The facial features of the “man with a falcon” have been rendered with great care; the fine silverpoint lines blend to create a vibrant surface. The concentration on the face can be interpreted as evidence that the drawing served to capture the subject’s physiognomy for a painted portrait. The drawing utensil employed by the artist will have been a strip of silver alloy of the kind in use above all in the early period of draughtsmanship – the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Silverpoint drawing is a rather complex technique. First the paper must be prepared with the chalk ground that shows off the fine, precious-looking lines of the metal tip to such good effect. Here the sitter wears a hat made of two types of fur; the hunting falcon perched on his left hand may characterise him as a member of the upper classes or identify his profession as that of a falcon tamer. Städel director Johann David Passavant recognised the quality of this sheet in the mid nineteenth century and purchased it for the museum collection. Present-day research attributes the “Man with a Falcon” to a prominent artist directly succeeding Jan van Eyck, the painter Petrus Christus of Bruges.
Photo: Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK