Pieter Nason (c.1612- 1688/90) was a Dutch portraitist who worked mainly in The Hague, where he painted the nobility, including a number of English visitors. His portraits of fashionable patrons are similar in style to the smooth highly polished paintings of his Amsterdam contemporary Bartholomeus van der Helst. By the 1670s he was active though less prolific having made his mark indelibly on the style and manner of portraiture of the period.
Painted around 1675 the portrait of an elegant young man presented here echoes both his approach and finish, demonstrating well his influence over other artists practicing at the time, particularly in The Hague.
Depicted in the height of fashion for the period, this young gentleman was probably a wealthy merchant. He wears a combination of coat over a waistcoat which was to be the precursor of the modern suit and was introduced in the early 1670s. With slight shaping at the waist and low pockets, a long narrow effect was achieved accentuating the height of the wearer. The long arms are folded back to create immense cuffs, which help show off the expensive leather gauntlet gloves, trimmed probably in black silk thread, held in one hand and an ivory topped cane clasped in the other.
In a period that prescribed black for most clothes, painters sought ways of conveying the different nuances and textures of the dark fabrics as convincingly and vivid as possible. As the present portrait demonstrates well this can result in a subtle use of palette; a subtlety that also demonstrates and confirms the extreme taste and refinement of the sitter of the portrait. Black, of course, is an ideal background against which other colours can stand out to dramatic effect, particularly the crisp white of linen or lace. Around collar and cuffs this can help draw attention to both face and hands, an important aspect in 17th century Dutch portraiture. Lace was expensive and highly valued, 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. In this portrait the sitters wealth and status is emphasized by the display of a fine Venetian gros point lace cravat, which famously was too heavy to tie in a knot; instead, the ends of the cravat were caught together with a ribbon which was tied in a wide stiff bow which was worn beneath the fall of the lace cravat. The hair would tumble around the shoulders either naturally or with extensions to frame the neck decoration and draw the eye.