This idea about the temporary state of being brings us back to the subject of the painting. The young man is the artist himself but a cursory check lets the viewer know that that this not the artist as he was as the time the painting was made. Bailly painted the portrait when he was 67 years old, indicating that while the young man is how the artist used to be some years prior, the ‘real’ portrait is the miniature the man is holding (Kosara, 2007). That painting within the painting shows Bailly in the state he was at the time. The contrast between young and old is striking and this contrast not only magnifies the theme intended for the painting but adds another layer of meaning and possible interpretation to the whole setting. The young man looks contemplative; possibly, the painting in his hand was made to portray his own vision about his future self. His older self is decaying, without the energy and drive of youth and this natural, inevitable process of change is not something that any man looks forward to with pleasure. Surrounded by symbols of vanitas, his imagination would be further encouraged to think in terms of the transiency of life and all things associated with it. It is a sobering thought. And yet it can be hard for the human psyche to adequately grasp the implications of this as relating to self. The young man is in contemplation but not is throes of despair. Thinking of the perspective of the painter at the age of 67, however, we can decipher the painting in a different light.
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