Portrait of a Gentleman


It is now more common to use the form `Suttermans’ as used by the artist himself to sign his pictures. Born in Antwerp in 1597, he studied first under Willem de Vos before continuing his studies with Frans Pourbus in Paris. According to Filippo Baldinucci, he arrived in Florence in 1620 with the tapestry weaver Pierre Fevere summoned by Cosimo II de’ Medici. His career as portraitist to the Medici lasted for sixty years, and encompassed the transformations in Florentine painting from the narrative work of the Rosselli school to the flowering of the full Baroque. Suttermans’ success with the Medici began after a brief sojourn at the Gonzaga court in Mantua in late 1621, where he probably saw portraits by Feti. These first Medici portraits, painted prior to his Viennese visit of 1623?4 working for the Emperor Ferdinando II, are meticulous and strongly lit.

It seems unlikely that Suttermans would have remained oblivious to the portraiture of Cristofano Allori, who died one year after the Fleming’s arrival in Florence. Allori’s intense scrutiny of character and psychological insight may have contributed this extra important dimension to what Pourbus had already taught Suttermans. Our portrait suggests that he might have known one of Allori’s finest likenesses, Bernardo Davanzati Bostichi (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum), whose intense gaze it shares. Similarly, the meticulous modelling of flesh, and the rendering of textures like the beard and collar are comparable. Allori’s talent for small likenesses on copper may also have influenced Suttermans in this respect, since he later produced a number, both as studies for other portraits and medals, and as independent portraits.

There is no trace in our picture of the influence of other Florentine painters, and this does not assist in any way with even a tentative dating. However, a comparison with one of Suttermans’ greatest portraits, Pandolfo Ricasoli (Florence, Galleria Palatina) dated by Lisa Goldenberg Stoppato to around 1630 reveals strong similarities. There are also similarities with the Portrait of Domenico Passignano dated by Marco Chiarini to 1625?30.

The compact handling of the facial modelling and the treatment of the beard and collar are much closer to the Ricasoli portrait than to the artist’s later, major images of male sitters, such as Galileo Galilei of 1636 (Florence, Uffizi). The reason for this seems clear. In 1631, the paintings `rom Urbino forming part of Vittoria delta Rovere’s dowry arrived in Florence; among these were Titian portraits including Pietro Aretino, which Suttermans retained on loan in his studio from 1637?44. The nfluence of the delta Rovere pictures transformed Suttermans’ portraits to a much more painterly, less finished style, in direct emulation of the Titian manner.

In addition to the above, the fact that our picture recalls certain aspects of Van Dyck’s portraiture and shows little sign of the loosening of handling found in the 1630s appears to indicate an earlier dating. Possibly conscious of his patrons’ failure to attract either Rubens or Van Dyck to Florence as resident court artists, Suttermans was certainly emulating Van Dyck formats in the mid?late 1620s. Our portrait compares closely in this respect with the admittedly much more grandiose half?length Claudia de’ Medici of around 1626 or Ferdinando ll de’Medici of 1627 (both Florence, Galleria Palatina).

Suttermans is recorded as having visited Rome in 1627 (where he painted Pope Urban VIII) and the influence of Andrea Sacchi has been proposed. This also makes sense in relation to our portrait although Sacchi’s most imposing portraiture post?dates Suttermans’ visit. The vivacity, directness of gaze and intimacy of the portrait suggest not only the sitter’s intelligence, but also that he and the painter were on close terms.

The attribution of our picture to Suttermans was first proposed by Ann Sutherland Harris and has been confirmed by Dott. Marco Chiarini.

22 x 17 3/8 inches. (56 x 44 cm.)
Oil on canvas

Lord Ormathwaite, Eywood, North Wales;
sale on the premises May 1895, as Dominichino (sic), where acquired by G.W.M., according to an inscription on the relining canvas;
Christies 10 July 1992 as `Circle of Domenichino’;
Matthiesen Gallery, London.

Where is It?
Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Netherlandish - Flemish
1993-Fifty Paintings 1535 - 1825.
To celebrate Ten Years of Collaboration between The Matthiesen Gallery, London, and Stair Sainty Matthiesen, New York. 216 pages, 50 colour plates, numerous black and white text illustrations £20 or $32 inc. p.& p.

(Click on image above)
Price band
Sold or not available