Overview

Few artists could match Moroni's skill in depicting the appearance of his sitters, far less his ability to conjure the inner workings of their minds. The identity of the gentleman in this penetrating portrait is a mystery. For a long time the painting was thought to be by Titian and to represent that artist's ideal of a schoolmaster. But according to another tradition, the picture got its name because Titian admired it and learned so much from it. Whether or not the older master ever saw this painting, Moroni's strong, simple composition and trenchant characterization did impress two later specialists in portraiture: Anthony van Dyck and Joshua Reynolds both made copies of it.

The subject, dressed all in black, sits in a Savanarola chair that is seen -- unexpectedly -- in profile. He rests one beautifully drawn hand on the arm of the chair and turns as if to regard the spectator. With his other hand he holds his place in a book, thoughts of which, judging from his absorbed gaze, still occupy his mind. The white, embroidered collar sets off the face, and the asymmetrical points echo the man's uneven features. Even the bristly textures of the trimmed whiskers and clipped, grizzled hair command attention.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Borghese collection, Rome by c. 1622 until after 1793; Robert Fagan, who sent it to England; possibly through Sieur Durand in 1801 to William Buchanan, London; Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st marquess of Stafford [1721-1803], London; by inheritance to his son, George Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st duke of Sutherland [1758-1833], Stafford House, London; by inheritance to his son, George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd duke of Sutherland [1786-1861], Stafford House; by inheritance to his son, George Granville William Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 3rd duke of Sutherland [1828-1892], Stafford House; by inheritance to his son, Cromartie Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 4th duke of Sutherland [1851-1913], Stafford House; (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold 1909 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1871
Royal Academy, London, 1871
1893
Roayl Academy, London, 1893
1924
Loan Exhibition of Important Early Italian Paintings in the Possession of Notable American Collectors, Duveen Brothers, New York, 1924, no. 28 (no. 48 in illustrated 1926 version of catalogue).
1983
The Genius of Venice 1500-1600, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1983-1984, no. 64.
2000
Giovanni Battista Moroni: Renaissance Portraitist, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 2000, no. 9, repro., as Portrait of a Cleric ("Titian's Schoolmaster").

Bibliography

1916
Berenson, Bernard, and William Roberts. Pictures in the Collection of P.A.B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early Italian and Spanish Schools. Philadelphia, 1916: unpaginated, repro.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 156, repro.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 91, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 92, repro.).
1941
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 167, repro.
1942
Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 6.
1948
Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 21, repro.
1951
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 90-93, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 66, color repro.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 74
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 308, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 95.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:190, color repro.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 84, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 250, repro.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:339-340, II:pl. 247
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 223, no. 277, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 288, repro.
1990
Campbell, Lorne. Renaissance Portraits: European Portrait-Painting in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Centuries. New Haven, 1990: 79-80, color fig. 89.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 103, repro.

Technical Summary

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