Shown in bust-length and three-quarter view, the youthful sitter’s elegant pose suggests a man of distinction, as does the luxurious quality of his garments. The unidentified man wears a velvet fur-trimmed doublet, decorated with a faintly visible brocade pattern. Two golden rings set with rubies adorn his right hand. With light streaming in from the left, the subject inhabits an open loggia-like space punctuated by marble columns that frame a sunlit landscape, which gradually shifts to blue as it recedes into the distance. When the portrait was first mentioned in 1857, the sitter was identified as Saint Sebastian, due to the presence of an arrow held between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand and a halo around his head. However, these later additions were removed during a cleaning of the picture in 1912. Faint traces of the arrow and halo are still visible.
The man’s hands are placed on the picture’s edge as though resting on a fictive balustrade. In employing such a motif, Memling was inspired by the earlier examples of Jan van Eyck and Petrus Christus, who also p...