In this intimate portrait, a bearded man with piercing eyes gazes to his right, his weathered face brightly illuminated against his dark beret. Bright accents enliven his eyes and help model his forehead and cheek bones, while similar highlights define the folds of his open shirt and articulate the strands of his grey hair. Dou's expressive brushwork and detailed handling of paint bring an extraordinary vigor and animation to this wonderful image. This work was once believed to represent Dou's father—a romantic notion that has since been proven wrong by a confirmed image of him with a darker beard and rounder face.
Dou's small oval panel is an outstanding example of a tronie, a type of figure study popular among Dutch artists. Among them, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dou's teacher, made many of these studes in the early to mid-17th century. Dou made tronies of both young and old models, though he favored the old, because their time-worn faces seemed to convey notions of wisdom and experience. Tronies were often sold as independent works, but they were also commonly used by artists as studies for their own genre and history paintings.
lower right over sitter's left shoulder, "DOV" in smaller letters: GDOV
Possibly Jacques Ignace de Roore, Antwerp; (his estate sale, The Hague, 4 September 1747, no. 89, with pendant). possibly Johan van der Marck, Leiden; (his estate sale, by Hendrik de Winter and Jan Yver, Amsterdam, 25 August 1773 and days following, no. 66). possibly (sale, Hôtel d'Aligre by Alexandre Joseph Paillet, Paris, 17 February 1777 and days following, 1st day, no. 79); Jacques Langlier. possiby Gilbert Paignon Dijonval [1708-1792], Paris; by descent to his grandson, Charles-Gilbert, vicomte Morel de Vindé [1749-1852]; (his sale, by Charles Paillet and N. Bérnard, Paris, 17 December 1821 and days following, no. 21 bis); (Thomas Emmerson, London). possibly Jeremiah Harman [1763-1844], London, by 1842; (his estate sale, Christie and Manson, London, 17-18 May 1844, no. 33); Robert Clouston [d. 1882], Balrath, near Navan, co. Meath, Ireland; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 18 June 1881, no. 116); James. Gottfried von Preyer [1807-1901], Vienna, by 1901; (sale, 1902); purchased by William A. Clark [1839-1925], New York; bequest 1926 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- Loan to display with permanent collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1908-1909.
- The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1978, unnumbered catalogue, fig. 48.
- Gerrit Dou (1613-1675): Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt, National Gallery of Art, Washington; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, 2000-2001, no. 11, repro.
- Antiquities to Impressionism: The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2001, no. 62, repro.
- Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 2014, no. 9, repro.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of Naamlyst van Schilderyen. Supplement by Pieter Terwesten. 2 vols. The Hague, 1752-1770: 2(1770):206, no. 89.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 1(1829):19, no. 55 as The portrait of an old man, with a black velvet bonnet, 34, no. 99, as Portrait of the artist's father; 9(1842):18, no. 58, as The Artist's Father.
- Moes, Ernst Wilhelm. Iconographia Batava. 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1897–1905: 1 (1897): 483, no. 3984/2 and 3.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Het Leven en de werken van Gerrit Dou. Leiden, 1901: 203, no. 135, as Dou's Father.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Gerard Dou. Translated by Clara Bell. London, 1902: 48, 104, no. 11, as Portrait of Dou's Father (reprint ed. London, 1908).
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 1(1907):440, no. 291 and no. 292, both as Dou's Father; 445, no. 319d, as Portrait of an Old Man.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 1(1907): 431, no. 291, as Dou's Father; 432, no. 292, as Dou's Father; 436, no. 319d, as Portrait of an Old Man.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Gérard Dou, sa vie et son oeuvre: Etude sur la peinture hollandaise et les marchands au dix-septième siècle. Paris, 1911: 51, 174, no. 67, as The Father of the Painter.
- Martin, Wilhelm. Gerard Dou: des Meisters Gemälde in 247 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 24. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1913: 29 repro., 181, no. 29b (rechts), as The Father of the Artist.
- Carroll, Dana H. Catalogue of Objects of Fine Art and Other Properties at the Home of William Andrews Clark, 962 Fifth Avenue. Part I. Unpublished manuscript, n.d. (1925): 172, no. 170, as Portrait of an Old Man.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of the W.A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1928: 41.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of The W.A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1932: 44, no. 2081, as Portrait of the Artist's Father.
- Breckenridge, James D. A handbook of Dutch and Flemish paintings in the William Andrews Clark collection. Washington, 1955: 12 repro., 13, as The Artist's Father.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 3 vols. Reprint of 1752 ed. with supplement by Pieter Terwesten, 1770. Soest, 1976: 2:206, no. 89.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "A Reappraisal of Gerard Dou's Reputation." In The William A. Clark Collection: An Exhibition Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Installation of the Clark Collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington. Exh. cat. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1978: 60 fig. 48, 61-67.
- Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 301, as Portrait of a Bearded Man.
- Baer, Ronni. "The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675)." 3 vols. Ph.D. dissertation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1990: 1:39.1-39.4; 2:3, no. 39; 3:repro. 39, as Bust of a Man.
- Baer, Ronni, et al. Gerrit Dou, 1613-1675: Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague. New Haven, 2000: 84-85, no. 11, 137, repro.