A Good Early 19thC European School Oil on Canvas Portrait of a Bearded Gentleman

Origin: Probably French or Italian
Period: Early 19thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1800-20
Height: 24”
Width: 20”

The European school portrait in oils on canvas depicting a middle to elderly aged bearded Gentleman, facing dexter in profile, presented unframed and apparently unsigned, surviving from the first quarter of nineteenth century Europe, probably France or possibly Italy.

The condition of the painting is unrestored, uncleaned and unframed and is in as found order and does show some restorations and areas of craquelure but is wonderfully decorative and it’s quality remains apparent. There are areas of small loss and a previous relining or cleaning has given it a more flat feel., but the main body of the work is still in good fettle. The painting is atmospherically and moodily decorative as is but could be extensively cleaned, restored and framed is so desired which would probably result in a rather different picture. The bitumen cracks you can see in the darker parts of this picture are typical of the early 19th century artists of Europe. This paint composition was in fashion at that time until the artists realised that it cracks badly and stopped using it.

This picture is possibly a study for a bigger composition or a pupil copy of a profile in a studio. The well-rendered sitter, clearly in his elderly years, is partially bald, his long beard white to match and a fixed, yet affable gaze which is directed slightly upwards towards the heavens. This probably has a religious significance. Though he is well painted we cannot see a signature on the work.

The style of the painting is perhaps most similar to that of Rembrandt as many of Rembrandt’s portraits follow a distinct structure; dark, deep brown backgrounds and any light in the pictures were directed on the artist’s face as we see here, thus producing this dramatic and engaging effect. It is these same aesthetic decisions in this work that serve to draw the spectators eye in to closely studying the facial expression.

Despite its somewhat chequered past this is a dramatic oil portrait by a capable hand.