This detailed study of a young gentleman shows the influence of two significant French artists; Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) and Louis-Leopold Boilly (1761-1845). Ingres was a great exponent of the crisp, classicism that characterized the age and a believer in a firmness of outline which is reflected in his paintings and his often-quoted conviction that “drawing is the probity of art”. Boilly too adopted a precision to his portraits which were often executed in a small scale and therefore, in size alone, reflected an intimacy and immediacy that escaped other artists.
The background setting in this present portrait, with the heavy drape and the vista of the distant town, reflects compositionally Ingres, whereas the exquisite detail and expression of the face and form of the body echoes Boilly. In turn, Boilly’s carefully finished, small paintings recall the work of Dutch old masters by Dou, ter Borch and Mieris, examples of each were in his sale held in Paris in 1829. The unknown artist of this portrait obviously was heavily influenced by these commanding painters who spanned French art during volatile periods of royalty, revolution and Empire.