National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Cardinal Pietro Bembo Titian (artist)
Venetian, 1488/1490 - 1576
Cardinal Pietro Bembo, c. 1540
oil on canvas
overall: 94.5 x 76.5 cm (37 3/16 x 30 1/8 in.) framed: 124.6 x 106.7 x 11.4 cm (49 1/16 x 42 x 4 1/2 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1952.5.28
On View
From the Tour: Titian and the Late Renaissance in Venice
Object 1 of 7

The son of a Venetian statesman, Pietro Bembo (1470–1547) is recognized as one of the most celebrated diplomats, poets, and humanist scholars of the sixteenth century. In 1513, after taking Holy Orders, he became secretary to Pope Leo X in Rome. Bembo was appointed librarian of St. Mark's Cathedral in 1530, and he became official historian for the city of Venice. Titian probably painted this official portrait to commemorate Bembo's elevation to cardinal in March 1539.

In this, his second portrait of Pietro Bembo, Titian portrayed his lifelong friend as an intelligent, dynamic individual. Bembo's dark eyes are bright and alert; his short gray beard is softly modeled. His angular features are somewhat idealized and give him the appearance of a man younger than his seventy years. Wearing the scarlet cape and biretta (hat) of his profession, Cardinal Bembo turns his head to the left while he gestures to the right. By aligning Bembo's right arm and hand with the edge of his cape, Titian gave this painted likeness the quality of a sculpted portrait bust, similar to those of Zorzi family members by Alessandro Vittoria.

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