This is a self-portrait is most likely by a 17th century English artist holding the tools of his trade, a paint-loaded palette.
The painting has an immediacy and a physical presence to it. The colour tones of the work are dark and brooding with the same pigments used to depict the artist’s paint used again to construct his clothes and face. Interestingly, the artist here does not look out at the viewer but instead gazes off to one side. It is likely that he has been captured momentarily observing his subject before turning back to his canvas to alter his artwork.
Many seventeenth-century artists painted self-portraits, possibly more so than in any other time or place. Some of these painters were specialists in the area, others created only one extant self-portrait. The variation amongst the works was considerable but the inclusion of a palette or paintbrushes were the most common attribute in these works.
The large number of self-portraits created can be linked to the increase in painting production at the time. The competition was fierce, so painters needed to generate a prominent position in the market. The self-portrait lent the artist and his or her work a ‘face’. The self-portrait was, therefore, not only a portrait of the painter, but often also a statement about his or her work.