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Francesco Bonsignori, Portrait of an Elderly Man

Key facts
Full title Portrait of an Elderly Man
Artist Francesco Bonsignori
Artist dates 1455/60? - 1519?
Date made 1487
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 41.9 × 29.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1864
Inventory number NG736
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of an Elderly Man
Francesco Bonsignori

In late fifteenth-century Venice, a striking style of portraiture – derived from Netherlandish portraiture – was being popularised in the city by the Sicilian artist Antonello da Messina; this is a typical example of it. The dark background, the three-quarter pose and the sharp lighting used here were key features of the style.

Here, Bonsignori has very closely observed the old man’s unique features, including his distinctive nose and ear, and his wrinkles. Drawing was very important in Bonsignori’s artistic process; his style drew upon the precision of Mantegna, an artist he knew. For this portrait, he made a detailed drawing to use as a guide, which he transferred to the panel like a tracing. There is also a surviving preparatory study for the portrait in the Albertina Museum, Vienna.

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