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Jacometto, 'Portrait of a Man', probably about 1475-98

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Man
Artist Jacometto
Artist dates active about 1472; died before 1498
Date made probably about 1475-98
Medium and support Tempera and oil on wood
Dimensions 26 × 19 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3121
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of a Man

Not many portraits by Jacometto survive but the National Gallery has two, including this one. The man’s costume tells us that he is a Venetian citizen. He’s painted in a style fashionable in late fifteenth-century Venice, which derives from Netherlandish painting: the three-quarter pose was new and popular, as were the strong lighting and the dark background, which his head and body seem to emerge from.

The portrait’s reverse is painted with a pair of delicate golden laurel sprigs tied with a ribbon. A Latin text in between reads: FELICES TER ET AMPLIVS/QVOS/IRRVPTA TENET COPVLA (‘Thrice happy and more are those bound together’). The laurel symbolised eternity so it’s possible that the portrait’s message relates to marriage.

Jacometto made several portraits with painted reverses – a trend that also came from Netherlandish painting. Reverses usually included mottos, heraldry and symbols.

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