Man with a Roman coin

Artist: 
Hans Memling
Dimensions: 
23 cm x 31 cm
Inventory number: 
5
Museum:
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
Category:
Category A: Flemish primitives
Subcategory:
15th century Portraits
Keyword:
Portraits

This middle-aged man is portrayed in a three-quarter turn to the right. He is wearing a black garment that is drawn together by lace at the neck. This is congruent with the Italian fashion of the 15th Century. The man looks at the viewer, but he has a dreamy look and is turned within himself. He is holding a sestertius in his hand, which is a Roman coin that was minted by the Emperor Nero. Below, in the middle, one can discern two laurel leaves.
The background shows a developed landscape with swans, a horseman and a palm tree. In the air to the left, a stork is seen and to the right, a flock of birds. Memling is the first artist north of the Alps to situate a portrait within a landscape.
Who the portrayed man is cannot be said with any certainty. Perhaps he is a minter of coins and medallions or a collector. Presumably he is of Italian descent. The Roman coin, the laurel leaves and the palm tree are probably a reference to his name or emblems.