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Huybrecht Beuckelaer
Portrait of an Artist (possibly a Self-Portrait)

c. 1566

About the Item

Provenance: Bradley Collection. Private Collection, Upperville, Virginia. Literature: Katlijne van der Stighelen and Hans Vlieghe, Rubens: Portraits of Unidentified and Newly Identified Sitters painted in Antwerp, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, vol. 19, pt. 3, London and Turnhout, 2021, under cat. no. 189, p. 161, and fig. 75. This painting had previously been considered to be by an anonymous Tuscan painter of the sixteenth century in the orbit of Agnolo Bronzino. While the painting does in fact demonstrate a striking formal and compositional similarity to Bronzino’s portraits—compare the nearly identical pose of Bronzino’s Portrait of a Young Man in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fig. 1)—its style is completely foreign to Italian works of the period. That it is painted on an oak panel is further indication of its non-Italian origin. This portrait can in fact be confidently attributed to the Antwerp artist Huybrecht Beuckelaer. Huybrecht, the brother of Joachim Beuckelaer, has only recently been identified as the author of a distinct body of work formerly grouped under the name of the “Monogrammist HB.” In recent studies by Kreidl, Wolters, and Bruyn his remarkable career has been delineated: from its beginnings with Joachim in the workshop of Pieter Aertsen; to his evident travels to Italy where, it has been suggested, he came into contact with Bronzino’s paintings; to his return to Antwerp, where he seems to have assisted Anthonis Mor in painting costume in portraits; to his independent work in Antwerp (where he entered the Guild of Saint Luke in 1579); and, later to his career in England where, known as “Master Hubberd,” he was patronized by the Earl of Leicester. Our painting was recently published by Dr. Katlijne van der Stighelen and Dr. Hans Vlieghe in a volume of the Corpus Rubenianum, in which they write that the painting “has a very Italian air about it and fits convincingly within [Beuckelaer’s] oeuvre.” Stighelen and Vlieghe compare the painting with Peter Paul Ruben’s early Portrait of a Man, Possibly an Architect or Geographer in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which the sitter holds a compass and wears a similarly styled doublet (Fig. 2). Huybrecht both outlived and travelled further afield than his brother Joachim, who made his career primarily in Antwerp. Whereas Joachim was the main artistic inheritor of their uncle and teacher, Pieter Aertson, working in similar style and format as a specialist in large-scale genre and still-life paintings, Huybrecht clearly specialized as a painter of portraits and was greatly influenced by the foreign artists and works he encountered on his travels. His peripatetic life and his distinctly individual hand undoubtedly contributed to the fact his career and artistic output have only recently been rediscovered and reconstructed. His periods abroad seem to have overlapped with the mature phase of his brother Joachim’s career, who enrolled in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke much earlier than his brother, establishing himself as an independent painter in 1560. Joachim’s activity was confined to the following decade and half, and his latest work dates from the last year of his life, 1574. Our portrait was likely produced in the late 1560s, a dating supported by the dendrochronological investigation performed by Dr. Peter Klein, which established that it is painted on an oak panel with an earliest felling date of 1558 and with a fabrication date of ca. 1566. This painting presents a portrait of an artist, almost certainly Huybrecht’s self-portrait. The young sitter is confidently posed in a striking patterned white doublet with a wide collar and an abundance of buttons. He stands with his right arm akimbo, his exaggerated hands both a trademark of Huybrecht and his brother Joachim’s art, as well as a possible reference to the “hand of the artist.” The figure peers out of the painting, interacting intimately and directly with the viewer, as we witness him posed in an interior, the tools and results of his craft visible nearby. He holds a square or ruler in his left hand, while a drawing compass lays on the green cloth, protruding off the edge of the table. Behind the table at right, a section of a painted canvas depicting an angel holding a trumpet lurks in shadows. Interestingly, in comparison to the formal and precise rendering of the figure and still-life elements, the vignette in the upper right—a landscape viewed through an open window—is treated in a very broad and painterly manner, undoubtedly intended to show off the artist’s skill as a painter of landscapes. The view, which somewhat resembles and foreshadows the experimental landscapes of Hercules Seghers, includes a solitary figure shown drawing the landscape—a probable second self-portrait within the painting. The core of Huybrecht’s oeuvre has been established through his signed (“HB”) paintings: the Prodigal Son Feasting with Harlots and The Kitchen Maid with Helpers (both in the Musées Royaux de Beaux Arts, Brussels), and The First Passover Feast of 1563 (formerly art market, New York). To these art historians have added others on the basis of style, including several portraits, to which the present work closely conforms. A group of portraits vaguely considered to be by one or another painter in the circle of Bronzino, but clearly of Northern origin, would seem as well to be by the artist (such as the Portrait of a Lady, sometimes given to Santi di Tito, in the Statens Museum, Copenhagen).
  • Creator:
    Huybrecht Beuckelaer (Flemish)
  • Creation Year:
    c. 1566
  • Dimensions:
    Height: 28 in (71.12 cm)Width: 22 in (55.88 cm)
  • Medium:
  • Movement & Style:
  • Period:
  • Condition:
  • Gallery Location:
    New York, NY
  • Reference Number:
    1stDibs: LU10212222212
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