This middle-aged man regards us with a somewhat dreamy expression. He is holding a Roman coin in his hand, a sestertius of Emperor Nero. Below are two laurel leaves which were probably continued onto the original frame, which is now lost. A vista draws our eye to a rider in an idyllic landscape with a palm tree and with swans in a lake. Hans Memling was one of the first artists to use the landscape as background for a portrait. It is not known for certain who the person portrayed here is, but it is thought to be the Venetian humanist Pietro Bembo (1433 - 1519), who had an important collection of paintings and antique coins. Van Ertborn bought the painting in 1826 at the auction held by baron Vivant Denon, the man who co-ordinated the art transports of Napoleon. Nicolaas Rockox, too, had a sestertius (bronze) of Emperor Nero in his collection. It is likely that Memling was an apprentice to van der Weyden. In any case, he was enrolled in the Guild of St. Luke in Bruges in 1476 and set the art of portrait painting on a new path.