The “Young Man in a Fur Cap” is a captivating oil painting by Carel Fabritius, a Dutch artist renowned for his work during the Golden Age. Born on February 27, 1622, and tragically passing away on October 12, 1654, Fabritius’s life was cut short at the age of 32 due to a catastrophic gunpowder explosion in Delft. Despite his brief career, he left an indelible mark on the art world, having been an apprentice to Rembrandt between 1641 and 1643.
The painting in question, created in 1654, is believed to be one of Fabritius’s final masterpieces and is likely a self-portrait, although no documented likeness of him exists to confirm this. The piece exudes a certain intensity through the subject’s gaze and posture, reminiscent of the self-portraits by Rembrandt and his pupils. Fabritius is depicted wearing a soldier’s breastplate, aligning with the tradition of artists portraying themselves as various characters or professions, known as “tronies.”
This particular work stands out due to its brighter color palette and less dramatic lighting compared to the style Fabritius adopted from Rembrandt. Instead of a dark background, he chose a bright, cloudy sky, creating a unique sense of drama. The painting reflects a shift in his artistic approach, possibly influenced by other artists in Delft, where he had moved in 1650.
The “Young Man in a Fur Cap” measures 70.5 by 61.5 cm and is signed and dated by the artist. It was acquired by its current home, the National Gallery in London, in 1924 and bears the inventory number NG4042. The title of the painting, which refers to the fur cap, was assigned long after its creation, and there is some ambiguity about the material of the hat due to the paintwork’s texture.
Fabritius’s untimely death in the Delft explosion likely resulted in the loss of many of his works. However, the few that survive, including the “Young Man in a Fur Cap,” continue to be celebrated for their innovation and skill, securing Fabritius’s place among the most talented pupils of Rembrandt and a significant figure in the history of Dutch painting.