This fine small portrait on copper was considered to be by Frans van Mieris the Elder until Naumann (1981) rejected the attribution and observed that the painting's manner of execution is close to that of Slingelandt's signed and dated (1678) miniature portraits of a husband and wife in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Ekkart (1988) agreed that the picture is not by Van Mieris and suggested an attribution to Slingelandt. Comparable portraits by Van Mieris and by Gerrit Dou are softer in drawing and modeling, with a more convincing description of light and shadow and, consequently, atmosphere. The Met's portrait is exceedingly skillful, but harder in its description of forms; the use of shadow on the face, for example, results in a chiseled appearance. The hair, skin, and fabrics are less successfully differentiated in their textures than in works by Dou, Van Mieris, and Godfried Schalcken. The architectural background does nothing to dispel the precise and airless look of the whole.
Comparison with The Met's signed Johan Hulshout
by Slingelandt (71.70
), which is similar in scale, supports the attribution of this picture to him, although the wood support and discolored varnish of the other painting make judgment difficult. Nonetheless, it would appear that the bust-length portrait on copper is a finer work by the same hand. Comparisons with figures in the artist's securely attributed genre paintings and other portraits, and a review of plausible alternatives, also tend to support an attribution to Slingelandt. In the Portrait of a Man with a Watch
, of 1688 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), for example, the crisp drawing and careful shading of the eyes, nose, and mouth are quite similar. Slingelandt's undated Portrait of a Young Man
(Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden), where the full-length figure is depicted on about the same scale, is also painted in the same manner.
Like the young man in the Leiden picture, the present sitter wears a "Japanese robe." These garments, which were usually made of Chinese or Indian silk, were imported mostly from Japan to the Netherlands by the East India Company (VOC) and are shown fairly often in fashionable portraits of men, and in genre interiors (the robes were used primarily as elegant housecoats) dating from about 1665 onward. An almost identical robe and scarf are seen, for example, in the Chess Players
of about 1670 (Szépmuvészeti Múzeum, Budapest), by Comelis de Man (1621–1706).
The style of The Met's picture and the sitter's dress and coiffure suggest a dating of about 1680.
[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]