ATTRIBUTED TO HUYBRECHT BEUCKELAER (Antwerp, active 1563 – after 1584)
Portrait of a Young Man
oil on oak panel
28 x 22 inches (71.1 x 55.9 cm.)
Private Collection, Upperville, Virginia
The present painting belongs to an exciting period in the history of portraiture. Artists of the 16th century advanced the earlier formal conventions, and began to explore a range of different poses. In addition, there was a greater suggestion of relief and movement as sitters began to interact more intimately and directly with the beholder.
Our painting reflects this transition, as the sitter is portrayed in a dignified pose, gazing directly at the viewer. The young man appears to be around the age of 15 and is depicted in a plain interior with a single window revealing a distant background with a figure possibly reading or drawing. The calipers and carpenter’s square on the table may reveal an aspect of the sitter’s identity. His fashionable costume is rendered exquisitely with intricate detail. The artist included a marble shelf in the background, parallel to the picture plane, which is often found in the works by Agnolo Bronzino. A sculpture is visible below the window.
This painting had previously been considered to be by an anonymous Tuscan painter of the 16th century in the orbit of Agnolo Bronzino. While the painting does in fact demonstrate a striking formal and compositional similarity to Bronzino’s portraits (cf. the nearly identical pose to Bronzino’s Portrait of a Young Man in the Metropolitan Museum of Art), its style is completely foreign to Italian works of the period. That it is painted on an oak panel is further indication of its non-Italian origin.
This portrait can in fact be confidently attributed to the Antwerp artist Huybrecht Beuckelaer (active 1563 – after 1584). The dendrochronology performed by Dr. Peter Klein dates the wood of this oak panel to circa 1566. Huybrecht, the brother of Joachim Beuckelaer, has only recently been identified as the author of a distinct body of work formerly grouped under the name of the “Monogrammist HB.” In recent studies by Kreidl, Wolters, and Bruyn, his remarkable career has been delineated: from its beginnings with Joachim in the workshop of Pieter Aertsen; to his evident travels to Italy where, it has been suggested, he came into contact with Bronzino’s paintings; to his return to Antwerp, where he seems to have assisted Anthonis Mor in painting costume portraits; to his independent work in Antwerp (where he entered the Guild of St. Luke in 1579); and later, to his career in England where, known as “Master Hubberd,” he was patronized by the Earl of Leicester.
The core of Huybrecht’s oeuvre has been established through his signed (“HB”) paintings: the Prodigal Son Feasting with Harlots and The Kitchen Maid with Helpers (both in the Musées Royaux de Beaux Arts, Brussels), and The First Passover Feast of 1563 (New York, Art Market). To these, art historians have added others on the basis of style, including several portrait, to which the present work closely conforms.
Dr. Robert B. Simon is in the process of preparing an article on the portraits of Huybrecht Beuckelaer, and intends with full confidence to include this painting as a work by the artist.
 See Detlev Kreidl, “Joachim Beuckelaer und die Monogrammist HB,” Oud Holland, 90, 1976, p. 162ff; Detlev Kreidl, “Der Monogrammist HB, Ein Niederländer in der Bronzino Werkstätte,” in Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 34, p. 165ff; Margreet Wolters, “De Monogrammist HB geidentificeerd: Huybrecht Beuckeleer,” in Album Discipulorum J.R.J. van Asperen de Boer, ed. P. van den Brink and L. Helmus, Zwolle 1997, p. 231ff; and Josua Bruyn, “Hubert (Huybrecht) Beyckelaer, an Antwerp portrait, and his English patron, the Earl of Leicester,” in Juliette Roding and Eric Jan Sluijter, Dutch and Flemish artists in Britain 1550–1750, Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 13, 2003, pp. 85-112.