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"



Portraits and Caricatures


see also:

Massys Quentin 1

Massys Quentin 2


Quentin Massys:


Old Woman (The Queen of Tunis)


Portrait of an Old Man


Although there was rationalism in the impulse to produce empirically correct representations of external reality, the portrait was still imbued with talismanic properties in the minds of most spectators. The likeness had a magical ability to "act" vicariously, as a kind of proxy for the absent person.
A new art form, the caricature, which first appeared in the early sixteenth century - long before the brothers Agostino and Annibale Carracci, the artists who are said to have invented it - clearly shows that the visual distortion of the human likeness, especially the face, was used as a means of vicariously satisfying the need to express hatred or aggression towards certain persons. Thus the objects of hatred were scorned and ridiculed by disfiguring their "effigies". In 1956, Werner Hofmann showed that new norms of beauty and bodily proportion must already have evolved for distortions of this kind - the distension or shrinking of ears, nose, mouth or forehead, for example - to be considered at all funny. Particular ideals of beauty became socially acceptable, making it possible to discriminate against deviants on the grounds that their conduct was unconventional, or unnatural. This development had evidently reached most of Europe by the last third of the fifteenth century. Its parallel in literature was Grobianism, or the Rabelaisian style, which amounted to a satirical attack on behaviour which did not conform to social decencies and rules of courtly etiquette which had filtered down from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie.
This painting — generally attributed to Quentin Massys or one of his circle - of an old woman whose face appears to have
been deliberately distorted in the interests of grotesque humour, makes full use of compositional techniques developed by fifteenth-century Netherlandish and Italian portraitists. Wearing an immense horned bonnet, and with a corset pressing together her flabby breasts, the old woman sits with her left hand on a parapet in front of her, while her right engages in some form of gesticulation. But is this really a portrait, a painting purporting to represent the likeness of a particular person? The painting is based on a model which is now lost and which Leonardo may have used in an early drawing (Windsor Castle, N 12492). Giorgio Vasari reports that Leonardo was moved by an insatiable desire to observe unusual and deformed faces. His interest in these phenomena sprang from his work on a canon of ideal bodilv proportions. The new standards of beauty no longer allowed for natural irregularities in a person's appearance, but disqualified these as infringements against the social ideal. Despite their emphatic "semantics of individuality" (Niklas Luhmann), Renaissance humanists criticised the individual as ultimately defying classification, and therefore social integration. Whenever beauty is linked to intelligence or ethical integrity, anything that does not correspond to the aesthetic ideal is viewed not only as ugly, but as an expression of abject stupidity, or immorality.

Portrait of an Old Man

Leonardo da Vinci
Grotesque Head


Portrait of an Old Man

Van Eyck's ruthless registration of the "unbeautiful" details of his sitter's appearance, which was evidently quite acceptable to his patrons, shows that the idea of ugliness as an aesthetic category had not entered contemporary thinking on art or everyday life by the early fifteenth century. Massys, on the other hand, painted his Old Woman by engaging in systematic deviation from the norm. The method that he evolved had much in common with the experiments in deformation to be found in Durer's sketchbooks on proportion. Moreover, the old woman's costume would also have amused Massys's contemporaries, since they would have found it quite old-fashioned. Her bonnet, a "hennin" as it was called, "was worn in, or shortly before, 1450, as can be seen from Jan van Eyck's portrait of his wife Margaret in 1439 (Bruges). The artist's satirical attention to the woman's age would also have ridiculed her in the eyes of his contemporanes, who had begun to think of age as something ugly, and youth as a positive quality, as revealed by paintings which show different human ages, or the portraits of "unequal lovers".
Leonardo's and Massys's grotesque studies of human disproportions created a precedent which could - without a second thought for the problems of mimesis or verisimilitude - be used, or abused, in all kinds of satire. Graphic reproductions of these works have reappeared under various guises ever since: in Wenzel Hollar's King and Queen of Tunis, for example, or as the likeness of "Countess Margaret of Tirol" (died 1369). Massys's painting was even passed off in the seventeenth century as a portrait of Pope Pius VI's sister, Princess Porcia, who was supposed to have attempted to rescue religion with an army of Jesuits (Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes).

