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Portrait of a Man in a Black Biretta
Corneille de Lyon
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A man with blue eyes and a brown beard – slightly reddish below his mouth – looks out at us from this small picture. We don't know who he is but his black hat, known as a biretta, and his clothing indicate that he is a priest or a lawyer. He may well have been an important person: Corneille de Lyon and his workshop made at least three versions of this portrait (the others are in the Musée Jaquemart-André, Paris and in a private collection in Switzerland).

Corneille and his workshop produced numerous small portraits of notables of the French court, following a similar formula with slight differences in scale. Here, as elsewhere, the sitter is shown in close up against a green background. Corneille has narrowed his shoulders and reduced the cranium to enlarge the face – as was usual for the artist, although he did not usually exaggerate the proportions as much as here.

Key facts
Artist Corneille de Lyon
Artist dates active 1533; died 1575
Full title Portrait of a Man in a Black Biretta
Date made possibly 1538-61
Medium and support Oil on walnut
Dimensions 16.7 x 14.4 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Misses Rachel F. and Jean I. Alexander; entered the Collection in 1972
Inventory number NG6415
Location in Gallery Gallery A: Paintings 1250-1600
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