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Head of a Man in Blue
Giacomo Francesco Cipper
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A man looks out at us with his shirt opened to reveal his neck, disfigured by a goitre (a swelling caused by an enlarged thyroid gland). Despite suffering this medical condition, he has an amused expression and the artist has portrayed him sympathetically. He is evidently poor, as can be seen by his ragged clothes – the blue jacket he wears has been roughly stitched at the seams.

This painting’s style and subject matter are typical of Giacomo Francesco Cipper, an artist active in Lombardy in the early eighteenth century. The artist has applied thick brushstrokes (for example, on the man’s temple) and has left the reddish-brown ground exposed to form the shadows in the darker areas (for example, around his eyes). The animated brushwork gives movement and life to the figure, as does the off-centre pose, and tilt of the head.

This characterful portrait is a pair to Head of a Man in Red, also in our collection.

Key facts
Artist Giacomo Francesco Cipper
Artist dates 1664 - 1736
Full title Head of a Man in Blue
Series Two Expressive Heads
Date made early 18th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 47 x 36.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Maurice Woolff Jacobson, 1944
Inventory number NG5468
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Expressive Heads

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These two paintings, which are of similar subjects and identical in size, were almost certainly intended as pendants, or companion pieces, to be hung together. The men portrayed here are evidently poor – their ragged clothing is roughly stitched together, one suffers from a swollen goitre on his neck and the other has missing teeth – but the artist’s portrayal is entirely sympathetic. These men are full of character, their expressions lively and engaging. The loose, animated brushwork adds to their sense of immediacy.

The style and subject of these paintings are typical of Giacomo Francesco Cipper, who specialised in painting low-life scenes of beggars, street-sellers and vagabonds in Milan – a genre in which another painter working in Lombardy, Giacomo Ceruti (1697–1767), later excelled.

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