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Giacomo Francesco Cipper, Head of a Man in Red

Key facts
Full title Head of a Man in Red
Artist Giacomo Francesco Cipper
Artist dates 1664 - 1736
Series Two Expressive Heads
Date made early 18th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 46.1 × 35.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Maurice Woolff Jacobson, 1944
Inventory number NG5469
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Head of a Man in Red
Giacomo Francesco Cipper

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

A man looks out, his eyes sparkling and head slightly cocked. His mouth is open, as if he is speaking, and he has crooked and missing teeth. A cheerful demeanour animates his face, as do the wisps of hair poking out from under his hat and the upturned tufts of his moustache.

The style and subject of this picture are typical of Giacomo Francesco Cipper, an artist who specialised in low-life scenes. The man here is evidently poor – the sleeve of his red jacket is coming away at the seam, and the cloth has been roughly stitched along his shoulder – but the artist’s portrayal is very sympathetic. The paint has been quickly and loosely applied without blending the daubs of colour, giving this work (and its pair) a ‘blotchy’ – almost impressionistic – appearance and sense of immediacy.

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Two Expressive Heads


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.