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Bartolomeo Bianchini
Francesco Francia
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Bartolomeo Bianchini was a nobleman and humanist scholar from Bologna – his name is written on the letter he holds. This is the earliest known use of a letter as a means of naming the sitter in an Italian portrait.

The painted ledge makes it appear that we are looking through a window. Bianchini’s hand seems to project over the ledge, creating the illusion that our world and the painted world are continuous, making the portrait seem more real. Ledges like this are used for the same effect in many earlier Netherlandish portraits.

The lighting from the right is unusual, suggesting that this portrait might once have been paired with a companion picture lit from the left – perhaps a portrait of the man who wrote the letter. This portrait seems to be based on the Portrait of a Man with a Ring by Francesco del Cossa (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid).

Key facts
Artist Francesco Francia
Artist dates about 1447 - 1517
Full title Bartolomeo Bianchini
Date made about 1493-5
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 56.5 x 40.6 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2487
Location in Gallery Room 10
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