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Alvise Vivarini, Portrait of a Man

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Man
Artist Alvise Vivarini
Artist dates living 1457; died 1503/5
Date made 1497
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 62.2 × 47 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2672
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of a Man
Alvise Vivarini

This bold picture is a good example of the portrait style of Venetian painter Alvise Vivarini. He was well known for describing his sitters' individual features in detail – here he has made sure to include the man’s wrinkles and the dark circles under his eyes. The man’s confident expression was the result of a lot of experimentation: technical evidence shows that Alvise repositioned the pupils several times.

Alvise borrowed a number of elements from Antonello da Messina’s portrait style, which was hugely popular in Venice at around this time. These included strong lighting, a dark background and the three-quarter angle of the sitter’s head and shoulders. He has also added the man’s hand, behind a marble ledge, details that came from fashionable Netherlandish painting. These make the portrait livelier and give the impression of a separate space behind the ledge.

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