A dark-haired young man turns to look at us sidelong. Who is he? Tantalising clues have been included in the painting.
He wears two red-stoned rings on the little finger of his left hand, and may be holding a folded glove, which is sometimes the symbol of a love pledge. A coat of arms was once painted below his right wrist. His broad, soft white collar is of a style worn between about 1590 and 1600.
The glass vase on the table may suggest that the man was connected with the Venetian glass industry, but a vase can also be a symbol of purity or chastity. It contains a sprig of dark green leaves that look like juniper. The juniper may relate to the man’s name or emblem, or to that of his beloved: Ginevra, the Italian for juniper, was a popular female name at the time.
A dark-haired young man turns to look at us sidelong. His head is framed against the dark grey-brown wall, focusing our attention on his face. But who is he? Tantalising clues have been included in the painting.
He wears two rings on the little finger of his left hand, one with a red stone, the other with small red stones surrounding a pearl. He appears to be holding a folded glove. It may be his own (although he isn‘t wearing another one) or it could be a gift from a lady. A folded glove symbolises a love pledge, and during the sixteenth century a lady would give one of her gloves to a gentleman she admired.
The man’s other hand is resting on the table, which is covered with a carpet of a green and red-brown pattern. A few small traces of paint suggest that a coat of arms was once painted below his right wrist, but if so it is lost to us; it would have helped to identify the man’s family.
The shape of the coat and its fur lining are hard to make out. The painting is very dark and is covered with a yellowed and opaque crackled varnish, making it difficult to see fine detail. The man’s cuffs are unusual, with delicate translucent fabric appearing below the lace turned over his sleeve. His soft white collar is of a style worn between about 1590 and 1600.
An open window looks out over a landscape of farmland. There are two rustic buildings, possibly barns, with what look like thatched roofs supported on wooden trunks or poles. Perhaps these lands are part of the sitter’s estates. Or perhaps he would like us to think they are. The rough, rapid way in which the landscape is painted is reminiscent of confirmed portraits by Domenico Tintoretto. This may be by him, although the condition of the picture makes a precise attribution difficult.
Standing on the table is a glass vase in the shape of an urn, with a narrow neck and white patterns between vertical gold bands. The vase appears to have handles with gilded ornaments and a gold metal collar. It is an unusual accessory in the painting and may suggest that the man had some connection with the Venetian glass industry. A vase can also be a symbol of purity or chastity.
The vase contains a sprig of dark green leaves that look like juniper. The plant may be the man’s emblem or part of his coat of arms. Perhaps the juniper relates to the name of his beloved: Ginevra, the Italian for juniper, was a popular female name at the time. The man may be pledging his love to chaste Ginevra.
There is a high light source that sharply defines the man’s features and casts a shadow below his nose. This is also a feature common to Domenico’s portraits. The source of the light is not in the painting. It can’t be the sun high in the sky outside the window, as the golden light low on the landscape appears to be that of dawn or dusk rather than the brightness of midday. The alert eyes, set lips and somewhat puffy hands with their tapering fingers are also common to many of Domenico’s portraits.
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