When I bought this painting some twenty years ago in an antique shop, it was sold to me as the portrait of a 16th century gentleman. In fact there was written on the top right the date 1593
followed underneath by AET. XXVI
, meaning that the character painted there was 26 years old when his portrait was done
On the back of the wooden piece, as it was painted on wood, were attached two small written papers. The first one was dated from 1920 and mentwas signed by a then known art critic. It said that the picture was probably the work of Dumonstier
and that the other old paper was describing the paintings. In fact the old paper was written in black ink in a rather old fashioned style. It mentions the date on the top right of the painting and also another piece of writing in the bottom right which is impossible to read as being too dark.
I went through different art encyclopedias finding that there was a dynasty of painters in the 16th and 17th centuries by the name of Dumonstier, there are at least four of them. I could not decide which one did actually this painting.
Then I looked at the undecipherable writing. It was difficult to read though I could make out the beginning as "Mr. le...".
Using a strong light and projecting it on the painting at very low angle to enhance the contrast I manage eventually to read the title which was "Mr le docteur".
I have tried to find out who that doctor could be at the time of Catherine de Medicis but without success for the moment.
The painting itself is beautiful to my taste, the eyes
of the character seem alive, the beard is very delicately painted and I can spend one hour looking at this face and admiring its delicacy. It is easily more fascinating than whatever you can watch on a tv set.