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The paintings displayed in this room are predominantly portraits by Northern Italian artists and as such reflect one of the most important pictorial genres of the period. Regardless of the identity of the sitter, the primary function of a portrait was to capture likeness and inner virtue, denoting that the sitter was worthy of the honour of being portrayed and in time, remembered.

Moretto and Moroni are among the finest representatives of the naturalistic approach that characterised 16th-century Lombard painting, and especially portraiture. Moretto worked primarily in Brescia, while his one-time student Moroni was the preeminent portraitist in Bergamo in the 1550s and 1560s, and after that in nearby Albino, his hometown. His portraits are characterised by acute psychological penetration, as well as great clarity of presentation.

Lotto was one of the leading Venetian painters of the earlier 16th century, although he worked mainly outside Venice, in part because the competition for commissions there was so intense. This exposed him to a broad range of influences, from Lombard naturalism to Raphael’s High Renaissance Classicism. This might help explain why he is one of the most individualistic of the great Italian painters. His works are characterised by the use of deeply saturated colours and bold shadow, and his portraits are among the most empathetic of their time.