“...The picture was thinly painted and never intended to be finished,” said Mr. Christiansen, who says he believes it was actually a study. “It was a sitting done from life, which gives it great immediacy. The figure of the man is more finished than the costume or the background.”
The figure’s face, tired eyes and nose bear an eerie resemblance to the man looking out at the viewer from the far right of Velázquez’s “Surrender of Breda” (1634-35), which he painted to commemorate the Spanish victory over the Dutch. That painting, which is in the Prado Museum in Madrid, dates from around the same time as “Portrait of a Man,” made when Velázquez was 35.
But at this point nobody knows for sure if the figure in “The Surrender of Breda” or the man in the Met’s canvas is the artist himself. Other depictions of Velázquez, in “La Meninas” at the Prado, for instance, were painted when he was 57.
“Why not be a self-portrait?” Mr. Christiansen said. “It might be fun to put it on a blog on the museum’s Web site and ask people to take a vote.”
An Old Spanish Master Emerges From Grime
By Carol Vogel
The New York Times
September 9, 2009
[I love Keith Christiansen!]