Portrait of a Scholar

With his right hand raised and his left resting on a book and clutching a pair of glasses, the scholar in Quentin Metsys’s painting appears to have been caught at a moment of revelation. His dynamic pose and bold physicality distinguish the man from Holbein’s more stoic, seemingly withdrawn sitters, such as Erasmus and Sir Thomas More. The scholar is situated against a window, with a carefully constructed vista extending into the distance, including a river, a forest, mountains, and a fortified city. Such views, known as world landscapes, were a specialty of Antwerp painters in the 1520s.

Quentin Metsys (1465/66–1530)
Portrait of a Scholar, ca. 1525–30
Mixed technique on panel
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main; 766

Photo: Städel Museum