Baroque and Rococo


Baroque and Rococo Art Map


The Art of the Portrait


Masterpieces of European Portrait-Painting




  The Art of the Portrait
  The Great Age of the Portrait
  Origins of the Portrait
  Jan van Eyck: Tymotheos
  Jan van Eyck: The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini
  Jan van Eyck: The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
  Rogier van der Weyden: Portrait of a Lady
  Jean Fouquet: Etienne Chevalier Presented by St Stephen
  Hans Memling: Man with a Roman Coin
  Antonello da Messina: Portrit of a Man, known as "Il Condottiere"
  Early Portrait of a Ruler
  Piero della Francesca: Federigo da Montefeltro and his Wife Battista Sforza
  Portraits of Renaissance Women
  Pisanello: Young Lady of the Este Family
  Leonardo da Vinci: The Lady with the Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani)
  Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
  Giorgione: Portrait of a Young Lady ("Laura")
  Piero di Cosimo: Simonetta Vespucci
  Agnolo Bronzino: Laura Battiferri
  The Psychological Portrait
  Lorenzo Lotto: Young Man before a White Curtain
  Lorenzo Lotto: Man with a Golden Paw
  Moretto da Brescia: Portrait of a Young Man
  Portraits and Caricatures
  Quentin Massys: Old Woman (The Queen of Tunis)
  Portraits of Renaissance Humanists
  Luca Signorelli: Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man
  Agnolo Bronzino: Portrait of Ugolino Martelli
  Raphael: Baldassare Castiglione
  Lucas Cranach the Elder: Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife
  Hans Holbein the Younger: Erasmus of Rotterdam
  Mythologising Portraits
  Agnolo Bronzino: Andrea Doria as Neptune
  Nicoletto da Modena (?): Francis I of France as an Antique God
  Portraits of Popes and Cardinals
  Raphael: Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giuliano de' Medici and Luigi de Rossi
  Titian: Pope Paul III, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and Duke Ottavio Farnese
  Portraits of Artists and Collectors
  Lorenzo Lotto: Andrea Odoni
  Titian: Jacopo de Strada
  Artists' Self-Portraits
  Albrecht Durer: Self-Portrait with a Fur Coat
  Nicolas Poussin: Self-Portrait
  Rembrandt: Self-Portraits
  Portrait of a Friend
  Hans Holbein the Younger: The French Ambassadors to the English Court
  "Teste Composte"
  Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Vertumnus
  Portraits of 16th and 17th-century Rulers
  Titian: Emperor Charles V after the Battle of Miihlberg
  Anthony van Dyck: Charles I of England, Hunting
  Hyacinthe Rigaud: Louis XIV of France
  Philippe de Champaigne: Triple Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu
  Marriage and Family Portraits
  Peter Paul Rubens: Rubens and Isabella Brant under the Honeysuckle
  Jacob Jordaens: The Artist and his Family
  Portraits of Children
  Giovanni Francesco Caroto: Boy with a Drawing
  Jan van Scorel: The Schoolboy
  Diego Velazquez: The Infante Philip Prosper
  Dutch Civic Guard Portraits
  Rembrandt: "The Night Watch"
  Portraits of Regents
  Frans Hals: The Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse at Haarlem
  Anatomy Lessons
  Rembrandt: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
  Portraits of Fools and Dwarfs
  Diego Velazquez: The Dwarf "El Primo"



Portrait of a Friend


see also:

Hans Holbein

the Younger

Hans Holbein the Younger:

The French Ambassadors

to the English Court


Hans Holbein the Younger
The French Ambassadors to the English Court


Hans Holbein's double portrait is an early example of the friendship portrait. It depicts the two French ambassadors to the English court, Jean de Dinteville (1504— 1555) and Georges de Selve (1508/09-1541). Dinteville, who spent many years in London, probably commissioned the painting to record his friend's visit at Easter 1533. His own figure displays great worldly pomp, wearing an opulent, fur-lined coat and decorated with the Order of St. Michael, while de Selve's clothes, at least in colour, are more restrained. His full-length robe is the appropriate dress for a Bishop of Lavour, an office he had entered upon in 1526, when he was not much older than eighteen.
The two, almost life-sized figures of the ambassadors are shown leaning against a two-storey cupboard, the upper of whose two shelves is spread with a rug, before a green damask curtain. The floor design imitates a mosaic in the sanctuary at Westminster Cathedral, laid by Italian craftsmen at the beginning of the fourteenth century. This shows that Holbein's painting, though appearing to imitate reality with almost photographic attention to detail, is not merely a "reproduction" of reality, but an "invented" composition, calculated to portray persons and objects as ideal types.


