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"



Origins of the Portrait


see also:


van der Weyden

Rogier van der Weyden:

Portrait of a Lady


Rogier van der Weyden
Portrait of a Lady

c. 1455
National Gallery of Art, Washington

With the work of Rogier van der Weyden, early Netherlandish portraiture entered a new stage in its development. It is thought that Rogier became apprenticed at the workshop of Robert Campin at Tournai, graduating in 1432 as Maistre of the Painters' Guild. He was appointed official painter to the city of Brussels in 1436. His work for the city included paintings on the theme of justice for the court room of the town hall. Besides his official work, he was commissioned to do a large number of portraits, usually by distinguished patrons at the Burgundian court (Duke Philip the Good, his son Duke Charles the Bold, Philippe de Croy, "Le Grand Batard de Bourgogne", Francesco d'Este, Nicolas Rolin etc.).
While Jan van Eyck reproduces the texture of his sitters' skin in microscopic detail, seeking in a manner analogous to that of the nominalistic philosophy of his time to embrace the unique, contingent physicality of each individual portrayed, however crude or ugly this might make them seem, Rogier emphasises the social status of his sitters, especially through his portrayal of hands and face. Rank is primarily displayed - as it is with van Eyck - by means of opulent robes and heraldic or emblematic attributes. But Rogier's stylised portraits - his attention, for example, to the sharply contrasting outlines of lips and nose, or his emphasis on the slenderness of limbs - idealise his sitters, lending them a greater sophistication. While van Eyck shows nature "in the raw", as it were, Rogier improves on physical reality, civilising and refining Nature and the human form with the help of his brush.

Rogier van der Weyden
Portrait of a Lady

c. 1445
Staatliche Museen, Berlin


His half-length, three-quarters view Portrait of a Lady (Washington) serves to illustrate this. Her narrow face and elaborately pinned-up, transparent veil covering ears and brow stand out against a neutral, dark, two-dimensional background. Her hair, brushed tightly back from her high forehead and held in place by the black rim of her ornamental bonnet, pulls the corners of her eyes into light, upward slants. The veil was usually worn to hide the sensuality of the flesh; here, its fashionable transparency achieves quite the opposite effect. Unlike Rogier's male sitters, the female subjects of his portraits lower their gaze as a sign of chastity and humility. One exception to this is his early portrait of a woman, painted in 1435 - today in Berlin - and thought to represent the artist's wife.
As in most of Rogier's head-and-shoulder portraits, particular attention is paid to the refined delicacy of the sitter's hands. The fashionably extended sleeves of her elegant dress cover the backs of her hands, leaving only the slender frailty of her fingers in view, whose finely chiselled, interlocking layers bear a similarity to the exquisitely wrought golden buckle of the vermilion belt behind them.


Rogier van der Weyden
Portrait of a Lady

National Gallery, London


see also:

Jean Fouquet

Jean Fouquet:

Etienne Chevalier Presented by St. Stephen



Jean Fouquet
Estienne Chevalier with St Stephen

c. 1450
Staatliche Museen, Berlin


Van Eyck's realism soon enjoyed international renown. In Italy, Bartolomco Fazio extolled the Flemish artist in 1455/56 as the "prince of our century's painters". In France, too, where Burgundian art was already well known, the new style quickly won favour, becoming known as "la nou-velle pratique". Traces of its influence can be felt in the work of Enguerrand Charonton, and in the celebrated Pieta of Villeneuve-les-Avignon, painted c. 1470 by an anonymous master of southern France. The donor, whose face is realistically represented, is shown kneeling in an attitude of prayer at the bottom left of the Pieta. His white robe, as well as the attribute of oriental architecture (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) against a gold background, suggest he has travelled as a pilgrim to Jerusalem. The artist has given powerful dramatic expression to the grief of the mourners, and the intention to introduce the donor into their company seems obvious enough. Nevertheless, the gaze and gestures of the donor have not (yet) made any impression on the holy figures themselves, so that he remains outside their gestural narrative. Although part of the painting, the donor thus seems somewhat isolated within it. His gaze is intended to be directed towards the events taking place, but in order meet his patron's demands, the artist has painted him looking less into the centre of the painting than diagonally out of it.

Southern French Master
Pieta of Villeneuve-les-Avignon
Oil on panel, 163 x 218 cm
Paris, Musee du Louvre


Etienne Chevalier's gaze is similarly posed by Jean Fouquet in a work, commissioned by Chevalier, that was probably executed in 1451 following the artist's return from Italy to Tours (where he spent much of his life working at one of the French royal residences). Chevalier is portrayed on the left wing of a diptych, now at Berlin, usually known as the "Melun Diptych" after the donor's place of birth.
Chevalier, a high-ranking official at the courts of Charles VII and Louis XI, is shown in a simple, but elegant, red robe. His long, slender hands, whose pale, slightly flaccid skin contrasts so strongly with the brownish complexion of his face, are held together in the act of prayer. His portrait is the pair to the Virgin on the right wing of the diptych. Unlike the donor, she is shown in full-face view, idealised as an archaic object of worship. Etienne Chevalier poses in three-quarters view; thus his gaze, although turned to the Virgin, sees past her. Here, too, the purpose of the portrait - to show the donor - conflicts with the donor's desire to be part of the holy scene in the painting.
According to tradition, the Virgin is here represented with the features of Agnes Sorel, the favourite of Charles VII. Richly dressed in an ermine robe and a crown of pearls, her forehead shaved according to the courtly fashion of the day, the Virgin meekly lowers her eyes and offers the Child her breast. Behind her throne stands a crowd of alternately red and blue, angelic putti.


