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"



Mythologising Portraits


see also:


Agnolo Bronzino:

Andrea Doria as Neptune


Agnolo Bronzino
Portrait of Andrea Doria
as Neptune


Agnolo Bronzino
Portrait of Andrea Doria as Neptune

Oil on canvas, 115 x 53 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

This portrait heroises and idealises the Genuese admiral and statesman Andrea Doria (1466/68-1560), showing him as Neptune. Standing before a ship's mast on which his name is carved in gold letters, Doria carries a trident in his sinewy right hand, while in his left he holds part of a sail that hangs down from the top right of the picture - gathering it into a kind of loincloth which barely covers his genitals.
John Pope-Hennessy has suggested the portrait may have been painted to commemorate Andrea Doria's occupation of Tunis in 1535. A medal by Leone Leoni, also showing Doria as Neptune, places him in a more narrative context, whereas Agnolo Bronzino's allegorical figure is reminiscent of the statuesque plasticity of a Michelangelo. The portrait has an official character. It represents the appropriate form of idealisation for a condottiere who, a member of Pope Innocence VII's personal body-guard, worked his way to the top of the social ladder in the service of various Italian princes: in other words, a state portrait. During the internecine disputes between Charles V and Francis I, Andrea Doria initially served the French king; swapping his allegiance to the German Emperor, he finally, following the liberation of Genoa, became a dictator of this republican city-state.
Doria's wish to give himself mythological stature is not perhaps the most surprising aspect of this portrait; even more conspicuous is his self-conscious exhibition of nudity, his apparent obsession with virility. Vitality and aggressive, warlike behaviour, springing from instinctual, libidinous drives, are shown here as the only route to power. Nudity was not unusual for a mythological subject, but the fact that Doria wished to portray his body in this way shows that he was not interested in displaying the external trappings of a power based on dynastic tradition, but in demonstrating a power which derived its natural legitimacy from a new ethics of achievement, and its supremacy from reserves of determination and physical strength which were the exclusive domain of the powerful individual.

Agnolo Bronzino
Portrait of Andrea Doria as Neptune

Leone Leoni
The Triumph of Andrea Doria




Nicoletto da Modena (?):

Francis I of France as an Antique God



Nicoletto da Modena (?)
Francis I of France as an Antique God
c. 1545
Oil on panel
Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale

Despite its small format, this portrait of Francis I (1494-1547) is a state portrait, a genre whose function was similar to that of the princely codes: to demonstrate the virtues and abilities of the despot. Once attributed to Niccolo dell' Abbate, the portrait is now thought to have been executed by Nicoletto da Modena, although it is possibly the work of a French artist of the School of Fontainebleau. Like Agnolo Bronzino's Andrea Doria as Neptune, Francis I is portrayed in mythological costume. His facial features, recognisable from Jean Clouet's dispassionate portraits of the monarch, are evidently true to life. The full-length portrait is vaguely reminiscent of the type of portrait painted by Jakob Seisenegger and Titian of Charles V. The contrapposto is not quite correct, since his prancing left foot should, in fact, bear his weight. The king poses on a pedestal which fills the entire breadth of the canvas and is ornamented with strapwork reliefs. On the front of the pedestal is a panegyric inscription in French, according to which the king's qualities "surpass" those of Nature herself. These qualities are allegorised in the form of the attributes of five antique gods who are said to be united in his person. Minerva (Athena) is the dominant deity, represented by his robes, although these are partly covered by the chiton of Diana, the goddess of the chase. The tall, plumed helmet is a Minervan attribute, too, the goddess of war and peace, as is the Gorgon's head on Francis' breastplate. According to antique legend, the effect of the terrible sight of the Gorgon's head was to make attackers turn tail and run. The allusions to Minerva accentuate the king's outstanding wisdom and presence of mind (the proverbial attributes in Classical antiquity). Here, Minerva is the goddess of peace, while the monarch's martial qualities are expressed through the attributes of Mars: the raised sword, for example. Francis I had fought many wars; the last, a few years before he died, against the superior allied forces of the German Emperor and Henry VIII.
The naked left arm is associated with Diana, the goddess of the chase, as is the horn and quiver of arrows; the latter, at the same time, is a reference to Amor, the god of love. Since the beginning of the sixteenth-century, with the formation of absolutist states, the hunt had been the privilege of the courts and ruling aristorcracy. Prowess in amorous pursuits, too, was ascribed to princes, an ancient superstition still prevalent in the Renaissance. This, associated with absolute power, was partly responsible for the impressive charisma of the ruler. Finally, Francis I is given the attributes of Mercury (Hermes), the god of commerce: the magic wand, caduceus, which he holds like a sceptre, and the winged sandals worn by the messenger of the gods.
In one person, these different characteristics add up to an androgynous being, but it would be quite wrong to understand their synthesis as a sign of transsexuahty or transvestitism. Their allegorical significance is obvious enough. Certainly, philosophical ideas, derived perhaps from the Aristophanic fable of the "androgynous being", or from "Androgyne de Platon" (the title of a book by Heroet in 1536), influenced portraits of this type, which, demonstrably, were not considered irreverent.
Hermaphroditic motifs are frequently found in Mannenstic painting, indicating that reflection on gender roles had entered a new phase. This was partly due to the fact that distinctly defined sexual identities were now emerging as a prerequisite for the success of patriarchal society. In this respect, the court's privileged position set it apart from the new - and essentially bourgeois - social constraints. It was here, in the refined air of the courts, that an ancient, threatened, social order could attain its final apogee: if only in the realm of the imagination.


