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Portrait of a Man, ca. 1737-1745

Artist: Georg Desmarées, Swedish, 1697 - 1776

Medium: Oil on canvas

Painting: 58 3/4 x 47 1/2 in. (149.2 x 120.7 cm)
Frame: 71 1/2 x 60 1/2 in. (181.6 x 153.7 cm)

Credit Line: Memphis Park Commission purchase

Object Number: 43.13

On View

Unshank Collection, England (sale, London, Robinson and Fisher Auction House, May 29, 1897, bt. Paul Durand-Ruel); Durand-Ruel & Co., Paris - January 1898 (sent to Durand-Ruel & Co., New York, sold 1898); Catholina Lambert, New York, New York; Oelrich Family, New York, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island, 1929 (sold through Douthitt Gallery, New York); Warner S. McCall, St. Louis, Missouri, 1943

Due to the inscription at lower left, this picture was long thought to depict Francis I, Emperor of Austria.  However, the inscription was added later—and in English, not the German or Latin used in the Austrian court. Also, the features of the man in the painting do not correspond to documented portraits of the Emperor Francis I.  One clue to the man’s identity is the emblem he wears around his neck. Hanging from a red ribbon, this elaborate piece of jewelry—which terminates in the skin of a small sheep—shows that he belonged to the Order of the Golden Fleece. Only the most powerful and aristocratic members of the Austrian court, and sometimes their allies, became members of this ancient knightly order.

 

Like the Portrait of a Woman which hangs adjacent, this painting was long believed to be the work of the Swedish artist Martin van Mytens (1695-1770). However, the fluid brushwork and robust color are not typical of his style. Both paintings may be the work of Georg Desmarées, a Swedish artist who studied with van Meytens, and later worked extensively with the royal court of Bavaria.