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"



The Psychological Portrait


see also:

Lorenzo Lotto

Lorenzo Lotto:

Young Man before a White Curtain


Lorenzo Lotto
Portrait of a Man before a White Curtain

Oil on wood, 42,3 x 35,8 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Lorenzo Lotto
Portrait of a Man

The light of an oil-lamp burning in the dark room behind the curtain is probably a biblical allusion:
"And the light shineth in darkness"

More so even than Giorgione and Titian, it is Lorenzo Lotto who should be considered the true inventor of the Renaissance psychological portrait.78 Lorenzo Lotto was born in Venice. Though he spent many years in Bergamo, and probably entered Alvise Vivanm's studio there, for much of his life he was restless, continually moving from town to town. In their haste to identify the artist's subjects with his way of life, many early historians of art found in his work traces of the instability and restlessness ascribed to Lotto in sixteenth-century accounts of his life. This has meant that Lotto, to whom the authorship of only a small number of paintings can be attributed beyond doubt, has come to be seen as the painter of a considerable number of idiosyncratic works whose authorship cannot finally be determined. The heterogeneous style and subject-matter of Lotto's oeuvre thus seems to confirm the conflicting nature of his personality.
Reference to the "psychological" portrait here should not be understood in the modern sense of the epithet. The visual medium chosen by Lotto to portray mental states was less one of analytical disclosure than its opposite: enigma. His tendency to present the spectator with riddles was intensified by his mysterious symbolism, and by his frequent emblematical or hieroglyphic allusiveness. Although Lotto's allusions, in their literal sense, could be fathomed perhaps only by the "cognoscente" of his day, they are nevertheless capable of inspiring a wealth of vivid associative detail. This can be a source of fascination, as well as of frustration, to the the spectator who has little access to their original meaning.
Lotto's early portrait of a young man wearing a round black beret and buttoned, black coat still owes much to the traditional aesthetic of imitation. Scholars have rightly pointed to the influence of Giovanni Bellini here. The physiognomy of "his powerful nose and searching grey-brown eyes, which, under the slightly knitted brow, seem to brood on the spectator, to view him almost with suspicion" (as Friderike Klauner writes) is so faithful a rendering of empirical detail that we are reminded of another painter, one whose brushwork was learned from the Netherlandish masters: Antonello da Messina. What is new here is the element of disquiet that has entered the composition along with the waves and folds of the white damask curtain. A breeze appears to have blown the curtain aside, and in the darkness, through a tiny wedge-shaped crack along the right edge of the painting, we see the barely noticeable flame of an oil-lamp. Curtains are an important lconographical feature in Lotto's work. The motif is adopted from devotional painting, where it often provided a majestically symbolic backdrop for saints or other biblical figures. Since early Christian times, the curtain had been seen as a "velum", whose function was either to veil whatever was behind it, or, by an act of "revelatio", or pulling aside of the curtain, to reveal it. To judge from the curtain which fills most of Lotto's canvas, we may safely conclude that he intends to reveal very little indeed of the "true nature" of his sitter. What he finally does reveal is done with such reserve and discretion as to be barely insinuated. For the burning lamp is undoubtedly an emblem of some kind. It may, in fact, be an allusion to the passage in St. John: "lux in tenebris" ('And the light shineth in darkness', Joh. 1, 5). It is interesting to note that Isabella d'Este chose to cite this light/darkness metaphor in her own "impresa" in 1525, altering the original to refer to her isolation at the Mantuan court: "sufficit unum (lumen) in tenebris" (a single light suffices in the darkness). Perhaps Lotto intended to convey a similar message through his portrait of this young man.



see also:

Lotto Lorenzo

Lorenzo Lotto:

Man with a Golden Paw



Lorenzo Lotto
Man with a Golden Paw

c. 1527
Oil on canvas, 96 x 70 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Lorenzo Lotto
Man with a Golden Paw

