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Can you identify the artist and sitter of Portrait of a Young Boy, Perhaps a Prince? The picture, possibly early 17th century, is in the collection of Queen’s University, Belfast.

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Art UK, a charity that runs a website showcasing artworks that are in public collections across the UK, has digitised the images of more than 230,000 artworks and a further 100,000 sculptures will be recorded by December 2020.

Its Art Detective forum works with specialists and members of the public to help fill in gaps in its knowledge of public art including missing attributions and other lost information.

The Art Detective site has 35,000 registered users but the site needs further help to uncover more clues about particular works.

Here, in the first of an occasional series, is one such picture that is awaiting further information. Perhaps ATG’s readers know the answer?

Can you identify the artist and sitter of Portrait of a Young Boy, Perhaps a Prince, pictured above? The picture, possibly early 17th century, is in the collection of Queen’s University, Belfast.

This portrait of a child, in a red gown holding a coral teething rattle and a wreath, a pomander hanging from his belt, has already been the topic of lively discussion on the website but a definitive outcome has proved elusive.

Other versions

Several other versions are known: two in public ownership (Alfred East Art Gallery, Kettering; Inverness Museum & Art Gallery); one in the Royal Collection; one sold by Sotheby’s (the auction titled Two Great Scottish Collections: property from the Forbeses of Pitsligo and the Marquesses of Lothian, March 28, 2017, lot 457); and one by Christie’s (The Collection of Drue Heinz Townhouses in London and New York with interiors by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino, London, June 4, 2019, lot 200).

The numerous versions imply that the sitter must have been an important individual and among the suggestions already made are: Jeffrey Hudson, the court dwarf to Charles I; the infant Duke of York; or one of the children of the Queen of Bohemia (Elizabeth Stuart, 1596-1622, daughter of James I and VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark). Some people think the child is a boy, others believe it is a girl.

Art Detective wants to find out more about the sitter and the artist but also the objects depicted in the image, such as the child’s headdress and its jewelled ornament.

The crown motif is present in the versions at Belfast; Inverness; and Sotheby’s sale. The crown motif is not present (as far as can be seen from images online) in the versions in the Royal Collection, in the Alfred East Art Gallery and one that sold at Christie’s.

A version sold at Adam Partridge’s auction on December 12 (featured in Previews, ATG No 2421) does not feature the crown motif. It was catalogued as “in the manner of Jacob Huysmans (Dutch 1633-80)” and against a £2000-3000 estimate sold at a hammer price of £3200 (plus 19.99% buyer’s premium inc VAT).

Suggestions for the artist have included Wybrand de Geest (Leeuwarden, 1592-1661); Adriaen van der Linde (Bruges, c.1560-1609); Dutch (Frisian) School; a Dutch or Flemish artist active in Britain.

Can you provide any further suggestions? Maybe you have the definite attribution.

If you can, visit the page on Art UK via this link https://bit.ly/2E3pE1a and post your comments or write to us via editorial@antiquestradegazette.com (or by letter to our usual address if you prefer).

To date there are more than 480 discussions on the Art Detective website about works that need more information. Visit artuk.org/artdetective/ to see if you can contribute to other unknown artworks.

Art Detective was designed with guidance from Tate, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery and funded by Arts Council England, with later funding from the National Gallery Trust. The network is run by Art Detective manager Marion Richards, who works with 22 subject specialist group leaders (working pro bono).