This portrait is unusual among Moroni’s works in that the sitter doesn‘t look out at us but gazes to the right, apparently lost in thought. He is identified by the letter he holds (a common device in Moroni’s portraits and others of the time), addressed to him as: ’The most reverend gentleman, Ludovico di Terzi, Canon of Bergamo [Cathedral] and Apostolic Protonotary, my most esteemed Lord ~ [from] Bergamo.' His black three-cornered cap is of a type worn by churchmen and his purse suggests his fiscal responsibilities.
Ludovico Terzi studied law, probably at Padua, between 1537 and 1540. He may be the same Ludovico Terzi referred to as a city councillor in Bergamo in 1549 and 1551. He became an apostolic protonotary at an unknown date, and is recorded as a canon of Bergamo cathedral between 1539 and 1582; he died the following year. He seems about 40 here, which suggests the portrait was painted around 1560.
This portrait is unusual among Moroni’s works in that the sitter does not look out at us. He gazes down to the right, apparently lost in thought. He is identified by the letter he holds (a common device in Moroni’s portraits and others of the time), which is addressed to him and translates as: ‘To the most reverend gentleman, Ludovico di Terzi, Canon of Bergamo [Cathedral] and Apostolic Protonotary, my most esteemed Lord ~ [from] Bergamo.’ In his other hand he holds a pair of gloves and a purse, which suggests his fiscal responsibilities. His black three-cornered cap is of a type worn by ecclesiastics.
The wall and niche of stained masonry and brick, topped by foliage, and the broken column shaft of grey-flecked marble are elements often included in portraits by Moroni. Sometimes the column is used to suggest the ancient lineage and antiquarian interests of the sitter, or his fortitude. Here it may merely be a convenient prop on which to lean his arm. The column doesn't relate structurally to the architecture behind it and the whole setting appears perfunctory in design.
The painting closely resembles dated portraits by Moroni of 1559 and 1560, years in which the artist – perhaps in heavy demand – repeatedly used the same formulas. The sitter’s head looks slightly too large for his body, which is a feature shared by other Moroni portraits with conventional poses. This may be the result of painting only the head from life, and reusing the pose from another portrait – a common practice among busy portrait painters.
Ludovico became a Doctor of Law in 1540. He may be the same Ludovico Terzi referred to as a city councillor in Bergamo in 1549 and 1551. He is recorded as a canon of the church in records between December 1539 and December 1582, and had died by the December of the following year. The sitter here seems about 40, which would be right if the portrait was painted around 1560. It is not known whether this Ludovico Terzi belonged to the ancient noble Italian Terzi family from the Val Cavallina who had played a distinguished part in the history of Parma. Had he been a noble he probably would have ensured that he was addressed as such on the letter.
Ludovico’s office of Protonotary Apostolic was a high position. During the sixteenth century, there were seven Protonotaries Apostolic and their responsibility was to compile and preserve an official record of Christian martyrdoms. They attended the pope in his ceremonial duties, witnessed papal bulls and assessed the claims of candidates for canonisation. Since Ludovico Terzi is dressed in black rather than purple or violet, it is likely that his privileges and duties were related to the local episcopal court and cathedral chapter of Bergamo rather than the Vatican.
The picture is in very good condition, and is one of the very few paintings from the sixteenth century which is still unlined. Lining is when another canvas has to be attached to the rear of a painting to strengthen the original canvas. The colours appear to be perfectly preserved – even the contrast of textures between the black velvet sleeve, the black woollen gown and the black silk of its lining is still clear.
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