The puzzling nature of this drawing has already led to a wide variety of interpretations, but its content can largely be taken at face value: the work deals with the world of the artist and the buyer, whereby the great distance that separates them becomes obvious in their disparate physiognomies, clothing, and actions. The artist, completely absorbed in his work, has fixed his glance on a point lying outside the picture. Whether Brueghel depicted himself in the guise of a person unconcerned with his own appearance, or wished to depict the elevated characteristics of an unworldly, spiritualized painter, is debatable. The buyer at his side forms a clear contrast. The beardless, thin-lipped man who readily reaches for his money bag represents the material world of finances. The buyer’s glasses reference the poor eyesight of the “connoisseur,” whose moronic expression is heightened even further by his mouth, which is agape in awe.
Typical of Brueghel is the vague spatial constellation of the figures. The artist stands in front of the buyer, who is taller than the artist and whose head nevertheless appears to be closer to the viewer. It is not known what purpose the drawing was intended to serve. It is conceivable that it was made as an autonomous work, either for the artist’s own use or as a present given to a private person. In any case, it seems to have been very well known by the sixteenth century, because no fewer than four repetitions have been preserved. (Marian Bisanz-Prakken, 2013)