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Art & Design

Netherlandish, Self-Portrait, ca. 1595-1600, Museum Appropriation Fund

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gallery location RA504.European2


Attributed to Paul Bril Flemish, ca. 1554-1626
Unknown artist, Netherlandish, Holland; Netherlands
Self-Portrait, ca. 1595-1600
Oil on canvas
70.8 x 77.2 cm (27 7/8 x 30 3/8 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 39.046

This representation of an elegantly dressed lute-player is an intriguing variant on an artist’s self-portrait. It identifies the subject as the painter, seated before his own easel and palette, and expands on his cultural achievements by emphasizing his musical abilities. Although unsigned, this portrait has been attributed to Paul Bril (1553/4-1626), a Flemish artist who forged a highly successful career in Rome. The scene tacked to the easel is typical of Bril’s early compositions which were distinguished by small figures, deep, shaded foregrounds, and masses of silvery foliage, attributes that he shared with other Flemish painters. Bril’s Netherlandish roots helped to launch his career as a landscape painter of scenes based not so much on naturalism as on a well-ordered view of the remote countryside, full of close observation of detail. The sitter’s confident gaze, elegant apparel, and comfortable strum of the instrument all seek to convince the viewer of the excellence and success of his method.

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