Gossaert's portrait shows a merchant seated in a cramped yet cozy space,surrounded by the tools of his trade. Scattered over the table are such useful items as a talc shaker used to dry ink, an ink pot, a pair of scales for testing the weight (and hence the quality) of coins, and a metal receptacle for sealing wax, quill pens, and paper. Attached to the wall are balls of twine and batches of papers labeled "miscellaneous letters" and "miscellaneous drafts." The monogram on the sitter's hat pin and index finger ring have led to his tentative identification as Jan Jacobsz Snoeck.
The artist's Netherlandish love of detail and texture combine with his admiration for the massiveness of Italian High Renaissance art to achieve here what might be termed a monumentality of the particular. At the same time, the sitter's furtive glance and prim mouth are enough to inform us of the insecurity and apprehension that haunted bankers in the 1530s, when the prevailing moral attitude was summed up by the Dutch humanist Erasmus, who asked, "When did avarice reign more largely and less punished?"
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication Early Netherlandish Painting, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/early-netherlandish-painting.pdf
upper left on the paper: Alrehande Missiven (miscellaneous letters); upper right on the paper: Alrehande Minuten (miscellaneous drafts); on ring on sitter's index finger: IS; on pin on hat: IAS (intertwined)
The Marquesses of Lansdowne, London and Bowood, Wiltshire, by 1866; sold by Lord Landsown in January 1967 to (Thos. Agnew & Sons, London); purchased January 1967 by NGA.
- Exhibitions of Works by Ancient Masters, British Institution, London, 1866, no. 70.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1884, no. 288, as Holbein.
- Loan Exhibition of the Lansdowne Collection, Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London, 1954-1955, no. 17.
- L'Art flamand dans les collections britanniques et la Galerie Nationale de Victoria, Groeningemuseum, Bruges, 1956, no. 33.
- Le siècle de Bruegel: La peinture en Belgique au XVIe siècle, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, 1963, no. 112.
- In Memoriam, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, unnumbered checklist.
- Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2002-2003, no. 32, color repro.
- Jan Gossaert's Renaissance, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The National Gallery, London, 2010-2011, no. 58, repro. (not in London catalogue).
- Richter, J. Paul. "The Dutch and Flemish Pictures at Burlington House." The Academy 25 (12 January 1884): 34.
- Ambrose, G. Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures belonging to the Marquess of Lansdowne, K.G., 1897: 60, no. 115.
- Marlier, Georges. Erasme et la peinture flamande de son temps. Damme, 1954: 273-274.
- Sutton, Denys. "Pictures from the Lansdowne Collection." Country Life 2 (1954): 1959, repro.
- "Londra: Attività delle Gallerie." Emporium 121 (May, 1955): 229, repro.
- Grossmann, Fritz. "Flemish Paintings at Bruges." The Burlington Magazine 99 (1957): 4-5.
- Puyvelde, Leo van. "Un portrait de marchand par Quentin Metsys et les percepteurs d'impôts par Marin van Reymerswael." Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art 26 (1957): 9.
- Osten, Gert von der. "Studien zu Jan Gossaert." De Artibus Opuscula XL. Essays in Honor of Erwin Panofsky. 2 vols. New York, 1961: 474, fig. 18.
- Friedländer, Max J. Early Netherlandish Painting. 14 vols. in 16. Brussels and Leiden, 1967-1976: 8(1972):113, Add. 164, pl. 57.
- Rosenberg, Jakob. "A Portrait of a Banker (Jerome Sandelin?) by Jan Gossaert called Mabuse." Studies in the History of Art 1 (1967-68): 39-43, repro.
- European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 52, no. 2316, repro.
- Herzog, Sadja. "Jan Gossaert called Mabuse (ca. 1478-1532): A Study of his Chronology with a Catalogue of his Works." Ph.D. diss., Bryn Mawr College, 1986: 137, 312-315, no. 53, pl. 63.
- Sweeny, Barbara. John G. Johnson Collection. Catalogue of Flemish and Dutch Paintings. Philadelphia, 1972: 43.
- Voet, Leon. Antwerp, The Golden Age. Antwerp, 1973: 252, repro. 253.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 158, repro. 159.
- Silver, Larry. "Power and Pelf: A New-Found Old Man by Massys." Simiolus 9 (1977): 76, fig. 15.
- Broadley, Hugh, and John Oliver Hand. Flemish Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1978: 7, 26, repro. 27.
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 58, pl. 41.
- Grosshans, Rainald. Maerten van Heemskerck: Die Gemälde. Berlin, 1980: 35, fig. 141.
- Holman, Thomas. "Holbein's Portraits of the Steelyard Merchants: An Investigation." Metropolitan Museum Journal 14 (1980): 141, fig. 2.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 984: 158, no. 169, color repro., as Portrait of a Banker.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 181, repro.
- Snyder, James. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350-1575. New York, 1985: 426.
- Hand, John Oliver and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1986: 103-107, color repro. 105.
- Mensger, Ariane. “Gossaert (Gossart), Jan.” In Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Edited by Günther Meissner. 87+ vols. Munich and Leipzig, 1992+: 59(2008):173.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 46, repro.
- Bätschmann, Oskar, and Pascal Griener. Hans Holbein. Translated from German by Cecilia Hurley and Pascal Griener. London, 1997: 180-181, fig. 329
- Nygren, Edward J. “Money." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:620.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 126-127, no. 97, color repro.
- Sander, Jochen. Hans Holbein D.J. Tafelmaler in Basel 1515-1532. Munich, 2005: 295.
- Snyder, James. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575. Revised by Larry Silver and Henry Luttikhuizen. Upper Saddle River, 2005: 460-462, fig. 19.12.
- Cambell, Peter. "At the National Gallery." London Review of Books 33, no. 6 (17 March 2011): 18.
- "London Highlights," Tableau Fine Arts Magazine 33, no. 1 (February-March 2011): cover, 7, 58, color repros.
- Merle du Bourg, Alexis. "Portrait d'un marchand, d'un financier ou d'un édile" Dossier de l'art no. 184 (April 2011): cover, t.o.c., 72-73, color repros.
- Vergnon, Dominique. "Jan Gossaert: Passeur de l'ombre." L'Oeil no. 633 (March 2011): 104, color repro.
- Bätschmann, Oskar, and Pascal Griener. Hans Holbein. Rev. and expanded second edition. Translated from German by Cecilia Hurley and Pascal Griener. London, 2014: 258, fig. 253.
- National Gallery of Art. Highlights from the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Washington, 2016: repro. (detail) 40, 86, repro. 87.
The painting is in excellent condition and contains only a few scattered
retouchings on the sitter's sleeves, the papers on the back wall, and the left
page of the ledger in the foreground. Several changes are visible: the
sitter's hat was originally broader and his hair longer at the back; the cord
that hangs in front of the papers at the upper right has been shortened.
Underdrawing is visible in the sitter's hands and sleeves and in the papers
hanging on the rear wall. The reverse of the panel has been planed down and
coated with a thin layer of paint.