Head of the Medusa
after 1590


Portraits of Popes and Cardinals


see also:



Pope Leo X

with Cardinals Giuliano de' Medici

and Luigi de Rossi



Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi

Oil on wood, 154 x 119 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


With this group portrait, executed on the occasion of Lorenzo de' Medici's marriage in Florence (September 1518), Raphael established an enduring model for portraits of popes. Melozzo da Forli had already painted Pope Sixtus IV on the throne, but the concentration of a small number of mute, motionless and apparently unrelated figures in interior space was seen in Raphael's work for the first time.
One of these figures, Luigi de Rossi, is shown gazing out of the painting at the spectator. He stands behind the pope with both hands resting on the backrest of the papal throne. The pose pays tribute to him as one of the pope's most trusted confidants. Raphael has accentuated the role of Rossi here because the portrait was completed a short time after Rossi was elevated to the college of cardinals on 26 June 1517. The reason for co-opting Rossi had been a plot, hatched by leading members of the Curia, to assassinate the pope. Following the purging of his opponents, Leo X had enlarged the college of cardinals. By appointing a number of loyal supporters, three of his own nephews among them, he had managed to turn the situation to his own advantage.


Melozzo da Forli
Pope Sixtus IV appoints Platina as Prefect of the Vatican Library


Leo X sits at a table which extends diagonally into the picture against a deeply shadowed background. The central axis of the painting passes through his imposing head, which is flanked symmetrically on either side by the faces of the two cardinals. Attired in purple pontificals, the Medici pope is shown with an illuminated manuscript, the so-called Hamilton Bible (now in the Staathche Museen zu Berlin), open before him. In his left hand is a magnifying glass with which he has been studying the artistic merit of the miniatures. His eyes now raised from the book, he meditates on what he has seen.
The reflection in the golden knob on the backrest of the throne of part of a room with a double window -which can only be behind or to the side of the spectator is a device probably learned from Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus or other early Netherlandish artists, who would sometimes paint compressed reflections of the otherwise invisible parts of an interior - on armour, for example, or in a convex mirror.
The official function of Raphael's portrait of Leo X is to show the pope in full command of his powers even when apparently engaged in private pursuits. The presence of two assisting cardinals does not relativise, but rather adds to the effect of this display of the pope's might.


Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giuliano de' Medici and Luigi de Rossi


see also:



Pope Paul III,

Cardinal Alessandro Farnese

and Duke Ottavio Farnese


Pope Paul III with his Grandsons Alessandro and Ottavio Farnese

Oil on canvas, 200 x 127 cm
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Julius II

Titian, in this portrait of a pope, adapts to his own ends the group-of-three portrait invented by Raphael with his portrait of Leo X. Unlike Raphael, however, Titian does not portray his subject, described by Francesco Guicciardim as an "uomo or-nato di lettere" (a man whose erudition is ornamental), as a bibliophile, or lover of the arts. Pope Paul III is not shown with a priceless manuscript, but with an hourglass. This symbol of transience perhaps refers to the advanced age of the seventy-eight-year-old pontiff, who was born in 1468 and died in 1549. Whereas the figures in Raphael's painting hardly interact at all, Titian's portrait is given a narrative structure by the approach of Ottavio Farnese, the pope's grandson, from the right. Ottavio is shown bending down to speak to the pope, who is evidently hard of hearing. His gesture is reverential, his right arm held in front of his body, his left hand holding the sheath of his sword. Paul III is shown granting Ottavio an audience; stooping with age, he turns his head with the long white beard round to face his grandson. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589) is shown (like Raphael's Luigi de Rossi) holding the backrest of the papal throne. The ceremonial gesture evidently reveals his proximity to the Pope, even within the hierarchy of the Curia. The pose demonstrated the person's rank as personal adviser and confidant. The cardinal, Otta-vio's brother, was only twenty-six at the time; he appears to stand outside the dramatic interchange captured by the painting. Posing behind the pope, he holds the spectator in his placid gaze.
Following a tendency in the work of Jacob Burckhardt and Ludwig von Pastor to demonise Italian Renaissance power-politics, this painting has been interpreted as a dramatisation of every possible form of malice. Commentators have read slyness, cunning and trickery into the pope's features, while attributing to Ottavio the obsequious hypocrisy of a scheming conspirator. Moralising opinions of this kind, based as they are on outmoded methods of evaluating historical data, should be treated with the utmost scepticism. Puritanical historians in the nineteenth and early twentieth century considered Paul III morally despicable because he had fathered two bastards as a young man. This was not unusual, however, since the institution of celibacy had taken some time to find acceptance. It was an expression of the pope's patriarchal support for his dynasty when Paul III made his son Pierluigi Duke of Piacenza and Parma, or invested his grandson Ottavio with the fee of Ca-\merino.
Traditional views of the painting have failed to look closely enough at its representative, courtly function, its ceremonial role as a means of defining relationships within the closed community of the papal state. Its gestural vocabulary expressed the ritual subjugation of nobility - even of the pope's own family - to the Holy See, which had developed an absolutist system of government by monopolising state power.

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