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:

Antonello da Messina

Antonello da Messina:
Portrait of a Man, known as "II Condottiere"


Antonello da Messina
"Il Condottiere"


The portrait was given the title Il Condottiere (the mercenary commander) during the late nineteenth century because of the wilful determination in its sitter's face. It entered Napoleon Ill's collection in 1865, fetching 113,500 francs at a sale at the Pourtales-Gorgier Gallery. The large sum paid for it is proof of the high esteem in which the Italian painter was held by the mid-nineteenth century. Its new title betrays the reason for renewed interest in the portrait: it provided an aesthetic medium through which to identify with the power-hungry usurpers, the heroes and new, strong men of the Renaissance, with their ebullient, nouveau-riche style and dramatic rise to power. In an era of highly competitive capitalist and colonialist expansionism, upstarts of this kind were suitable models for those pursuing a successful career in politics or finance, and thus for the Emperor himself.
It is unlikely we shall ever know whether the mercenary activity ascribed to the sitter was of the type we might associate with Gattamelata or Bartolommeo Colleoni, with Sir John Hawkwood or Niccolo da Tolentino. In fact, none of these is very likely, since he was probably a noble. This is suggested by the sobriety of his clothes against the dark background, a fashion in Burgundian aristocratic circles at the time. The probable Venetian origin of the sitter is documented by the unfolded "cartellino" on a painted panel at the bottom of the painting, signed and dated "1475. Antonellus Messaneus me pinxit". It was during this year that the Sicilian painter - who may, though the likelihood is not great, have learned oil-painting techniques in Bruges under Petrus Chrisms (according to Germain Bazin) -was in Venice, where he helped to familiarize Venetian artists with methods of making and using oil paints, which, by contrast with tempera, were more lucid and flexible.
The portrait-type used by Antonello was of Netherlandish origin, too: the widely painted three-quarters view, exemplified (above) by Jan van Eyck's "Leal Souvenir" , with its neutral background and foreshortening parapet calculated to persuade the spectator that what he is seeing is real. Antonello does not provide his subject with attributes defining social standing or profession, unless we see the sitter's plain hair and garments in this light. Instead, he emphasises the alertness and clarity with which the sitter holds the spectator in his gaze. By restricting our view to the head and upper shoulders - a method borrowed from the bust portrait developed after Roman models in sculptures by Nino da Fiesole, Desiderio da Settignano or Antonio Rosselino (Nino da Fiesole Bust of Niccolo Strozzi) - Antonello calls attention to the sitter's face, which, standing out against a uniformly dark background, is revealed as the centre of the man's vitality and strength of will - characteristics felt through the subject's gaze. In his "De visione Dei", Nikolaus von Kues refers to the way the eyes of a portrait, without themselves moving, follow the spectator to whatever point in the room he is standing, so that he always has the feeling of being watched. Von Kues compared this to the mystical "eye of God".

Nino da Fiesole
Bust of Niccolo Strozzi



Early Portrait of a Ruler


see also:

Piero della Francesca


Piero della Francesca:

Federigo da Montefeltro

and his Wife Battista Sforza


Piero della Francesca
Federigo da Montefeltro and his Wife Battista Sforza


In choosing the diptych as a suitable form for the portrait, the artist adapts a conventional means of eliciting sympathy that can be traced back to Classical antiquity. Roman consuls would often present double portraits, painted on hinged leaves of wood, metal or ivory, to emperors, senators or influential friends. This painting may have been a present, too, but nothing is actually known of its early history. The painting was first recorded in 1631, when the Duchy of Urbino, along with the property of the ruling Rovere family, was annexed by the Papacy. At the time, the painting was taken to Florence, thus finding its way into the Uffizi.
Formally speaking, the work is a portrait of a man and his wife. However, its subject, unlike that of van Eyck's Arnolfini-portrait of 1434 (see Jan van Eyck Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife), is not contamed on a single panel. Nor does the painting record an event of importance to the couple - like an act of betrothal, or a wedding ceremony.
The partners are posed separately, facing each other m a deliberately archaic manner: the Duke on the right, mirrored, as it were, by his wife. Both arc shown in sharply defined, bust profile, a type of portrait reminiscent of Pisanello's medals.
The portrait avoids contact between the gaze of the sitters and the spectator. Despite their proximity, Federigo da Montefeltro and his wife Battista Sforza seem distant from one another, their relationship abstract. Their robes display dignity and wealth. The Duke's red cylindrical biretta with its slightly wider crown and matching plain topcoat emphasise his powerful presence, his might and majesty. His stern simplicity anticipates an ideal formulated a quarter of a century later by Baldassare Castiglionc , also from Urbino, in his book on the "gentiluomo", or courtly gentleman.
Federigo da Montefeltro's wife, of pale complexion, is wearing a white veil elaborately plaited into her snail-shaped, chequered braids. Her rich pearls and finely cut jewels demonstrate her considerable wealth. However, her pearls are allusions to Marian virtues, too. At the time, the Virgin was often portrayed wearing rich pearl jewellery to illustrate her status as "regina coeli" (Queen of Heaven) - by van Eyck, for example, on the altarpiece at Ghent.
The Duke and Duchess are placed so far forward against the picture-plane that they act as a repoussoir, directing the eye into an infinitely receding, undulating landscape with scattered pine-trees. The panoramic view is reminiscent of Antonio Pollaiuolo's landscapes of the Arno valley; it shows the countryside around the court of Urbino, twenty miles inland from the Adriatic coastline between Loreto and Rimini. The Apennme foothills are just visible in the blurred, "sfumato" background. The fortifications and ships at the coast are intended to demonstrate the military prowess of this mercenary commander, whose army had fought under the flags of Naples, Milan and the Papacy. Fortifications - a chain of fortresses gleaming in the sunshine - are also visible in the landscape behind Battista Sforza.
The landscape motif is repeated on the reverse of the panels, only here it is translated into mythological allegory. A pair of white horses and a pair of tawny unicorns are shown pulling triumphal chariots, carrying the Virtues and the Duke and Ducljess, across a flat rock - the symbol of conjugal fidelity. Federigo is depicted wearing knightly armour, crowned by Glory and surrounded by the cardinal virtues of Justice, Wisdom, Valour and Moderation.
Battista, reading a prayer-book, is assisted by the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, as well as by Pudicitia: matronly chastity. Holding onto the reins, cupids (symbols of conjugal love) stand on cornucopia-style pedestals above the shaft of each chariot. The stilted Latin inscriptions on the architrave-like "parapets" below the landscapes pompously celebrate the fame of this "illustrious sovereign", who, as prince and bearer of the sceptre, apparently was a match for the greatest of kings. His lady's qualities, meanwhile, are praised as a credit to her husband.

