An Unknown Man

Frans Pourbus the Younger
1569 – 1622

An Unknown Man

Painted circa 1594

Oil on panel: 19 5/8 x 15 5/8 inches, 49 x 39 cm



  • with Guy Stein,1 Paris, 1935, by whom sold to
  • Arthur Sambon;
  • Private collection, U.S.A., until 2012;
  • with The Weiss Gallery, 2012;
  • Private collection, Paris.
  • 1 The existence of this panel in the Stein collection in Paris, 1935, is known through documentation by Max J. Friedlander in 1936 (courtesy of the RKD). with The Weiss Gallery 2013; sold to
  • Private Colllector, France


  • Blaise Ducos, Frans Pourbus the Younger (1569 – 1622), Dijon, 2011, p. 196, no. P.A.13.
  • The Weiss Gallery, The Captured Eye, 2013, no. 14


  • Paris, La Galerie Stein, 2 rue La Boetie, 1935, no. 12.

The extraordinary realism and level of finish in this head are of the highest quality, and the paint surface is beautifully preserved. Blaise Ducos dates this intimate oval portrait to circa 1594, shortly before Pourbus moved to work at the court in Brussels. The confidence and precision with which it is painted affirm the dating. Significantly, the sitter does not display any aristocratic or courtly attributes. It is a portrait painted on a human scale, for close inspection. The unknown man fixes the viewer in a direct gaze, as he would the artist, who in turn has minutely observed his refined and care-worn face. That he was a close associate of Pourbus seems likely. His black doublet with discreet slashes reveals tiny windows of red silk, but it is the informal wear of one who has sat to the artist without pretention or self-aggrandisement. Ducos notes ‘an internal tension is clearly aparent… conveying a sense of moral authority.1

1 Op. cit.

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