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Portrait of a Young Man holding a Letter
Rosso Fiorentino
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This is the earliest of very few known portraits by Rosso. It was painted in Florence, while he was in the workshop of Andrea del Sarto. It reveals something of Rosso’s eccentricity, particularly in the strange spiky fingers, the curiously abstract style and the characteristically swift way of working the paint. The features of the face all but dissolve when viewed close up, but the sketchy brushstrokes blend into a powerfully convincing and memorable likeness when seen from a distance.

The young man, as yet unidentified, glances up from a letter dated 22 June 1518. The letter bears further traces of writing which may provide clues to his identity. His gaze is both dreamy and penetrating. This sense of psychological realism and immediacy was only just beginning to find a place in portraiture at the time the work was painted, appealing to the rising class of wealthy and intellectual patrons.

Key facts
Artist Rosso Fiorentino
Artist dates 1494 - 1540
Full title Portrait of a Young Man holding a Letter
Date made 1518
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 85.5 x 66.5 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, with the generous support of the George Beaumont Group and a number of gifts in wills including a legacy from Mrs Olive Brazdzionis, 2000
Inventory number NG6584
Location in Gallery Room 8
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