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Franciabigio, Portrait of a Knight of Rhodes

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Knight of Rhodes
Artist Franciabigio
Artist dates about 1484 - 1525
Date made 1514
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 60.3 × 45.7 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1878
Inventory number NG1035
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of a Knight of Rhodes

The date 1514 is just visible on the letter carried by the sitter, although the words are illegible. The inscription in the parapet reads, in primitive French, ‘who loves well is slow to forget’. The sitter wears the Maltese Cross of the Order of Saint John. In 1514 Franciabigio was working for the Order painting a fresco of the Last Supper in their convent in Florence. The prioress who commissioned the fresco from Franciabigio was a Medici, and it has been suggested that the sitter of this portrait is Giulio de’ Medici, who was made a Knight of Rhodes in 1513. After Giulio was made Pope Clement VII, he was personally responsible for securing the island of Malta for the Knights in 1530. However, this identification is uncertain.

Franciabigio’s portraits are among his finest works for their immediacy and psychological intensity. From Andrea del Sarto he adopted the soft smoky shadows of the face and the smouldering melancholy expression. However, the composition ultimately derives from portraits painted by Raphael during his period in Florence.

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