A small selection of Dutch and early Flemish portraits. Early on these sitters were often donors painted into the religious scenes they financed, in later images they might be prominent burghers paying for a formal portrait, the artists themselves, or bit players in a genre scene. They were nearly always rendered with details indicating status, piety, marriage status... I love the frankness, the improbable sense of intimacy (across centuries!) and quiet melancholy. From top: Jan Van Eyck, Gerrit Dou, Quentin Massys, Van Eyck self portrait, Franz Hals, and Petrus Christus' magnificent Portrait of a Carthusian which I discovered on my Museum Day several posts ago.

Below the portraits are images from a series called "The Regulars" by Sarah Stolfa, an MFA candidate in Photography at Yale. She shot them during her time (a couple years?) bartending at McGlinchey's, a tavern in Philadelphia. I discovered her work in a beautifully written review by Carlo Rotella in my alumni magazine:
There's a resonant lonely distance in these portraits, and mystery, but none of the anonymous noir romance of Edward Hopper's nighthawks... [they are] intimate but restrained-- rich but not overripe, realistic but not entirely natural.
I happened to read that the 15th century contemporary word for portrait was conterfeytsel-- the modern English equivalent being "counterfeit." Implying both extreme fidelity as well as falsity, it highlights the deceptive sense that the viewer can "know" anything about these sitters. A collection of props and shadows.

This image doesn't quite fit in with this series but in doing picture research for this post I was reminded of how much I'm drawn to this painting. It is thought to be a self-portrait by Michael Sweerts, around 1650s I believe. He seems to have been a troubled soul, dying from some sort of mania after having followed some Jesuit missionaries to Goa.
His dreamy melancholy, unguarded expression, and the ease with which he rests his head on his hand is,
to me, startlingly appealing...

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