A founding member of the Leiden “Fine Painters” Guild, Gerard Dou is especially known for his expression of detail and highly-polished surfaces. In 1632, at age 19, Dou painted “Portrait of a Young Man,” the year following his departure from Rembrandt’s studio and established himself in Leiden. At this relatively early point in Dou’s career, his technique in the depiction of fine details is already apparent. Dou’s love of detail is most pronounced by the subject’s finely sculptured facial features and elaborate gold pendant (which stands in sharp contrast to the sitter’s black dress).
“Portrait of a Man” is representative of a long tradition of “portraits in miniature,” dating to the Italian Renaissance, and first appearing in watercolors as dedicatory likeness introduced into manuscript books where they portrayed the patron who commissioned the book, or the artist who illuminated it. The “Portrait of a Man” may be considered a “cabinet miniature.” These miniatures were somewhat larger than their predecessors, and were displayed on the wall or a piece of furniture, as a photograph is often displayed today.