This portrait may depict Ghirardo Averoldi, a nobleman from Brescia in northern Italy. He regards us with a frown, and the solid triangular form of his body, swathed in his black silk and velvet costume, makes him appear stern and powerful. The large collar of the coat and the shape of the sleeves and cap suggest that it was painted about 1528–9.
An inscription formerly on the back read ‘Ettore Averoldi Brescia 1865’, probably meaning that it once belonged to or was bought from Ettore Averoldi in that year. Averoldi also sold an altarpiece by Romanino to the National Gallery in 1865.
For many years this was believed to be the portrait of Ghirardo Averoldi by Romanino referred to in a guidebook to Brescia published in 1853. However, it is more likely that it is by Callisto Piazza, a follower of Romanino.
This portrait may depict Ghirardo Averoldi, a sixteenth-century nobleman from Brescia in northern Italy. An inscription recorded as formerly on the back of the painting read ‘Ettore Averoldi Brescia 1865’, suggesting that it once belonged to or was bought from Ettore Averoldi in that year. He also sold an altarpiece by Romanino to the National Gallery in 1865.
For many years this portrait was believed to be the one of Ghirardo Averoldi by Romanino recorded as in the Averoldi collection in Odorici’s Guida di Brescia (Guide to Brescia) of 1853, but the description of the Romanino painting says Ghirardo was holding a lance. Either the description was incorrect, or this is a different portrait by another artist.
The sitter regards us with a frown. The solid triangular form of his body, swathed in his black silk and velvet costume, makes him appear stern and powerful. The grey highlights of his beard and the white and gold cords hanging from his neck are particularly well observed.
The portrait is painted on wood and it has a wavy surface where the wood has buckled. The highlights in the coat were painted into the black paint while it was still wet. A similarly confident approach can be seen in the Beheading of the Baptist (now in the Accademia, Venice) which is signed by Callisto Piazza and dated 1526. Piazza was a follower of Romanino, painting in his style, and sometimes his work is confused with Romanino’s.
The large collar of the coat and the shape of the sleeves and cap suggest that this portrait was painted about 1528–9. Only one other independent portrait by Piazza is known: the Portrait of Ludovico Vistarini now in the Museo Civico, Lodi. Although Piazza is not recorded as a portrait painter, he included portraits in some of his religious paintings, and the style of this portrait suggests it is by him. However, the thick, creamy paint, the way the beard and hair blends into the shadows, even the flushed colour of the man’s face are also characteristic of the works of Romanino and Melone.
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