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In this, one of Titian’s earliest portraits, the sitter turns to look at us over his shoulder and momentarily meets our gaze. Our attention is focused on the raised brow above his right eye, which is positioned midway across the picture. The man’s elbow rests on a parapet and his voluminous quilted sleeve projects into our space, creating a strong sense of his physical presence. The way in which the shadowed portions of the figure merge with the grey atmospheric background was particularly innovative. This novel and effective pose was to become highly influential in European portraiture, perhaps most famously serving as a model for Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 34, now also in the National Gallery. This was long believed to be a portrait of the celebrated Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (1474–1533), and then later thought to be a self portrait by Titian.
Portrait of Gerolamo (?) Barbarigo
Oil on canvas
H 81.2 x W 66.3 cm