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Italian, Venetian, A Man in Black

Key facts
Full title A Man in Black
Artist Italian, Venetian
Date made about 1500
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 31.1 × 25.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by the Misses Cohen as part of the John Samuel Collection, 1906
Inventory number NG2095
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Man in Black
Italian, Venetian

A dark-haired, rather fleshy young man with a prominent nose and a distinct five o‘clock shadow on his chin, jowls and upper lip is shown in an interior. To his left, a window opens onto a hilly landscape with a walled city on the shore of a lake, under a cloudy sky. We don’t know who the sitter was, but he appears to be in his twenties and wears the cap, mantle and stole worn by Venetian citizens and aristocrats.

The style of the painting, with the sitter depicted close up and strongly lit, shows the impact on Venetian painting of one of the greatest Italian portraitists, Antonello da Messina (whose Portrait of a Man of about 1475–6 is also in the National Gallery’s collection). Here the artist has modernised Messina’s tradition by including the window with the landscape, an idea taken from Netherlandish painting.

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