Venetian, c. 1490 - 1576
Ranuccio Farnese, 1542
oil on canvas
overall: 89.7 x 73.6 cm (35 5/16 x 29 in.) framed: 124.8 x 126.4 x 9.5 cm (49 1/8 x 49 3/4 x 3 3/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Object 2 of 7
The circumstances and date of this portrait of Ranuccio Farnese (1530–1565) are known from a letter dated September 22, 1542, and written by the humanist Gian Francesco Leoni to Ranuccio's older brother, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Commissioned as a gift for the boy's mother, this portrait of twelve-year-old Ranuccio was painted in Venice just after he had been made prior, or religious director, of San Giovanni dei Forlani, an important property belonging to the Knights of Malta. The grandson of Pope Paul III, Ranuccio was the youngest member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Italy. He became cardinal of Santa Lucia in Sicily at the age of fifteen, and he was granted several bishoprics before his untimely death at the age of thirty-five.
Engulfed in a black cloak emblazoned with the Maltese cross of his new office, the life-sized Ranuccio emerges from the dark background into the light. The luminous colors and shimmering highlights of his red silk doublet reveal Titian's signature technique of applying numerous layers of translucent oil glazes. In this perceptive portrait, Titian brilliantly captures the image of a sensitive young man about to embark upon a very public life.
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