Eyes/facial detail from Hans Memling’s ‘Portrait of an Old Man’, c. 1475, oil on panel, 25.4 x 18.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Hand detail from Hans Memling’s ‘Portrait of an Old Man’, c. 1475, oil on panel, 25.4 x 18.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Stubble detail from Hans Memling’s ‘Portrait of an Old Man’, c. 1475, oil on panel, 25.4 x 18.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Gray hair detail from Hans Memling’s ‘Portrait of an Old Man’, c. 1475, oil on panel, 25.4 x 18.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Hans Memling — Portrait of an Old Man1475.

Painting: Oil on wood, 25.4 x 18.4 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

This sympathetic portrayal of an elderly man once formed a diptych with a portrait of an old woman (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston). Unlike the devotional portraits of Tommaso and Maria Portinari displayed nearby, the purpose here is entirely secular. Memling depicts his sitter with hands folded and resting gently on a ledge, not joined in prayer. This portrait and its pendant were created to preserve the appearances of the sitters as they neared the end of their lives, a function of portraiture that became increasingly popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Source

// Originally published on Art of Darkness: Daily Art Blog