Three Men and a Little Girl

This group portrait was given by Pope Urban VIII (1568–1644, Pope from 1623) to his nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597–1679). The subjects have not been identified, but it is thought that they may be from Venice as the dress of the men is Venetian in style. The child's costume, which is recognisably that of a girl, can be dated to around 1540.

The portrait is listed in four Barberini inventories (1629; 1630; 1631–6; 1692–1704) as a painting by Titian, but this attribution is impossible. The fusion of Venetian and Netherlandish stylistic and technical characteristics suggests the picture may be by a Venetian painter who had absorbed Netherlandish influences. The artist might otherwise be a Netherlandish painter working in Venice or the Veneto. The painting was once attributed to Dirck Barendsz (1532–1594) who, according to the historian Karel van Mander, was in Venice in about 1555. A more likely contender is Jan Steven van Calcar (1499?–1546), who was born in Germany but moved to work in Venice, where he became a close follower of Titian.

Key facts

Full title
Three Men and a Little Girl
Date made
about 1540
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
83.8 x 69.9 cm
Acquisition credit
Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number
Location in Gallery