Amsterdam artist Thomas de Keyser created this appealing portrait in 1627, when he was at the height of his artistic powers. It is a commanding yet sympathetic image. The gentleman’s frank gaze and angular cheekbones endow him with a sense of strength, while his receding hairline and crow’s-feet, which reveal his age, lend him a certain softness. De Keyser rendered these features as well as the hairs of the man’s beard and the magnificent collar with remarkable sensitivity. Carefully articulating the hairs in his moustache with delicate highlights and building up impastos around the lace tipped ruff, he masterfully evokes their different textures. Picturing the unknown sitter in an understated brownish-red wool jacket with rows of beaded buttons down the front and sleeves, De Keyser further suggests that this man, while stylish, is also sensible in his life choices.
As with many of his finest works, De Keyser chose a copper panel and an octagonal shape as a framing device, the strong angles of which enhances the masculine power of this bust-length portrait. The copper’s smooth, rigid surface allowed De Keyser to paint with an extraordinarily controlled brush and its inherent luminosity enabled him to use light to model and define the figure’s form.
The identity of the sitter is not certain, but the painter Pieter Lastman (1583–1633) is an intriguing possibility. A contemporary poem celebrates a portrait of Pieter Lastman by De Keyser and an entry in Lastman’s inventory of 1632 lists a portrait of or by Lastman in an octagonal frame.
center left, in monogram: TDK. ANo 167
Henri Louis Bischoffsheim [1828-1908], Bute House, London; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 7 May 1926, no. 48); Martin. (Frederik Muller & Co., Amsterdam); sold 8 December 1926 to Count Gerard Joseph Emile d'Aquin [born 1865], as a self-portrait De Keyser; by descent in his family; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, New York, 25 January 2012, no.13); purchased by NGA.
- Adams, Ann Jensen. "The Paintings of Thomas de Keyser (1596/7-1667): A Study of Portraiture in Seventeenth-century Amsterdam." 4 vols. in 2. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985: 1:68-69, 3:21, no. 6.
- Dudok van Heel, Sebastien Abraham Corneille. De jonge Rembrandt onder tijdgenoten: Godsdienst en schilderkunst in Leiden en Amsterdam. Rotterdam, 2006: 52, 54-55, 100, fig. 25, as Mogelijk Portret van Pieter Lastman.
- Melikian, Souren. "The Classics of Yore Are Back." Art + Auction 35, no. 8 (April 2012): 67-68, color repro.