With one hand resting on a baton and the other on the hilt of his sword, the sitter turns and looks down at the viewer, his haughty expression consistent with the proud swagger of his pose. As he stands before an evening sky and extensive landscape with a distant view of the bay of Genoa, light glints off his armor and deep-red sashes, draped gracefully across his body and tied to his arm, enhance his bravura. This portrait of a military leader possesses a dramatic flair that differs from the characteristic elegance of Anthony van Dyck's other Genoese sitters. As indicated by the coat of arms and the Latin inscription in the upper right quadrant, the sitter is Rafaelle Raggi, a prominent military figure and ancestor of the 16th-century Raggi family.
The Raggi, a distinguished Genoese family of bankers and merchants, presumably commissioned the portrait from Van Dyck as a memorial to this eminent individual's military prowess. Van Dyck had become the leading portraitist in Genoa since arriving there in the fall of 1621, and, around 1625, Tomasso Raggi was spearheading the defense of the Republic of Genoa against the Duchy of Savoy. Tomasso may have commissioned Van Dyck to portray his ancestor as a military commander to place his own military exploits in a broader historical perspective. Van Dyck probably based his visage on a living model rather than an ancestral portrait of the actual sitter.
upper right above coat of arms: M D V / RAPHAEL RAGGIVS. HEIR[ONYMI] / REIP[VBLICAE]. TRIREMIVM / PRAEFECTVS[.] (1505 RAFFAELE RAGGIO [son of] GEROLAMO. PREFECT OF THE REPUBLIC'S TRIREMES)
Probably Marchese Tomasso Raggi [c. 1597-1679], Rome, by 1664; possibly Francesco Maria Balbi, Genoa, by 1780; said to have been bought by Sir Walter Rockcliffe Farquahar, 3rd bt. [1810-1900], from the Balbi family in Genoa; by inheritance to his son, Sir Walter Randolph Farquhar [1842-1901], London; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 2 June 1894, no. 124);(Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris); purchased 1894 by 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.
- L'Età di Rubens. Dimore, committenti e collezionisti genovesi, Palazzo Ducale, Genoa, 2004, no. 82, repro.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 114, repro.
- Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 7.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 74, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 311, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 47.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 40, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 120, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 263, no. 337, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 145, repro.
- Barnes, Susan J. Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings. New Haven, 2004: II.55
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 57-61, color repro.