Fig.1 Isaac Fuller c.1606–1672 Portrait of an Unknown Man  c.1660 Oil paint on canvas 1206 x 1009 mm T00056

Fig.1
Isaac Fuller c.1606–1672
Portrait of an Unknown Man
c.1660
Oil paint on canvas
1206 x 1009 mm
T00056

Fig.2 Detail of the head and shoulders

Fig.2
Detail of the head and shoulders

Fig.3 Detail of the sitter’s right hand

Fig.3
Detail of the sitter’s right hand

Fig.4 Detail of the sitter’s left hand

Fig.4
Detail of the sitter’s left hand

This painting is in oil paint on a single piece of linen canvas measuring 1206 x 1009 mm (figs.1–4). The plain woven linen has a thread count of 16 vertical by 16 horizontal picks per square centimetre. There is cusping of the canvas weave on all sides of the painting but it is much less pronounced along the right edge (fig.5).1

 Fig.5 X-radiograph of Portrait of an Unknown Man c.1660

Fig.5
X-radiograph of Portrait of an Unknown Man c.1660

The ground is off-white in colour (fig.6). It is composed mostly of chalk with some lead white and small additions of earths and black, all bound together in oil.2 The ground is covered over with opaque, salmon pink priming. This layer is rich in lead white, which was tinted with a mixture of vermilion, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, cologne earth and red lead. Viewed at high magnification the painting’s surface is covered with eruptions of lead soap aggregates, which appear to originate in the priming.3 Although it is known that lead soap aggregates can form red lead, analysis of the samples indicates that red lead is also present in the priming as an admixture by the artist.

Fig.6 Cross-section through the grey foreground, photographed at x320 magnification.

Fig.6
Cross-section through the grey foreground, photographed at x320 magnification. From the bottom: off-white ground; salmon pink priming; greenish grey paint; mid-grey paint worked wet-in-wet with the layer beneath it

No definitive drawing stage can be identified with surface microscopy or infrared reflectography (figs.7–9). Close examination of the painting indicates that the artist established position and general character of his sitter with opaque red, dark reddish brown paint and black paint.

Fig.7 Infrared reflectograph of Portrait of an Unknown Man c.1660

Fig.7
Infrared reflectograph of Portrait of an Unknown Man c.1660

Fig.8 Infrared reflectograph detail of the head

Fig.8
Infrared reflectograph detail of the head

Fig.9 Infrared reflectograph detail of the sitter’s right hand

Fig.9
Infrared reflectograph detail of the sitter’s right hand

Thereafter he appears to have built up the flesh tones with bold, energetic brushwork in shades of pink, red, white and black, all applied wet-in-wet (figs.10–14). The red outlines of the hands were strengthened here and there with more red paint.

Fig.10 Detail of the sitter’s right eye, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.10
Detail of the sitter’s right eye, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.11 Detail of the sitter’s left eye, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.11
Detail of the sitter’s left eye, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.12 Detail of the mouth, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.12
Detail of the mouth, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.13 Detail of the shadow between two fingers, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.13
Detail of the shadow between two fingers, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.14 Detail of the nose, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.14
Detail of the nose, photographed at x8 magnification

The costume appears to have been laid in generally with black, with the grey highlights of folds applied on top (figs.15–16).

Fig.15 Cross-section through a grey, highlit fold in the black sash, photographed at x320 magnification.

Fig.15
Cross-section through a grey, highlit fold in the black sash, photographed at x320 magnification. From the bottom: off-white ground; salmon pink priming; back paint of sash; opaque grey paint of highlight. A lead soap aggregate is visible on the far left of the priming

Fig.16 Cross-section through a grey, highlit fold in the black sash, photographed at x320 magnification in ultraviolet light.

Fig.16
Cross-section through a grey, highlit fold in the black sash, photographed at x320 magnification in ultraviolet light. From the bottom: off-white ground; salmon pink priming; back paint of sash; opaque grey paint of highlight. A lead soap aggregate is visible on the far left of the priming

The painting is notable for its use of a brightly coloured palette to describe the blacks, whites and flesh tones. For example, the grey paint of the sitter’s black sash appears to contain both a strongly coloured smalt and red lake pigments alongside the lead white and black (figs.17–18). Likewise, a variety of differently coloured smalt was found in the white paint of the cuffs (figs.19–20). Smalt, vermilion and red lake were identified in the flesh paints from surface examination (fig.21).

Fig.17 Detail at x20 magnification of particles of red lake with black and lead white in the grey sash

Fig.17
Detail at x20 magnification of particles of red lake with black and lead white in the grey sash

Fig.18 Detail at x12 magnification of strongly coloured blue smalt in the grey sash

Fig.18
Detail at x12 magnification of strongly coloured blue smalt in the grey sash

Fig.19 Cross-section through the highlight on the white cuff, photographed at x320 magnification.

Fig.19
Cross-section through the highlight on the white cuff, photographed at x320 magnification. From the bottom: fragment of off-white ground; fragment of salmon pink priming; black paint of costume; opaque pink paint (on the right of the sample) lead white mixed with smalt for the highlight

Fig.20 Detail of the sitter’s right cuff, photographed at x8 magnification

Fig.20
Detail of the sitter’s right cuff, photographed at x8 magnification, showing blue smalt in the white paint of the cuff and some bright red underpaint showing through the final paint layers

The artist was careful in his choice of pigments to describe different areas of black. The black background contains a mixture of black with a little lead white and some earths. Analysis with EDX (energy-dispersive X-ray analysis) of the black of the shadows in the silky drapery suggests that verdigris was incorporated as a siccative for the oil. The artist used two, subtly different black pigments in the drapery: lamp and bone black. An opaque, pinkish orange paint layer (finer and more strongly coloured than the priming, also containing some smalt) can be seen with magnification under the grey and white paint of the cuff; it lends warmth to the cool whites and suggests the transparency of the fabric (fig.19).

Fig.21 Detail of the index finger of the sitter’s right hand, photographed at x12 magnification, showing blue smalt, vermilion and red lake in the flesh tone

Fig.21
Detail of the index finger of the sitter’s right hand, photographed at x12 magnification, showing blue smalt, vermilion and red lake in the flesh tone

The artist made a number of small alterations to his painting as it developed. The X-radiograph shows changes to the black drapery to make a more pleasing arrangement of the folds. A reserve was left in the black drapery for the scroll but it has been extended over the black costume at the right for about 70 mm. Several minor alterations were made in the hands. Surface examination reveals that the third finger on the sitter’s left hand was changed from a bent finger to a straight one, as a red underpaint is clearly visible through the black. The artist also broadened the thumb on the left hand by adding some of the initial shadow paint over the background. Infrared reflectography reveals a minor adjustment to the index finger of the sitter’s right hand which has been made slightly thinner. The background appears to have been black originally but it is very abraded and has been extensively overpainted by a later hand in a greenish/brownish grey. There is much grey overpaint on the scroll, rendering it difficult to read.