Jan Lievens (Leiden 1607–1674 Amsterdam)
Portrait of a Man, 1640s
Black chalk on cream laid paper
8 1/2 × 7 13/16 in. (216 × 198.4 mm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.
As a young artist, Lievens worked alongside Rembrandt in his native Leiden before traveling to London, Antwerp, The Hague, Berlin, and other cities. Lievens was a painter, draftsman, and printmaker, and his work is characterized by a wide range of styles and subject matter. This sheet is part of a group of graphic portraits he produced over many years, inspired by Anthony van Dyck’s Iconographie, the celebrated printed series of portraits of cultural figures (including Lievens himself). Lievens’s drawing evokes a sense of informality both in its depiction of the sitter, with curly hair slightly disheveled, and in the sense of levity in the application of the black chalk lines. No related print or painting is known, and the unidentified sitter may have been among Lievens’s friends in Amsterdam. This drawing may have been made in the process of developing a more formal portrait; however, since Lievens signed his initials at left, it also serves as an independent work of art.
Curator's Personal Reflection
Speaker: Aimee Ng, Curator
We don’t know who this man is, but—at least to me—he looks jolly, like he was a lot of fun. His curling hair seems to have a life of its own, captured in quick marks by the artist, who also notes the crinkles of crow’s feet at the corners of his eye, as if he is someone who laughs a lot. I’m struck by the way Lievens has portrayed him, relaxed, informal, and yet proud. He raises slightly one eyebrow, peering out at us—but really he must have been peering at Lievens himself, who may have been sitting across from him. I can almost hear Lievens instruct him to reach his hand across his chest, to grasp part of his clothing—a dignified gesture that adds visual interest to the expanse of his corpulent upper body, cloaked so nonchalantly with his coat.