Like other paintings from the Dossi workshop, this work conveys the sitter's social status and self-confidence. He holds a crumpled letter written in Italian. The words Asto, meaning "ship mast," and mare, meaning "sea," suggest that trade was a topic of this letter. References to anatomy and the word bella imply a discussion of the magnificence of human anatomy, an interest that spread rapidly during the Renaissance. The letter likewise communicates the young man's considerable education. This work was formerly called Portrait of Giuliano de Medici; however, the sitter's lack of resemblance to Giuliano caused art historians to discount this argument. Portrait of a Young Man was earlier attributed to Dosso's brother, Battista, before recently being considered a work by Dosso or a member of his workshop. As first suggested by Roberto Longhi, Portrait of a Young Man is now considered likely to be a work of an unidentified follower of Dossi from Friuli, Italy. The Friulian follower worked from 1510 until after 1530 and had connections to Dossi's hometown of Ferrara, accounting for this work's resemblance to Dossi's style. The dark outlines and large forms of the work are of a later style than Dossi's, suggesting that the artist was a follower rather than Dossi himself.