We don‘t know the identity of the young man who gazes directly at us. His elegant costume, fastened so as to almost entirely conceal his white undershirt, and the cloak laid over his left shoulder suggest that he came from a wealthy background. The National Gallery acquired this portrait from the art dealer Stefano Bardini (1854–1922), who was based in Florence.
The portrait may be by Biagio d’Antonio. Although he was born in Florence, Biagio spent most of his career in Faenza, working for the ruling Manfredi family. He is best known for paintings made to decorate furniture, but he also produced a number of portraits. One which relates to our picture is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
Biagio’s training in the workshop of the painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio could account for the bust-like character of this portrait. The simple blue background does little to distract from the sitter.
We don‘t know the identity of the young man who gazes directly at us. His elegant dress, fastened so as to almost entirely conceal his white undershirt, suggests a wealthy background. His dark brown hair is combed elegantly and parted to reveal much of his forehead. His red cap and the green cloak laid over his left shoulder may identify him as a scholar.
The portrait may be by the Florentine painter Biagio d’Antonio. Although he was born in Florence, Biagio spent most of his career in the small city of Faenza, working for the ruling Manfredi family. He is best known for paintings that decorate furniture, such as cassone frontals or spalliere, but he also produced a number of portraits. The one closest to this work is Portrait of a Young Man in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. It could give a sense of the original appearance of the National Gallery portrait, which has many small losses in the sitter’s face and in his lilac dress. The paint surface is also obscured by yellowed varnish.
Biagio’s training in the workshop of the painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio could account for the bust-like crop of this portrait. Its sculptural qualities would originally have been more evident. The simple blue background does little to distract from an engagement with the sitter.
Portraits in Renaissance Italy were frequently commissioned as a token of love or marriage. In other cases, a portrait could ease the difficulty of someone’s absence, brought about by frequent travels or perhaps even death. Unfortunately, we don't know why this portrait was made, but its display in an Italian household would have reminded the owner of the young man depicted.
While nothing is known about the sitter’s identity, the fact that the National Gallery acquired this portrait from the Florence-based art dealer Stefano Bardini suggests the work came from that city. Bardini supplied numerous collectors and museums with early Italian art at a time when interest in such works was at its peak. His former saleroom has been converted into a museum featuring numerous works that remained unsold after his death in 1922. It gives a unique impression of the art market in the early twentieth century.
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