The folds of this imposing figure’s garment sweep upward in an unbroken line to his illuminated face. His hand projects toward the viewer. His costume is disproportionately bulky in relation to his head, emphasizing the sense of authority and grandeur.
An official portrait intended for an institutional setting likely would not have these traits. The Venetian system of government rigidly suppressed the cult of personality, and official portraiture demonstrates a penchant for conformity. It is unclear exactly who this man was or what level of authority he may have had, but this portrait was almost certainly created for a private setting. (Since the portrait entered the Gallery’s collection, the subject has been identified as a procurator of Saint Mark, one of the most prestigious offices in Venice, on the basis of the type of robes he is wearing, but it is possible he may have been a senator or another type of official.)
As is typical for Jacopo Tintoretto’s finest portraits, the format is minimalist. The shadowy background shows only a simple architectural form—perhaps the high plinth of a column or pier—barely sketched in. Aside from the sitter’s robe of office and the chair on which he sits, there are no further accoutrements. Nothing distracts from the emphasis on the sitter’s face, and in particular on his gaze, directed out at the viewer.
A Procurator of Saint Mark’s is one of
As is typical for Tintoretto’s finest portraits, the format is minimalist. The shadowy background shows only a simple architectural form—perhaps the high plinth of a column or pier—barely sketched in. Aside from the sitter’s robe of office and the chair on which he sits, there are no further accoutrements. Nothing distracts from the emphasis on the sitter’s face, and in particular on his gaze, directed out at the viewer.
Since the portrait entered the Gallery’s collection, the subject has been identified as a procurator of Saint Mark, one of the most prestigious offices in Venice.
Attempts to identify the sitter by name have not been successful. In 1930, Wilhelm R. Valentiner suggested that the sitter was Francesco Duodo (1518–1592), an important commander of the Venetian fleet in the battle of Lepanto (1571). His hypothesis was based on a supposed resemblance to a bust by Alessandro Vittoria that originally decorated the Duodo tomb (now Ca’ d’Oro, Venice). However, as Falomir and Frederick Ilchman have noted, the sitter’s nose, eyebrows, and cranium are different from those of Duodo as represented in that bust and other secure likenesses.
Another identification has been proposed on the basis of a weaker replica of the Gallery’s portrait, first noted by Lionello Venturi in 1931 (once in the Kende collection, Vienna; now private collection, Austria), bearing the inscription “Gio. Donato padre del Ser.mo Nic.o 1560” (Giovanni Donato, father of the Serenissimo Nicolò).
The attribution of the painting to Tintoretto is uniformly accepted, with a dating to the later decades of his career. While there are no directly comparable portraits in Tintoretto’s oeuvre, it is generally analogous to the portrait of Marco Grimani of 1576–1583 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) in the treatment of the face, hands, and garment. Given the absence of any clear year-by-year progression in the chronology of Tintoretto’s portraits, as well as the unique characteristics of the Gallery’s painting and the absence of information about the sitter, a date somewhere in the later 1570s or early 1580s seems best.
March 21, 2019
Francis Richard Charteris, 10th earl of Wemyss [1818-1914], Gosford House, Longniddry, East Lothian, Scotland, by 1886; by inheritance to his son, Hugo Richard Charteris, 11th earl of Wemyss [1857-1937], Gosford House; (Wildenstein & Co., New York), by 1929; sold June 1949 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 to NGA.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1886, no. 144, as A Venetian Senator.
- Scottish Paintings, Water Colours and Sculpture, British Paintings, Water Colours, Miniatures and Sculpture, British Graphic and Applied Art, Old Masters, Stained Glass Exhibit, Canadian Paintings, Water Colours, Sculpture, Graphic and Applied Art, and Salon of Photography, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, 1931, no. 116, as Francesco Duodo.
- Exhibition of Venetian Painting From the Fifteenth Century through the Eighteenth Century, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1938, no. 66, repro., as Portrait of Francesco Duodo.
- Italian Paintings, Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1947, unnumbered catalogue, repro., as Portrait of Francesco Duodo.
- Loan to display with permanent collection, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, 1988-1989.
- The Age of Titian: Venetian Renaissance Art from Scottish Collections, Royal Scottish Academy Building, Edinburgh, 2004, no. 68, repro.
- Tintoretto, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007, no. 34, repro.
- Botticelli to Titian: Two Centuries of Italian Masterpieces, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, 2009-2010, no. 109, repro.
- Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice, Gallerie dell'Accademia and Palazzo Ducale, Venice; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2018-2019, no. 138, repro.
The support is two pieces of fine, twill-weave fabric sewn together with a horizontal seam located 30.5 centimeters from the bottom. It has been lined and the tacking margins have been removed. Light cusping is evident along the top edge but not along the others, indicating that the painting has been cut down at least to some degree at the sides and bottom.
There is a very thin white ground layer. Infrared reflectography at 1.1 to 1.4 microns
The paint has been applied in a variety of techniques, ranging from stiff pastes to transparent glazes. In the drapery, the highlights of the folds are marked with stiffly brushed, free angular strokes of white paint, covered with a glaze of crimson red. The glaze is built up more thickly in the shadows, so that it appears almost black. Several pentimenti in the folds of both sleeves are visible to the naked eye as faint white strokes, covered with red glaze.
The paint layer is heavily abraded, revealing the white ground and underlayers in the pattern of the fabric weave. The worst areas of abrasion are in the beard and the right side of the head and hair. There are many small areas of loss in the face, as well as a larger loss over the bridge of the nose. There is a small vertical line of loss in the upper folds of the sleeve at left. The painting was treated in 1950 by Mario Modestini, at which time a discolored varnish was removed and the painting was inpainted. The varnish applied by him in 1950 had discolored by 2018; thus, the painting was treated again at that time.
Robert Echols and Joanna Dunn based on the examination report by Sarah Fisher
March 21, 2019
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- Rossi, Paola. Jacopo Tintoretto: I ritratti. Venice, 1974: 132-133, n. 154; fig. 152.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 342, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: 1:467-468; 2:pl. 333.
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- Butterfield, Andrew. "Brush with Genius [review of the exhibition Tintoretto, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007] ." The New York Review of Books (26 April 2007): 12.