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Baldassare Franceschini (Il Volterrano), Bust of a Man

Key facts
Full title Bust of a Man
Artist Baldassare Franceschini (Il Volterrano)
Artist dates 1611 - 1690
Date made about 1645
Medium and support Fresco on terracotta tile
Dimensions 50.7 × 35.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1921
Inventory number NG3589
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Bust of a Man
Baldassare Franceschini (Il Volterrano)

A man with a characterful face looks out at us engagingly. His features are carefully described – small eyes with pointed stare, a bulging nose, heart-shaped lips, a double chin and receding hairline. The identity of the sitter is unknown but his dress, with elegant fur trim across the front of the jacket and a delicate fringed tie around the collar, implies that he is quite affluent.

The paint has been swiftly applied, with the brushstrokes remaining visible in a number of areas: see, for example, the parallel strokes suggesting shading on the underside of the chin. The loose, impressionistic technique is that of fresco – painting in mineral pigments suspended in wet plaster – resulting here in a great freshness and immediacy. Although fresco painting is usually associated with a fixed wall surface, portable works on wicker, slate or, as here, terracotta tiles, were quite common in Florence. Franceschini was one of the most famous and prolific fresco painters working in the city during the seventeenth century.

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