National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Portrait of a Humanist Sebastiano del Piombo (artist)
Venetian, 1485 - 1547
Portrait of a Humanist, c. 1520
oil on panel transferred to hardboard
overall: 134.7 x 101 x 3.5 cm (53 1/16 x 39 3/4 x 1 3/8 in.) framed: 171.8 x 139.4 x 10.2 cm (67 5/8 x 54 7/8 x 4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.38
Not on View
From the Tour: Venice and the North
Object 4 of 6

Unlike the sitters in many similar portraits who are shown in front of an open window, this man wearing the simple black robes of a scholar is posed in an enclosed, quiet place appropriate for study and concentration. His three-quarter pose was newly introduced around 1520. Restricted colors in the clothing and face leave the small arrangement on the left as the brightest area of the composition. Our attention is drawn to the tools of his scholarly pursuit: books, writing implements, and a globe. (Maps were first applied to spheres in the early sixteenth century.) It has been suggested that the sitter might be Marcantonio Flaminio, a noted scholar and poet who was a friend of the artist.

Sebastiano must have painted this in Rome, although its style retains traces of his Venetian training. This is particularly evident in the richness of its pigment -- even the somber tones have luxurious texture -- and in the slight melancholy that distinguishes the man's face. (Admittedly, such melancholy would have been expected of a gentleman poet.) The use of light, however, shows the new influence of artists in Rome: rather than infusing the scene, light sculpts the figure with strong three-dimensional form. Sebastiano had always modeled his figures more emphatically than most other Venetian painters, and his natural inclination was reinforced by contact in Rome with Michelangelo.

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