This strikingly informal and intimate portrait was no doubt painted as a cabinet picture. The soft brushwork and nuance of warm browns create a characterful image and reflects the influence of such Dutch masters as Nicholas Maes (1634-1693) and some of the miniature work of Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681).
From the fifteenth century onwards wealthy collectors of art would keep small paintings, often miniatures in a cabinet, a fairly small and private room, to which only those with whom they were on especially intimate terms would be admitted. The room might be used as a study or just a sitting room. Heating the main rooms in large palaces or mansions in the winter was difficult, and small rooms were more comfortable offering more privacy from servants or other household members or visitors. Typically, such a room would be for the use of a single individual, so that a house might have at least two or more with names varying as cabinet, closet, or study, from the Italian studiolo. A rare surviving cabinet with its contents probably little changed since the early eighteenth century is at Ham House in Richmond, London.
Depicted in the height of fashion for the period, this young gentleman was probably a wealthy individual as demonstrated by his finely made lace cravat. Lace was expensive and highly valued at this time, it being recorded in 1685 that James II of England paid over £36 for a cravat for his coronation. As well as a form of decoration it was also a distinctive mark of social standing assisting in an overall fashionable look where the hair would tumble around the shoulders to frame the neck decoration and draw the eye as is evident with this small portrait.