The stange shape rising diagonally into the picture space in Holbein's portrait of the am-bassadors is a distorted ("anamorphic") skull. When viewed from the lower left-hand corner of the painting, the image resumes its normal proportions.

Hans Holbein the Younger
The French Ambassadors to the English Court


As is often the case in Holbein's portraits (compare his portrait of Georg Gisze), the objects on the shelves refer to the intellectual interests and professional and practical activities of the sitters. The instruments and books displayed reflect the design of the cupboard itself in that those on the upper shelf would be used for the study of the heavens and heavenly bodies (celestial globe, compasses, sundial, cylindrical calendar, level and quadrant), while the objects on the lower shelf have more to do with everyday worldly matters. Thus, on the left - next to the worldly-minded Dinteville - is an open copy of Peter Apian's book of calculations for merchants (published in Ingolstadt, 1527), and on the right - near the bishop - a copy of Johann Walther's "Geystliches Gesangbuchlein" (Hymnal) (Wittenberg 1524), containing Luther's hymns. The globe itself, an exact copy of Johann Schoner's globe of 1523, documents their interest in geography, which, due to discoveries made at the turn of the century, had become an increasingly central aspect of humanist scholarship. The cumulative effect of the objects is to demonstrate the ambassadors' close association to the scientific and educational community of the Renaissance, a movement considered highly "progressive" at the time. Although religious motifs are present here, they are given secondary status. This testifies to the placatory, tolerant attitude of the Catholic bishop, who, during a period of bitter religious strife, sought to reconcile the confessions. His attitude is documented by two of Luther's hymns in Walther's hymnal. His desire for harmony is echoed in the symbolic presence of the lute. Enlightened humanism had come to see religion as an ethical guide in matters of conduct: it was essential to develop an empirical awareness of physical reality; equally, it was important to be aware of the brevity of life and, constantly, to reckon with death's intervention.

Hans Holbein the Younger
The French Ambassadors to the English Court


This explains the reason for the anamorphic skull Holbein has painted rising diagonally from the bottom left of the canvas. Its real presence in the ambassadors' world is underlined by the heavy shadow it casts on the floor. Earlier portraitists, Barthel Bruyn for example, had showed the skull, a symbol of the vanity of all worldly things, on the reverse of their paintings, anticipating of the future state of the sitter portrayed on the obverse. Here, however, the skull is less an occult symbol, than lived presence: the cause, no doubt, of the melancholic moods of which Dinteville is reputed to have so often complained. His friend's visit was particularly important to him during such a period of depression. At a time when the state had begun to determine the legal contours of social institutions such as marriage, the relative independence of friendship and the opportunity it afforded for the unsanctioned exchange of feelings and views became more and more important. The terms in which Michel de Montaigne later praised friendship in his "Essais" are therefore hardly surprising: "Each friend entrusts himself so completely to the other, that he has nought left to give to a third."

Hans Holbein the Younger
The French Ambassadors to the English Court

The objects demonstrate the ambassadors' close association to the revolutionary scientific and educational community of the Renaissance, a movement considered highly "modern" at the time.


"Teste Composte"



see also:


Giuseppe Arcimboldo:




Giuseppe Arcimboldo
The Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II as Vertumnus


Although they may seem like a parody of portraiture altogether to today's spectator, Giuseppe Arcimboldo's "teste composte" (composite heads), as a contemporary theoretician of art, Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo, called them, were generally given a positive reception when they were first shown. Partly, they were viewed as "grilli", as jokes, capriccios, or "chimaera". Set in relation to Horace's basic precept of "delectare et prodesse" (to be pleasing and useful), they could have a deeper meaning, too, making their apparent banality the object of scholarly discourse. Futhermore, many of these heads, although composed as accurately observed collections of different bits and pieces of reality (thus: personifications of the seasons, of the elements, of various professions), were actually intended as portraits and bore considerable resemblance to their sitters. In so doing, however, they were not thought disrespectful, but often viewed as acts of homage to the emperors Arcimboldo served as "court counterfeiter". (He was responsible, too, for the design of sets for courtly festivals and theatre productions). The "M" "embroidered" in the staw-coat worn by the allegorical figure of Winter, for example - like the Summer painting, this was signed in 1563 - is a reference to Emperor Maximilian II, who was crowned King of Bohemia and Hungary in the same year. The personification of Fire, executed in 1566, consisting of a match, an oil-lamp, a flint, a candle, burning wood, barrels of cannon and mouths of flintlocks, also contains an allusion to the Emperor. Hung over a coat-of-arms (showing the twin eagles of the Habsburgs) on the end of a bejewelled necklace around the figure's neck, is a Golden Fleece, an order founded by the Burgundian Philip the Good, an ancestor of the Habsburgs. The portrait's intention is even more pronounced in Arcimboldo's Vertumnus. The god of vegetation referred to here is Rudolf II who, according to Lomazzo, had asked the artist to make something amusing for him. The protean versatility which mythology ascribed to Vertumnus is attributed in this act of homage to the Emperor, with his vast variety of different fields of influence and activity. At the same time, the painting refers us to a principle of aesthetic metamorphosis which Comanini explains in 257 lines of verse in his somewhat verbose "Canzoniere" (1609). Here, Vertumnus calls himself a picture of deformity, bound to make people laugh. But paradox has it that ugliness of this kind is more beautiful than beauty itself. The chaos of the composition, it is said, relates to primaeval chaos, in which everything was mixed up. Arcimboldo, whose art, according to Comanini, outdoes even that of the antique painter Zeuxis, creates the illusion that we are looking at parts of the body when he is really showing us spiked ears of June corn, summer fruits etc. In this sense, the apparent chaos of the composition forms a unity, just as Rudolf II comprises many different things in one person. The ugliness of the figure is compared to that of the "Silen" admired by Plato (Socrates, in other words), who was apparently a "monster" on the outside, but whose inward qualities were quite magnificent.