Leonardo da Vinci
Grotesque Heads

Wenzel Hollar
The King and Queen of Tunis
(after Leonardo da Vinci)


Leonardo da Vinci
Grotesque Heads

Leonardo's caricatures were a side product of studies he undertook to establish ideal human proportions. They also illustrate the precept of diversity ("varieta"), which he had outlined in his treatise on painting. Here, Leonardo was referring to the great variety of natural forms, to which the creative artist was capable of adding by inventing new ones.




ortraits of Renaissance Humanists


see also:

Luca Signorelli

Luca Signorelli:

Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man



Luca Signorelli
Middle-Aged Man

Luca Signorelli
Middle-Aged Man

The architectural background, together with the mysterious, possibly mythological, scenes in the middle ground, seem to refer to the history of ancient Rome, which may be the subject of the man's reflections.

Owing to his dress - a collarless, vermilion robe and matching, fez-like felt hat, and the black stole, draped over his shoulder and chest - the man portrayed in this portrait" has often been seen as a lawyer. However, there is no compelling reason to accept this attribution, since hats of this type were worn by other professional groups in the fifteenth century, too, including artists.
The psychology and personal attributes of Luca Signorelli's sitter remain an enigma. The painting's mysterious content seems directly counterposed to the formal clarity of its incisive, "sgraffito"-like, or "engraved" outlines. The slightly lowered gaze of the man shown in three-quarters view lends the painting a psychological dimension, transcending the mere representation of outward reality. He seems to be looking inwards. Perhaps this denotes melancholy, or simply a thoughtful mood. The content of his thoughts is possibly shown in two background scenes, diametrically opposed to one another at either side of his head: on the left, two girls stand before a round temple; on the right are two nude youths in front of a ruined temple, which is overgrown with weeds and bushes. To judge from her gesture, the woman on the left is banishing the other. The image on the right is reminiscent of Cain's fratricide.
However, the "jaw-bone of an ass", the instrument of murder, is missing. An icon-ographical alternative: Hercules slaying Cacus, who had laid waste to the Aventine (cf. Virgil, Aeneid 8, 185ff.; Livy 1, 7, 3ff.; Ovid, Fasti 1, 543 ff.). But even if this were correct, there would be little apparent correspondence between the figures and their architectural background: the lateral face of the building behind them bears a relief, again showing two youths, this time probably the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces).
In the immediate vicinity of the temple of Castor and Pollux, according to antique legend, stood the Aedes Vestae, the temple of Vesta with its round cella surrounded by Corinthian columns and crowned by a brass cupola. Its architecture corresponded to the building on the left in the background, modelled by Signorelli on the Pantheon, the most famous Classical round temple, then as now. Could the two women be Vestal Virgins?
The painting permits so many different interpretations that it is impossible to reconstruct a single, integrated picture. It seems quite likely, however, that the painting is a reflection on the origins of Rome, and that the sitter, whatever his profession, may be pondering Rome's past greatness.
The antique Roman architecture suggests that Luca Signorelli, who was originally from Cortona and spent most of his life in various cities of central Italy, notably Orvieto, Arezzo and Florence, executed the painting during his stay in Rome in 1482/83, when he completed two of the frescos in the Sistine Chapel.



see also:


Agnolo Bronzino

Portrait of Ugolino Martelli



Ugolino Martelli

c. 1535
Oil on wood, 102 x 85 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Ugolino Martelli

The statue of David was a symbol of patriotic loyalty to Florence. Its presence in the portrait documents the period's waxing sense of Italian nationhood.

