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Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of a Gentleman

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Gentleman with his Helmet on a Column Shaft
Artist Giovanni Battista Moroni
Artist dates 1520/4 - 1579
Date made about 1555-6
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 186.2 × 99.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1890
Inventory number NG1316
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Gentleman
Giovanni Battista Moroni

With one hand on his helmet, the other on his rapier, this unidentified man looks directly at us. He stands in a partially ruined architectural setting, beside a large broken column on which his helmet rests. A column is an attribute of Fortitude and can also suggest the endurance of ancient values or a family lineage. Moroni may be implying that the sitter shares these virtues.

The very limited colour palette of blue, grey and black, with repeated small details of rusty orange and red, creates a striking visual effect and draws our attention to the sitter’s face and hands. We think that this and Moroni’s A Knight with his Jousting Helmet, also in the National Gallery, are likely to have been painted around the same time, due to the similar cut of the clothes and the men’s beards.

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