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Artist: Lievens, Jan 1 of 1
Young Man with Red Beret, c. 1629-1630

Jan Lievens
Dutch, 1607-1674
Oil on panel
27-1/2 x 21 in. (69.9 x 53.3 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Jennifer Jones Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Not only is the identity of this dashing young man unknown, but the attribution to the painter who portrayed him has also been a matter of debate for many years. The handling of the paint and the rendition of the subject as a “tronie” (the Dutch word for a study of a head), rather than a specific portrait, had led many historians to assume that the picture was painted by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669). Other attributions have included Jacob Adriensz. Backer (1608–1651), as well as the lesser known Isaac Jouderville (c. 1612–c. 1648), who was apprenticed to Rembrandt in the early 1630s. But the tighter brushstrokes, the theatrical lighting, and the attention to detail suggest another, more likely possibility: Jan Lievens, who in the late 1620s was still working in close proximity to his friend Rembrandt in Leiden, the city where both artists were born.

Other paintings by Lievens show a similar, linear definition of features and details. These qualities are often reinforced in the more thickly applied areas of paint with actual incised lines made by using the back end of the paintbrush. This “sgraffito,” as it is called, here defines the tendrils of the hair, the feathered plume, and the more careful detailing in the exotic turban and costume of this arresting figure.

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Artist: Lievens, Jan 1 of 1