Like Lorenzo Lotto's Young Man before a White Curtain, this pale, elegantly dressed, bearded man is shown before a curtain, only this time the curtain is a deep, dark red. It fills almost half of the painting, its fall broken by a green table, upon which the man leaning across into the picture space rests his elbow. It is the man's pose which lends such unease to the composition. Unlike the enduring quality imparted by the statuesque tranquility of Lotto's Young Man, the almost diagonal pose of this sitter suggests transience, a fleeting revelation, an impression intensified by the questing eyes of the sitter and his stangely mute gestures. Whereas the hand on his chest may be interpreted as a sign of "sincenta" - reverence, or protestation (as when one crosses one's heart, or in the expression "mano sul cuore") - the stretched out left hand holding the golden paw presents us with a problem. It is difficult not to notice a latent aggression in the spread claw, which appears to be leaping from the man's grasp. Placed as it is, a little right of centre, this detail attracts more attention than its small size would initially seem to warrant, an effect underlined by the gleaming brightness of the wrought gold against the black sheen of the man's coat. There can be little doubt that the claw is central to the meaning of the painting. But how should it be understood? Is it intended as an attribute referring to the sitter's profession or social role? If so, then the sitter may be a sculptor or goldsmith, and the paw possibly an allusion to his name. The lion's paw might then stand for Leone Leoni (c. 1509-1590); a medallist himself, Leoni was naturally interested in "impresa", emblems and all kinds of allusions to names, and, for obvious enough reasons, chose the lion's paw as his own heraldic device. Leoni stayed at Venice in 1527 while Lotto was living there. How-ever, these speculations amount to no more than a vague hypothesis, and unless more light is thrown on the origin of the painting, there seems little prospect of ever identifying the man. Attribution and dating can be traced back to Giovanni Morelli, whose method - attribution on the basis of details otherwise considered secondary e.g. the depiction of the sitter's ears or ringers), but thought to remain constant throughout an artist's "oeuvre" - cannot be allowed to pass unquestioned.
It is not unthinkable that the paw, or claw, may be an obscure reference to some Latin phrase which, in this context, would have the force of a motto. The motto might be "ex ungue leonem" (to recognize "the lion by its paw"), a synechoche employed by Classical writers, for example Plutarch and Lucian, to refer - by metonymy - to a painter's brushwork or signature, or "hand" in sculpture, which immediately identifies the work of a particular master. This interpretation of the paw would, of course, be in keeping with the suggestion that it represents a professional attribute.
A conclusive interpretation of this painting is not possible. The historical and aesthetic conditions of the painting's conception and execution evidently precluded access to its meanings by more than a limited circle of Lotto's contemporaries, a problem that makes the painting virtually impossible to decipher today. The precept of "dissimulatio", the demand - frequently voiced in the increasingly popular moralizing literature of the day - that the sitter's inward world remain concealed, or veiled, seems to have influenced its conception. The painting shows a new page turning in the history of the mind, a new stage of awareness of subjectivity and individuality. Here was a dialectical response to a feeling that the self had become all too transparent, all too vulnerable, an example of the new tactics required by the self-assertive individual in contemporary social hierarchies.




Lorenzo Lotto
Portrait of a Gentleman

c. 1530
Oil on canvas, 118 x 105 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome




see also:


Moretto da Brescia:

Portrait of a Young Man



Portrait of a Young Man (
Count Sciarra Martinengo Cesaresco)
Oil on canvas, 114 x 94 cm
National Gallery, London


Ridolfi records that Moretto da Brescia, whose real name was Alessandro Bon-vicino, was a pupil of Titian, but this has never been proved. Certainly, there can be little doubt that the Venetian painter influenced the work of this artist, who lived and worked all his life at Brescia. Moretto was primarily a painter of altarpieces and other religious works, and executed only a small number of portraits, but these, owing especially to their powers of psychological observation, are considered, along with works by Lorenzo Lotto, among the most fascinating examples of their genre to be painted during the first half of the sixteenth century, as this portrait from the National Gallery will testify.
The young, flamboyantly dressed man gazing at the spectator is a wealthy, Italian noble. He is sitting before a brocade curtain, which is ornamented with pomegranate and carnation designs. Or rather - not sitting, but standing, his left hand propping him up on the armrest of a chair. Inclining his body slightly to the left, he rests his head on his right hand, his bent right elbow leaning on two cushions, placed on the table especially for the purpose. This is the typical pose and gesture of the melancholic. Melancholy, a fashionable illness in the sixteenth century, had an important role even in Shakespeare's plays. Here, it is expressed in a mysterious inscription on the badge sewn on the brim of the sitter's feather beret. On it, in Greek lettering, we read [IOY АIAN ПOOП] (iou lian potho). It is probably right to translate this emblematic motto as: "Alas, I desire too much." nobles of condensing a personal pledge into an epigrammatical phrase.
The motif of melancholy suggested by the pose and motto of the noble gentleman in the portrait8'' is an indication of new standards of personal achievement. Initially established by the ascendant bourgeoisie, such standards had been brought to the notice of the nobility by humanist scholars active at the courts. It is demonstrable that the "too much" in the motto refers not (or rather, less) to worldly possessions, of which the sitter evidently had no shortage, but to spiritual riches. X-ray photographs have revealed that an earlier version of the portrait showed books lying open on the table in front of the sitter. In "The Anatomy of Melancholy", a book which, although it did not appear until many years later, was nevertheless concerned with the mental climate of the sixteenth century, Robert Burton wrote that "too much" exposure to books, and to the confusing contradictory opinions and theories expressed in them, could itself bring on moods of sadness, dejection and desperation.

Portrait of a Young Man
Count Sciarra Martinengo Cesaresco)

Albrecht Durer
Melancholia I


During the 15th century it was seen as a sign of melancholy, or "black bile", to rest one's head, slightly inclined, in one's hand.
Melancholy had been viewed unfavourably during the Middle Ages, but later became increasingly fashionable.
Humanists and artists, "Saturn's children", appropriated it as their state of mind.
Among them was Durer, who made melancholy the subject of this famous engraving.

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