Jean Fouquet
Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels

c. 1450
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

According to tradition, Fouquet painted the Virgin with the features of Agnes Sorel, the favourite of Charles VII.
Agnes Sorel made Eticnne Chevalier her executor, undoubtedly the sign of a close relationship between them.

Jean Fouquet
Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels

c. 1450
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp



The portrait of Etienne Chevalier is similar, in some respects, to van Eyck's portrait of Chancellor Rolin. Fouquet too was commissioned to paint an official who had risen from a non-aristocratic background to a high-ranking position in the feudal absolutist state, and whose desire to create a memorial to himself betrayed his need to compete for social status with the nobility. At the same time, the diptych may have been an ex-voto gift, a token of his gratitude on being appointed Chancellor "Tresorier") of France in 1451. Possibly, it was intended to commemorate the king's respected mistress, who had died on 9 Feb. 1450. Whereas van Eyck had found a "progressive" solution to the problem of integrating into a spatial and narrative unity a donor worshipping the Virgin, Fouquet, who had been leading court artist for many years, although not officially made "peintre du roi" until 1475, shows Chevalier and St. Stephen, the donor's patron saint, in silhouette. The purity of the outlines and trenchant, extensive areas of colour are emphasised by the light background of the marble wall and pilasters, on which the name of the donor is repeated in a frieze-like pattern. Fouquet's novel departure from Netherlandish donor portraiture is the reduction of his subject's complexity to a minimum of clear, expressive components. Van Eyck's compression of numerous allusive details in his compositions contrasts with Fouquet's simple, lapidary symbols: the stone, for example, evidently a sign of the artist's interest in geology, resting on a leather-bound, gilt-edged prayer-book. Like the wound on the saint's tonsure, from which blood drips down into the hood of his dalmatic, the stone signifies the patron saint's martyrdom. In a Book of Hours produced for Chevalier (1452-60), and now at the Musee Conde at Chantilly, Fouquet painted the lapidation of St. Stephen in miniature.


Jean Fouquet

Musee du Louvre, Paris


see also:

Hans Memling

Hans Memling:

Man with a Roman Coin (Giovanni de Candida?)



Hans Memling
Portrait of a Man with a Roman Coin

Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp


More than any other painter in the second half of the fifteenth century, Hans Mem-ling can be said to have added a new dimension to the type of portrait founded by Jan van Eyck in the Netherlands, and developed further by Petrus Christus and Rogier van der Weyden. Unlike his predecessors, Memling characterises his sitters in a highly personalised manner, a technique learned partly from his Italian contemporaries. He achieves this - in this small-format portrait now at Antwerp - by using landscape to evoke a mood which corresponds to his subject's sensibility. In contrast to van Eyck's dark and neutral backgrounds, or Petrus Christus' use of paneling to suggest interior space - as can be seen in his portrait of a young lady, now at Berlin - Memling follows the example of quattrocento Italian portraiture in making the landscape background an essential part of the portrait itself. The role of landscape in Memlmg's "ceuvre" is to reflect the mental and emotional state of the sitter, although conventional symbols and emblems, suggesting the ethical and religious coordinates of his sitters' lives, still figure in his background scenes. Here, the young man is painted wearing a black gown and cap whose colour merges with, and therefore emphasises, the darkness of his hair. He is posed before a riverscape with trees, over which dusk is beginning to fall. A man riding a white horse along the riverbank is possibly an allusion to the rider in the Revalation of St. John (6, 2), whom medieval exegetes saw as the victorious figure of Christ. The motif is consistent with the swans, which, owing to their legendary dying songs, have often been related to Christ's Passion. The palm-tree, too, highly unusual in a northern European landscape, and therefore particularly significant, would fit the context of the Passion. Perhaps the artist has been put in mind of New Testament martyrdom by the antique coin bearing the head of Nero (54-68). The young man, evidently the owner of the coin, is deliberately showing it to the spectator. According to the "Annals" (XV, 44) of Tacitus, Nero persecuted the Christians in Rome. Before they were executed, he had them subjected to the most bestial tortures.


Hans Memling
Portrait of a Man with a Roman Coin


Memling's painting is based on a portrait of a young man - of which he had probably seen a copy, or which he may have been acquainted "with as a type - whose hands encompass a medallion bearing the head of Cosimo de' Medici. This portrait (Sandro Botticelli Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder), now in the Uffizi, is ascribed to Botticelli. The medallion must have been cast after 1465, since it carries the inscription MAGNVS COSMVS/MEDICES PPP. The abbreviation PPP stands for "Primus Pater Patriae", a title conferred posthumously upon Cosimo. A miniature by Francesco d'Antomo del Cherico, contained in an Aristotelian manuscript now at the Laurenziana, shows that the medallion was cast for Cosimo's son Piero ll Gottoso, who died in 1469. It must therefore have been made between 1465 and 1469, and Botticelli must have painted his portrait not long afterwards. The identity of the sitter has been the subject of much fruitless speculation. Sometimes seen as Piero il Gottoso himself, he has been equated with - among others - Pico della Mirandola, Niccolo Fiorentino and Cris-toforo di Geremia. Since the young man with the red cap is holding the medallion close to his heart, thereby revealing the extent of his feelings for it, the portrait may be viewed as a demonstrative sign of the sitter's support for the Medici during the period of the Pazzi consiracy (1478).


Sandro Botticelli
Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder

c. 1474
Tempera on panel, 57,5 x 44 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

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