Portaels was born in Vilvoorde. His father, a rich brewer, sent him to study at the Belgian Royal Academy . The director, François Navez, took him on soon after as an apprentice in his own studio. In 1841 Portaels went to Paris, where he came to know Paul Delaroche. After his return to Belgium, he won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1842. He then travelled through Italy, Greece, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, the Lebanon, Judaea, Spain, Hungary and Norway. On his return to Belgium in 1847 Portaels succeeded H. Vanderhaert as Director of the Academy in Ghent. In 1849 he married the daughter of Navez, and in 1850 settled in Brussels. When he did not get the post of director of the Brussels academy, he decided toteach as his father-in-law had done, and opened a private studio-school, which played a key role in the development of Belgian art as a whole. Once more he went on his travels, spending time in Morocco; he returned to Brussels in 1874. In 1878 he became Director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts which had so long been the object of his ambition. He died in Schaerbeek.
Portaels was an extremely prolific artist. Huge oil paintings adorn the walls of St Jacques-sur-Caudenberg. Paintings such as The Daughter of Sion Reviled, The Drought in Judaea and A Box in the Theatre at Budapest hang in Brussels Art Gallery
This example possibly originates from his travels to Italy. It is a fine example that exhibits not only his skill as a master painter , but also captures the serene beauty of the sitter. It comes with the original frame which is embellished with foliate ornament
Condition; Recently cleaned and re-varnished to a very high standard. The panel is in very good order, as is the paint surface. The original gilded composite frame has a few chips, abrasions and minor losses.
Signature: Signed `J. Portaels’ (lower left)