Agnolo Bronzino is considered the master of Florentine Mannerism. Held in high esteem by his aristocratic patrons, his portraits bestowed on the sitter an air of confident reserve and dignified elegance. Although his portrait of Ugolino Martelli (1519-1592), now in Berlin, is cool and polished in style, Bronzino transcends mere outward appearances to reveal an introverted, intellectual quality in the features of this young humanist scholar. The sitter must have been about twenty years old at the time; evidently, he wished to present himself as somewhat older and deserving of respect: a "puer senex", as it were. Martelli is sitting and gazing contemplatively to one side, his black, silken gown buttoned to the neck, and a black beret on his small oval head. He is apparently thinking about a passage in the book lying open on the table. It is the ninth book of the "Iliad", Homer's epic on the Trojan War. The sequel, as it were, in Latin literature was Virgil's "Aeneid". This is apparently one of Martelli's favourite books, as the inscription MARO (= Virgil) on the book on the left shows. His left hand is supported by a book by Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), whom Martelli's contemporaries would have considered the most erudite of humanist scholars. Baldassare Castiglione gave a prominent place to this Petrarch scholar, poet and philosopher in his treatise "II libro del Cortegiano" (Book IV), describing Bembo as the very paragon of courtly scholarship. Bembo was made a cardinal in 1539. Perhaps his appointment provided Martelli, who later became Bishop of Grandeves in the south of France, with an opportunity to seek Bembo's patronage as a follower of his Neoplatonic doctrine; the attribute of the book undoubtedly represents an act of homage. Thus the year of Bembo's elevation to the rank of cardinal may help us date the portrait, since the artist himself has left only his signature.
In some of Bronzino's portraits, and those of other Mannerist painters, it is quite common to find the sitter posed before an abruptly receding architectural background. Martelli, too, is posed before the inner court of a palace built by Domenico d'Agnolo, with walls reminiscent of the Biblioteca Laurenziana. Standing against the back wall is a statue of David. Once attributed to Donatello, but probably the work of Bernadino Rosselino, it is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Just as the "Iliad" and the "Aeneid" were both still considered by Renaissance humanists as literary links to ancient Rome (and thereby to Italy's early history), so the prominent position given to the statue of David in Martelli's "intellectual setting" underscores its function as a symbol of the young humanist's patriotic loyalty towards his native town of Florence. The portrait thus documents the waxing sense of Italian nationhood of the period, described, too, by Francesco Guicciardini and Niccolo Machiavelli in their books on the history of Florence. Pietro Bembo's work "Prose della volgar lingua" (1525) gave support to this movement, encouraging Italian authors to use their own language rather than Latin.


see also:



Baldassare Castiglione


ortrait of Baldassare Castiglione

Oil on canvas, 82 x 67 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Frontispiece from
Baldassare Castiglione:
Il libro del Cortegiano
Venice: Aldus, 1528

In this portrait Castiglione incorporates precisely those virtues which, in his main literary work
"The Book of the Courtier", he prescribed as the pillars of correct courtly behaviour:
distinguished aloofness and emotional self-control.

Raphael and Castiglione had probably been friends since 1506, when both served under Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino. The Urbino court was the most important Italian cultural centre of its day. Castiglione's book "II libro del Cortegiano" (The Book of the Courtier), written in dialogue form and begun in 1508, although not published until 1528, a year before Castiglione's death, is a literary memorial to the Urbino court. The book demonstrates the art of elegant and scholarly conversation by means of a series of eloquent discussions on a range of different topics. It also contains a code of behaviour for the courtly gentleman, and for the nobleman with duties to perform at court, recommending they maintain a distinguished aloofness and emotional self-control, expressing themselves in a refined and dignified manner and avoiding all exaggeration. The courtier is expected to show knowledge and ability in fine art, music and literature, and to excel in riding, weaponry and dancing. Cultivated manners demanded a fine sense of dress: demonstrated, according to Castiglione, by the dark clothes worn at the Burgundian court, or by the avoidance of strong, or garish, colours.
Raphael's portrait of Baldassare Castiglione is executed in subdued, almost monochromatic colouring. His limited palette evidently reflects the behavioural ethics of the sitter, who would have rejected anything loud, affected or showy. Castiglione's dress is precisely what his treatise on manners recommends. With his body turned a little to the right, and his face framed by his beard, black slit cap and high collar, Castiglione's soft eyes hold the spectator in a serious, yet amiable gaze. Visible below the black cuffs of grey velvet, puffed sleeves, his hands are shown pressed together, expressing aristocratic reserve and emotional restraint.

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