Portrait of a Young Man

Portrait of a Young Man

undated
Bernard Lens III
1682-1740
Watercolor and gouache on vellum
Sheet: 3 3/8 x 3 1/8 inches (8.6 x 7.9 cm) Frame: 6 3/4 x 6 3/8 x 5/8 inches (17.1 x 16.2 x 1.6 cm)
The identity of this young man is unknown. He is depicted bustlength in an outdoor setting, wearing clothes that suggest his role as a page—a personal attendant to a person of high rank, distinguished by his costly livery. The buttons of his silk coat appear to be made of silver or even diamonds, and the buttonholes are lined with silver thread. His elaborately decorated turban is finished with a plume of feathers. Miniatures like this were usually made as precious keepsakes and were either worn as jewelry or stored in cabinets with other images of loved ones. This painting may belong to the genre of “servant portraits” in which masters commissioned individual portraits of valued members of their staff. If so, the miniature format implies an especially intimate relationship, whose private nature contrasts with the page’s official function: to broadcast his master’s spectacular wealth in public.
B2001.2.1392
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection