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English: Portrait of an Unknown Man in a Black Cap. Oil on oak, 47 × 41 cm, Tate Britain, London. Dated 1545 on the front and inscribed on the back: "faict par Johan Bettes Anglois" ("done by John Bettes, Englishman").
Art historians regard Bettes's Man in a Black Cap as a significant work. Its technique is reminiscent of Hans Holbein the Younger's, suggesting that Bettes may have worked with Holbein as part of his workshop. Nothing, however, is known of Holbein's workshop other than paintings associated with it. Holbein does not appear to have founded a school, and Bettes is the only artist whose work reveals his technical influence. For example, he paints over a pink priming, as did Holbein. According to art historian Roy Strong, "He is the artist who, on grounds of style, has the best claim to have worked under Holbein". On the other hand, Bettes's style is distinct from Holbein's; he paints fur more loosely and the beard more flatly than the German artist. In the view of art historian Susan Foister, on the evidence of this portrait, Bettes is "unlikely to have assisted" Holbein.
The recording of an artist's name on a painting is rare in this period. The addition of Bettes' nationality suggests that Man in a Black Cap may have been painted abroad. Since the work's creation, the blue smalt pigment of the background has turned brown; the painting has also been cut down along the sides and bottom, with the inscription reaffixed to the back. It has been speculated that the portrait may be of Edmund Butts, the brother of the William Butts whom Bettes painted. Both were sons of William Butts, a court physician whose portrait was painted by Holbein in 1543.
Karen Hearn, Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England, 1530–1630, London: Tate, 1995, ISBN 1854371576.
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