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A Portrait of a Man, probably Nathan Field

It is thought that this portrait depicts the actor Nathan Field (1587-1619/20), who is primarily known for his contributions to the English Renaissance theatre as an actor and a playwright. As one of the most celebrated actors of his generation, he was a member of the Queen's Revels and became the principal actor of Lady Elizabeth's Men, later transferring to the King’s Men by 1616.

Field became a leading player of young lovers and, in this portrait, he is appropriately depicted with his hand placed on his heart with a melancholic demeanour. The lips are full, bringing a flash of red to an otherwise monochromatic portrait, his eyes gazing directly and somewhat soulfully at the viewer. This sensitivity of expression, coupled with the amorous pose, suggests that the portrait may have been painted as a private image – perhaps for a friend or lover. Field sports a delicate hooped earring with a pearl pendant, and wears a white shirt strikingly embroidered with an intricate ‘blackwork’ design. Usually worn beneath a doublet in formal society, the informal nature of Field’s clothing further suggests that this could perhaps be a portrait of him wearing one of his stage costumes.

Currently on display

British School
Gallery 10
56.5 x 42.2 cm
Oil on oak panel
Cartwright Bequest, 1686
Accession number