The boy regarding us stands in a relaxed confident manner, with one hand on his hip and the other holding the hilt of his sword. The vertical glossy gold stripes of the curtain effectively frame his elegant pose. The costume suggests a date in the mid-1540s and is plainly that of a wealthy family; the full-length format of the portrait also points to an aristocratic sitter.
The boy has been identified as Orazio Farnese (1532–1553), a grandson of Pope Paul III. At the age of nine in 1541, Orazio was sent to the court of King Francis I of France with the aim of promoting a Farnese-Valois alliance. His family commissioned the portrait to mark this occasion. It was the first of several portraits Jacopino was to paint of Farnese family members.
Jacopino has recorded the decoration of the costume and the textures of the various fabrics in exquisite detail. This little boy is not dressed as a child but as a miniature nobleman, even carrying his own sword.
The boy regarding us stands in a relaxed confident manner with one hand on his hip and the other holding the hilt of his sword. He is in the corner of a room with a tiled floor, before a curtain of green velvet with wide vertical gold bands, the hem of which is edged with braid with a thick fringe of green and gold stripes. The vertical glossy gold stripes effectively frame the boy’s elegant contrappostal pose (with his weight mainly on one foot).
The costume suggests a date in the mid-1540s and is plainly that of a wealthy family; the full-length format of the portrait also suggests an aristocratic sitter. The boy here has been identified as Orazio Farnese (1532–1553), the youngest child of Pier Luigi Farnese and a grandson of Pope Paul III. His brothers were Cardinals Alessandro and Ranuccio Farnese and Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma. However, the fleur-de-lis emblem of the Farnese family is not included in the portrait as might be expected. At the age of nine in 1541, Orazio was sent to the court of King Francis I of France to promote a Farnese-Valois alliance, and the portrait was commissioned by his family to mark his reception at court. The costume is similar to that in Titian’s Portrait of Ranuccio Farnese aged 12 (National Gallery of Art, Washington) painted in 1541 or 1542 when Ranuccio was sent by his grandfather to Venice to become prior of a property belonging to the Knights of Malta. In 1547, Orazio was betrothed to Diana, the daughter of King Henry II of France, and the marriage was celebrated in Paris in 1553. Orazio was tragically killed in a siege near Artois only five months later, aged 21.
This portrait was once thought to be by the Florentine Mannerist painters Pontormo, Bronzino or Francesco Salviati (1510–1563); it is now attributed to Jacopino del Conte (1510–1598). It was the first of several portraits that Jacopino painted of members of the Farnese family.
Although full-length portraits were common in Venice and its states, where pictures were normally painted on canvas, they were rare in Florence where painting on wooden panels persisted longer. This is particularly unusual in being a full-length portrait painted on wood.
The decoration of the costume and the textures of the various fabrics have been recorded in exquisite detail. Tufts of fur emerge from the lining of the black cloak embroidered with gold; the raw-edged slashed silk of the jacket has double lines of self-coloured stitching and a glossy surface sheen; there is delicate red cross-stitch embroidery on the gathered cuffs of the linen chemise. Little red tape bows with gold tips tie the boy’s breeches to his doublet and his codpiece to his belt in an age before the elastic and zips of today’s children’s clothes. Indeed, this boy is not dressed as a child at all, but as a miniature nobleman, even carrying his own sword.
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