Giuseppe Arcimboldo



Portraits of 16th and 17th-century Rulers


see also:




Emperor Charles V after the Battle of Miihlberg


Equestrian Statue of Marc Aurel
161-180 AD

Emperor Charles V at Muhlberg

Oil on canvas, 332 x 279 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid


The equestrian portrait had a pre-eminent role among the portraits of princes and rulers. While the horse had always been considered a privilege and attribute of the nobility, the famous equestrian sculpture by Marc Aurel, with its thaumaturgical gesture of blessing or liberation, had become an iconological prototype for the demonstration of imperial power. The statue had served as a model for artists whose task it had been to portray the "condottieri", the mercerary commanders of the day. Donatello, for example, had executed a posthumous memorial to Gattamelata, while Verrocchio had immortalised Bartolommeo Colleoni in a monument at Venice. The motif of the equestrian ruler had also been prefigured in countless pictures of the journey of the Magi. The figures closest to the picture plane in Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi are members of the Medici family - the young Lorenzo il Magnifico among them - depicted as kings.
Titian's famous Emperor Charles Vafter the Battle of Muhlberg must be seen against this background. Unlike earlier equestrian portraits of "condottieri", however, Titian's portrait shows its subject in the dramatic historical context of a war victory as a turning-point, for having suffered the insolence of the opposing princes for long enough, he hoped now to see his power restored and consolidated, and the strain of his office eased.
Titian's equestrian portrait served as a prototype for a number of portraits by Peter Paul Rubens, such as his portrait of the "Cardinal Infante" (c. 1634), or his famous portrait of the Duke of Lerma (1603). In this portrait the Duke is shown on a raised piece of ground before battle. Horse and rider appear in full-face view, which was considered a sensation at the time. Moreover, the effect of the Duke's majestic pose is intensified by the view of him from below, seated high in the saddle against a stormy sky, lit by flashes of lightning. It was a fitting image for the undecided character of a war which had surged back and forth between hope and despair, finally ending in victory.

Emperor Charles V at Muhlberg

Emperor Charles V at Muhlberg




Anthony van Dyck modelled many of his portraits of Charles I on the Lermaprototype, crowning its sublime pathos by the addition of a triumphal arch, through which the king is shown riding.
Diego Velazquez' manifold equestrian portraits were also influenced by Titian and Rubens. A famous example is the portrait of the Duke of Olivares, which shows Philip IV's chief minister of the interior, foreign affairs and war as a marshal: he is viewed almost from behind on a curvetting horse, looking over his shoulder at the spectator. Since there was a great demand for imposing equestrian portraits at the Spanish court, Velazquez painted a good stock of riderless steeds in advance. Later, on order, he painted in his patrons seated in their saddles.
Franz Kruger's Outing of Prince William of Prussia on Horseback, Accompanied by the Artist, executed in 1836 during the Biedermeier period, seems almost a parody on the pathos which portraits of feudal princes had intended. The overcast, sulphuryellow sky and dust kicked up by the cantering horses are distant reflections of past battle scenes. Instead of armour, however, the prince looking down at his dachshund, like the painter shyly glancing over at him, wears bourgeois clothes; and instead of a lance or a marshal's baton, the prince is wielding a walking-stick.

Franz Kruger
Outing of Prince William of Prussia on Horseback, Accompanied by the Artist

Diego Velazquez
Duke Olivares on Horseback

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