Outstanding fundraising campaign does not secure Pontormo for the nation

Issued February 2017

Following a temporary export bar imposed in late 2015, the National Gallery embarked on a significant fundraising campaign to acquire for the nation Jacopo Pontormo’s masterly 'Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap'.

The Gallery successfully raised the funds to make a matching offer before the 22 October deadline of the fair matching price of £30,618,987 recommended by the Export Reviewing Committee.

Unfortunately, the owner has decided not to accept the National Gallery’s offer.

We would like to acknowledge the extraordinarily generous contributions we received from the UK Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund, the American Friends of the National Gallery London, as well as private supporters. We would also like to acknowledge the cooperation of the Arts Council England.

There is no portrait by Pontormo, the supremely elegant and highly original 16th-century Florentine Renaissance painter, in any UK collection.

If we had acquired the painting it would have been the focus of a wide-ranging public programme engaging audiences nationwide, including a touring exhibition and educational programmes at five museums across the UK: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Ulster Museum, Belfast; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

At the National Gallery it was intended to feature in a broad range of educational activities for all audiences and kick-start innovative programmes for young people, involving Young Producers and outreach with targeted groups.

NOTES TO EDITORS 

Breakdown of funding: 

  • Cost of the artwork: £30,618,987
  • Total funding achieved: £31,068,216
  • The additional £449,229 was kindly provided to the National Gallery by the Heritage Lottery Fund to assist with the regional tour and education programme.

UK Government Special Grant

£19,415,000

Heritage Lottery Fund

£4,000,000

American Friends of the National Gallery, London

£3,277,599

The Art Fund

£750,000

Donations

£2,081,436

Gifts in Wills

£250,000

National Gallery Trust

£1,294,181

Total (including costs towards public programme and tour)

£31,068,216

ABOUT THE PAINTING

'Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap' is a striking painting of exceptional immediacy. The sitter has been identified as the youthful Carlo Neroni mentioned by Vasari, the 16th-century biographer of Italian Renaissance artists, as having been portrayed by Pontormo ‘at the time of the siege of Florence’ of 1529 to 1530.

Born in 1511 into a distinguished Tuscan family, Neroni was 19 years old when the siege took place, a moment of great importance in Florentine history when the city defended itself against the ambitions of both Pope and Emperor. The portrait is a rousing depiction of youthful idealism at a time of change and Neroni may be seen as the embodiment of the optimism and defiance of the fledgling Florentine Republic, subsequently crushed by the Imperial troops of Emperor Charles V. This marked the end of the city’s Republic; Florence became the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, an autocracy ruled by the Medici Grand Dukes. The ring on Neroni’s finger and the letter he holds close to his chest appear to allude to his marriage in 1530 to Caterina di Giuliano Capponi, the daughter of a wealthy Florentine banker, indeed the alliance between the two families may have been the occasion for the commissioning of the portrait.

Executed over bold freehand underdrawing, 'Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap' conveys the sitter’s character and ideals through composition, pose, and bravura paint handling. The brushwork is applied with swooping, energetic motions. The sitter is posed for maximum effect, at ease but poised for action; his left arm thrusting into the viewer’s space. The grey of his large sleeves combined with the black of his jerkin strikes a subtle colouristic balance, and the strong accent of red provided by the cap emphasises the alertness written across his face. His aristocratic haughtiness is subtly enhanced by the low viewpoint. 

'Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap' was previously on loan to the National Gallery from a UK Private Collection from 2008 to 2015. 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Pontormo (1494–1556/7) was a major Florentine painter of the 16th century, and the main exponent of an early, expressive form of Mannerism. His name was Jacopo Carucci, but he is called after his birthplace, a village in Tuscany. There are four paintings by him already in the National Gallery Collection. They tell the story of the Biblical patriarch Joseph and were carried out as part of a scheme of bedroom decoration (1515/18). Their high key and brilliant colour owes a great deal to Michelangelo's newly unveiled (1512) Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes. Andrea del Sarto was an important influence on Pontormo's earliest work, and Michelangelo afterwards. He was also influenced by Northern art, especially the prints of Dürer and Lucas van Leyden. In addition to his works on panel, Pontormo is also celebrated for his frescoes, such as the Passion series of the Charterhouse of Galluzzo and his deeply expressive drawings, including those for the great decoration of the choir in San Lorenzo (154656), destroyed in 1742. A surviving diary, and the recollections of contemporaries, indicates that he was solitary and neurotic. He was, however, on excellent terms with his pupil Bronzino, whose portrait, as a boy, is included in Joseph with Jacob in Egypt in the National Gallery.

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