Iconographically, the motifs are related to Petrarch's "Trionfi", which were written in about 1352 and appeared in Venice in 1470, only a few years after Piero della Francesco painted the portraits. Petrarch's didactic allegories, of which Fedcrigo, a collector of rare books and manuscripts, probably possessed a copy - his famous collection was later acquired by the Vatican Library -, describe the triumph of six allegorical figures. Among them is the "Triumphus pudicitiae", here associated with Battista Sforza, and the "Triumphus famae", shown on the reverse of Federigo's portrait.
Despite their small format, the panels are an impressive testimony to the thirst for glory of a Duke who had himself confidently portrayed as "fortis sapiensque", courageous and wise, an expert both in war and in science - qualities demanded of the ideal ruler by medieval and Renaissance "princely codes".
It is possible that the portraits were not painted until after 1474, when Federigo, still only Signore da Urbino, was crowned Duke. The emphasis on the sceptre as a sign of newly acquired rank would seem to support this. At the same time, this would mean that the portrait of Battista was executed posthumously, since she is known to have died in 1472. The perfect tense ("tenuit") in the inscription under Battista's allegory is thus probably used in a commemorative sense. In this case, her face would not have been seen as an authentic life study, but as the copy of an earlier portrait. Federigo, on the other hand, appears to be roughly the same age here as in his likeness by Pedro Berruguete, painted in 1477, which shows him reading a valuable codex.

Piero della Francesca
Reverse of the Montefeltro-Diptych:
Triumphal Chariots of Federigo da Monte -
feltro and his Wife Battista Sforza

The reverse of the panels shows the Duke and Duchess surrounded by the Virtues attributed to them.
Federigo is depicted with the cardinal virtues: Justice, Wisdom, Valour and Moderation.
Battista is assisted by the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity.

Piero della Francesca
Reverse of the Montefeltro-Diptych:
Triumphal Chariots of Federigo da Monte -
feltro and his Wife Battista Sforza


Portraits of Renaissance Women


see also:



Young Lady of the Este Family



Portrait of Leonello d’Este
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

Portrait of a Princess of the House of Este

Musee du Louvre, Paris



This likeness of a young lady belongs to the early period of modern portraiture. It was executed in the decade during which Jan van Eyck and Robert Campin painted their most important portraits. However, it differs from these in its use of the profile view, a pose reminiscent of antique art and frequently chosen by Pisanello (1395-1455) for his medals and plaquettes. It is to the influence of com and medal portraiture, too, that we may attribute the lack of modelling in many of his subject's faces, their affinity, in other words, to relief sculpture.
There has been considerable controversy over the identity of the sitter portrayed by Pisanello on this small panel. Of the many suggestions made, two may be mentioned here. The fragile, childlike face, with its high, shaved forehead and hair tightly combed back and held in place by an unevenly bound, transparent calotte-style bonnet, is most frequently thought to belong to Margarita de Gonzaga. She was Lionello d'Este's wife, and was married to him in 1433 - the year in which the portrait is generally thought to have been painted. A second hypothesis identifies the sitter as Ginevra d'Este, who was married to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta of Rimini, with whom she later fell into disgrace. He is thought to have poisoned her in 1440, when she was twenty-two years old.
Whoever she was, there can be little doubt that her likeness belongs to the genre of courtly portraits. The young woman, possibly a princess, may have sat during the course of marriage negotiations, or on the occasion of her approaching, or perhaps even recently performed, wedding ceremony. This hypothesis is supported by the the sitter's decorative, tapestry-style background. The radiant blossoms - columbines and carnations- upon which butterflies have settled, and which have sprung from the dark green leaves of a bush, were Mariological attributes usually representing chastity. However, it is equally possible that this was a posthumously executed portrait of the kind Piero della Francesca may have painted of Battista Sforza, since butterflies often symbolised resurrection in portraits of sitters who had died young. The ornamental symbol of the juniper sprig (Juniperus vulgaris), embroidered on the sitter's ribbed, short-waisted overgarment, seems to reinforce this. Folklore attributed obscure magical powers to the shrub. It was said to protect people against demons, and, in a more practical sense, to help against contagious diseases. Juniper was also recommended as a means of guarding against early death.


Leonello d’Este
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Lioncllo d'Estc (died 1 Oct. 1450) was born into one of the oldest families of noble lineage in Tuscany.
The area controlled by the Este family had grown from century to century.
They were Lords of Ferrara and its hinterland (Modcna, Parma and Reggio).
In the quattrocento they earned a reputation as important patrons of the arts and sciences.


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