Not currently on display at the V&A

Portrait of an unknown man

Oil Painting
ca. 1575-ca. 1600 (painted)
Artist/Maker

A 3/4 length portrait of a bearded man in a jewelled hat, black jacket, fur lined mantle and white neck and wrist ruffs resting his left hand on the pommel of his sword and his right arm akimbo. Antonis Mor (1516/20-1576) was a Northern Netherlandish painter, active also in the southern Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal and England. As court painter to Philip II of Spain, he depicted members of the most powerful ruling élite in 16th-century Europe. His works owe a debt to Titian as well as to the Netherlandish tradition of his master, Jan van Scorel. Mor succeeded in establishing a distinctive new style that combined austerity and a formality of pose with a penetrating insight into his sitters’ characters. P.2-1978 appears to be by an artist working around the same time as Mor and the simple dark ground together with the sitter's austere costume, pose and expression all closely resemble those captured in many of Mor's portraits from around 1560 onwards. While the painter of P.2-1978 lacks the same technical finesse and skilled brushwork as Mor, the work is nonetheless of a high quality. The sitter has not been identified.

Object details

Categories
Object type
TitlePortrait of an unknown man (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Oil on oak panel
Brief description
Oil painting, 'Portrait of an Unknown Man', Circle of Antonis Mor, ca. 1575-ca. 1600
Physical description
A 3/4 length portrait of a bearded man in a jewelled hat, black jacket, fur lined mantle and white neck and wrist ruffs resting his left hand on the pommel of his sword and his right arm akimbo
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 43.5cm
  • Estimate width: 29.5cm
Dimensions taken from departmental object file
Style
Marks and inscriptions
by / Paul [illegible] 1533-15 [illegible] (Inscribed on a torn label on the back of the panel, apparently by Mr. Newal.)
Credit line
Bequeathed by R. S. Newall
Object history
Bequeathed by R. S. Newall, 1978.
Earlier provenance is unknown.

Historical significance: Antonis Mor (1516/20-1576) was a Northern Netherlandish painter, active also in the southern Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal and England. As court painter to Philip II of Spain, he depicted members of the most powerful ruling élite in 16th-century Europe. His works owe a debt to Titian as well as to the Netherlandish tradition of his master, Jan van Scorel. Mor succeeded in establishing a distinctive new style that combined austerity and a formality of pose with a penetrating insight into his sitters’ characters. In addition to court portraits he also painted successful merchants in Antwerp and artists and intellectuals in the humanist circles in which he moved. His portraits express his own social prestige as much as that of his distinguished sitters and may be understood as expressions of an ideal artistic and intellectual activity. P.2-1978 appears to be by an artist working around the same time as Mor and the simple dark ground together with the sitter's austere costume, pose and expression all closely resemble those captured in many of Mor's portraits from around 1560 onwards. While the painter of P.2-1978 lacks the same technical finesse and skilled brushwork as Mor, the work is nonetheless of a high quality. The sitter has not been identified.
Historical context
Dutch and Flemish portraits developed significantly during the 16th-17th centuries.
Religious and political turmoil in the 1500s split the Low Countries into two nations with differing social values and artistic tastes. Flanders remained Catholic and royalist; Flemish artists such as Rubens and Van Dyck glorified the Church and monarchy with grandiose themes, lively compositions, and vivid colours. The United Netherlands, however, became a republic populated mainly by Calvinists. Dutch Protestants like Rembrandt conveyed morals and religious messages through concealed symbolism in landscapes, still lifes, and scenes of daily life. In 1568, the northernmost provinces of the Low Countries broke away from Spanish control, eventually to become the Dutch Republic, a center of Protestantism. In the southern provinces, which remained under the rule of Spanish regents, the Catholic church and the court continued to be the most important patrons of the arts. Perhaps most characteristic of late sixteenth-century Flemish court art is the dignified, formal portraiture of Antonis Mor.
Production
This work was catalogued as 'Flemish School' ca. 1575-1600 in the Public Catalogue Foundation Catalogue, 2008. It appears however to sufficiently resemble the works of Antonis Mor as to warrant an attribution to his circle.
Summary
A 3/4 length portrait of a bearded man in a jewelled hat, black jacket, fur lined mantle and white neck and wrist ruffs resting his left hand on the pommel of his sword and his right arm akimbo. Antonis Mor (1516/20-1576) was a Northern Netherlandish painter, active also in the southern Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal and England. As court painter to Philip II of Spain, he depicted members of the most powerful ruling élite in 16th-century Europe. His works owe a debt to Titian as well as to the Netherlandish tradition of his master, Jan van Scorel. Mor succeeded in establishing a distinctive new style that combined austerity and a formality of pose with a penetrating insight into his sitters’ characters. P.2-1978 appears to be by an artist working around the same time as Mor and the simple dark ground together with the sitter's austere costume, pose and expression all closely resemble those captured in many of Mor's portraits from around 1560 onwards. While the painter of P.2-1978 lacks the same technical finesse and skilled brushwork as Mor, the work is nonetheless of a high quality. The sitter has not been identified.
Bibliographic reference
Andrew Eillis and Sonia Roe. Oil paintings in public ownership in the Victoria and Albert Museum London : Public Catalogue Foundation, 2008, colour repr. p. 138.
Collection
Accession number
P.2-1978

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Record createdFebruary 5, 2007
Record URL
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