This artwork changed hands as recently as 2014 after a national campaign to keep the painting within the UK. A price of £10m was requested by the private owner and this was raised in time to avoid it heading for private auction. Several cultural institutions across the nation provided grants in order to meet the target.
It may seem peculiar that the UK would invest so much effort in purchasing a painting from a flemish artist but, in truth ,his career had a strong connection with this region. Not only was he strongly connected to one of England's most famous Kings - Charles I, but he also provided services to others during his time in the court. Additionally, his career would heavily influence British artists over the next few centuries.
The oval painting is currently finished with an elaborate frame, though this may not have been the original frame used by the artist. The current frame is almost rococo in style, exceptionally detailed and many art historians have argued it to be too elaborate for the original artist's taste. More recent research has suggested that it actually was either designed by the artist himself or at least led by his words, although it was produced after the painting.
This self-portrait was originally owned by Alfred Bader Fine Arts before being sold to the nation, that is the UK. Legislation exists which allows sales of domestic art to be blocked temporarily so that institutions can attempt to purchase the items and ensure that they stay in the country. This has successfully kept many masterpieces within the UK, when they otherwise would have been lost to the highest bidder, where ever they might be from.
Specifically regarding the painting itself, the lighting is subtle and his expression looks entirely honest. His attire is smart but simple, it seems the artist is trying to portray himself as a respected but open individual whose personality had not been tainted by his mixing with the upper levels of society.