Ranuccio Farnese was 12 years old when Titian painted his portrait. The boy had been sent to Venice by his grandfather, Pope Paul III, to become prior of an important property belonging to the Knights of Malta. As a member of the powerful and aristocratic Farnese family, Ranuccio went on to an illustrious ecclesiastical career. He was made Archbishop of Naples at the age of 14, and he later served as Bishop of Bologna, Archbishop of Milan and Ravenna, and Cardinal Sant'Angelo, dying when he was only 35 years old.
Adult responsibility came to Ranuccio when still a child, as Titian so brilliantly conveyed through the cloak of office, too large and heavy, sliding off the youth's small shoulders. The boy in the role of the man is what gives this characterization such poignancy.
Portraits by Titian were in great demand, distinguished as they were for their remarkable insight into character and their brilliant technique. Nowhere is the painter's genius more in evidence than in this image. Limiting his palette to black, white, and rose, Titian enlivened the surface with light: the dull gleam rippling over the sleeves of the velvet cloak; the fitful pattern flickering across the slashed doublet; and the changing reflections on the satin Maltese Cross.
center right: TITIANVS / .F.
Marks and Labels
Farnese family, Parma, by 1620; brought from Naples to London by Sir George Donaldson [1845-1925], London; sold May 1880 to Sir John Charles Robinson [1824-1913], London; sold to Sir Francis Cook, 1st Bt. [1817-1901], Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, by 1885; by inheritance to his son, Sir Frederick Lucas Cook, 2nd Bt. [1844-1920], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Herbert Frederick Cook, 3rd Bt. [1868-1939], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th Bt. [1907-1978], Doughty House, and Cothay Manor, Somerset; sold June or July 1947 to (Gualtiero Volterra, London) for (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence); sold July 1948 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 to NGA.
- Zapadnoevropeiskaia i Amerikanskaia zhivopis is muzeev ssha [West European and American Painting from the Museums of USA], State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad; State Pushkin Museum, Moscow; State Museums, Kiev and Minsk, 1976, unpaginated and unnumbered.
- The Genius of Venice 1500-1600, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1983-1984.
- Tiziano [NGA title: Titian: Prince of Painters], Palazzo Ducale, Venice; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1990-1991, no. 33, repro.
- A Gift to America: Masterpieces of European Painting from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, four venues, 1994-1995, no. 2, repro. (shown only at first two venues: North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston).
- I Farnese: Arte e Collezionismo, Palazzo Ducale di Colorno, Parma; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, 1995-1996, no. 26, repro. (shown only in Munich and Naples).
- Titian, The National Gallery, London; Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003, no. 25, repro.
- Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2009-2010, no. 42 (no. 43 in French catalogue), repro.
- Tiziano, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, 2013, no. 22, repro.
- King, Marian. Portfolio Number 3. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: no. 3, color repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1945-1951. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: 114, no. 47, repro.
- Kress 1957, 191, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Early Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Three in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): pl. 75
- Seymour 1961 (Kress), 120, repro. pl. 113, 115
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, New York, 1962: 32, color repro.
- Neugass, Fritz. "Die Auflösung der Sammlung Kress." Die Weltkunst 32 (1 January, 1962): 4.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 307, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 130.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:178-179, color repro.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 116, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV-XVI Century. London, 1968: 182-183, fig. 428-429.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 346, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:483-485, II:pl. 344
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 206, no. 248, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 396, repro.
- Campbell, Lorne. Renaissance Portraits: European Portrait-Painting in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Centuries. New Haven, 1990: 178-179, 181, color fig. 194,195.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 101, repro.
- Jaffe, Michael. "On Some Portraits Painted by Van Dyck in Italy, Mainly in Genoa." Studies in the History of Art 46 (1994): 141-142.
- Danziger, Elon. The Cook Collection: Its Founder and Its Inheritors." The Burlington Magazine 146, no. 1216 (July 2004): 457.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 102-103, no. 78, color repro.
- Smith, Zadie. "Man vs. Corpse." New York Review of Books 60, no. 19 (December 5, 2013): 16, color fig.