA 14.40.625 as the pendant, but states that it can be assumed that this work had a pendant, perhaps the portrait in Nivå.
Claus Grimm. Rembrandt selbst: Ein Neubewertung seiner Porträtkunst. Stuttgart, 1991, pp. 13–14, fig. 15.
Leonard J. Slatkes. Rembrandt: Catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1992, p. 246, no. 153, ill. (color).
Walter Liedtke in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1992–1993." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 51 (Fall 1993), p. 35, ill. p. 34 (color), states that MMA 14.40.625 "has wrongly been assumed by some to be the possible pendant of the painting here, for which no companion piece has ever been convincingly proposed".
Carol Vogel. "The Art Market: The Met's New Rembrandt." New York Times (March 12, 1993), p. C18, ill.
Walter Liedtke inRembrandt/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, , pp. 40–42, 47, 50, 58, 60, no. 1, ill. (color) and fig. 49 (detail), notes that the inscription is old, but not by Rembrandt.
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, pp. 28, 29, 38, 90, 94, figs. 25 (reverse, detail), 28 (color detail), 29 (x-radiograph detail), 114, 115 (detail).
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 310, ill. p. 311.
JoLynn Edwards. Alexandre-Joseph Paillet: Expert et marchand de tableaux à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1996, pp. 169, 297, 311, ill. p. 168.
Albert Blankert and Marleen Blokhuis inRembrandt: A Genius and His Impact. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne, 1997, p. 114 n. 1, under no. 8.
Christopher Wright. Rembrandt. Paris, 2000, p. 188, fig. 172 (color), as possibly the pendant to the Nivå portrait.
Jaap van der Veen. "Onbekende opdrachtgevers van Rembrandt (3)." Kroniek van het Rembrandthuis nos. 1–2 (2003), pp. 55, 58–59 n. 56, fig. 3.
Esmée Quodbach. "'Rembrandt's "Gilder" is here': How America Got its First Rembrandt and France Lost Many of its Old Masters." Simiolus 31, no. 1/2 (2004), p. 94 n. 13, p. 98.
Catherine B. Scallen. Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship. Amsterdam, 2004, pp. 187, 358 n. 19.
Lene Bøgh Rønberg inRembrandt? The Master and His Workshop. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. [Copenhagen], 2006, pp. 184, 283 n. 5, under no. 8.
Jaap van der Veen inUylenburgh & Son: Art and Commerce from Rembrandt to De Lairesse, 1625–1675. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2006, pp. 144–45.
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 70.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol 1, pp. ix, 9, 324; vol. 2, pp. 550–54, 568, 585, 608, no. 141, colorpl. 141.
Walter Liedtke. "Rembrandt Revelations at the Metropolitan Museum." Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, Beiheft: Wissenschaft auf der Suche 51 (2009), p. 45.
George S. Keyes inRembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. New York, 2011, pp. 70, 83 n. 24, fig. 33 (color).
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