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Moretto da Brescia, Portrait of a Man

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Man
Artist Moretto da Brescia
Artist dates about 1498 - 1554
Date made 1526
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 201 × 92.2 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1876
Inventory number NG1025
Location Central Hall
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Man
Moretto da Brescia

This is the earliest surviving example of a life-size, full-length portrait on canvas or panel painted in Italy. We are not certain of the sitter’s identity, but he may be Gerolamo II Avogadro of Brescia (who died in 1534). He was the father of Conte Faustino Avogadro, who is shown in a portrait by Moretto’s pupil, Moroni, which is also in the National Gallery’s collection. Here, he may once have been looking towards a companion portrait.

The man’s costume is sober but luxurious. He wears a Spanish-style black brocade cape, slashed mauve sleeves and breeches, and a red felted-wool cap that was a speciality of Brescia. His enamelled gold cap badge represents Saint Christopher carrying the infant Christ. His hand rests on a very early example of a rapier. Just behind and above its hilt is part of the hilt of a dagger, presumably one held in the left hand for parrying when fencing.

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