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Peter Humfrey, “Anonymous Artist, Veronese/Agostino Barbarigo/possibly 17th century,” Italian Paintings of the Sixteenth Century, NGA Online Editions, https://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/43704 (accessed November 26, 2020).

 

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Mar 21, 2019 Version

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Overview

The Venetian admiral Agostino Barbarigo was killed at the naval battle of Lepanto in October 1571, when he was shot in the left eye by a Turkish arrow. He was immediately proclaimed to be a heroic martyr who had played a central role in achieving victory for the allied Christian fleet. In a posthumous portrait of the admiral, Veronese accordingly showed him in armor, displaying the instrument of his death like a saint with an attribute.

It is easy to imagine that in the years and decades following the battle there was considerable demand among Barbarigo’s family and admirers for replicas of the portrait. This work is believed to be one of those replicas based upon stylistic differences from Veronese and an underdrawing uncharacteristic of the master. The painting was probably executed by a later follower, possibly in the 17th century.

Entry

The critical consensus that this is a copy, of inferior quality, of Veronese’s Portrait of Agostino Barbarigo in the Cleveland Museum of Art [fig. 1] is certainly correct.[1] It is further confirmed by the underdrawing, of a type uncharacteristic of the master, revealed by the infrared reflectogram. The fact that the Gallery’s version is slightly longer in format than the Cleveland picture prompted W. R. Rearick to suggest that the latter originally showed the sitter in full length.[2] The Cleveland portrait has indeed been cut at its lower edge, as well as down both sides,[3] and the visual evidence suggests that, as in the Gallery’s copy, the picture originally included the sitter’s right hand, clasping his baton of command. Arguably lending support to Rearick’s suggestion is another copy of the portrait that appeared on the New York art market in 1997, since although of mediocre quality, it shows the sitter in ankle length.[4] Yet apart from the fact that full-length independent portraits of Venetians remained rare throughout the 16th century, it is significant that in this case the copyist has shifted the position of the arrow from the horizontal to the diagonal, as if to accommodate it to an elongated format. On balance, it seems likely that the sitter was always meant to be shown in half-length; indeed, the Washington picture, although itself trimmed on all four sides, may provide a fairly accurate idea of the original format of the Cleveland original, as well as confirm that the now very abraded area of the sky to the right was once streaked with clouds. Insofar as it is possible to judge from its own damaged condition, the rather hard, unpictorial handling of the surfaces in the Gallery’s picture suggests that it was not executed under Veronese’s supervision in his shop, but by a later follower, perhaps in the 17th century.

The sitter of the Cleveland portrait was convincingly identified as the Venetian admiral Agostino Barbarigo (1516–1571) by Gyorgy Gombosi in 1928 and independently by Francis M. Kelly in 1931.[5] Barbarigo was killed at the naval battle of Lepanto in October 1571, when he was shot in the left eye by a Turkish arrow, and he was immediately proclaimed to be a heroic martyr, who had played a central role in achieving victory for the allied Christian fleet. In his posthumous portrait, Veronese accordingly showed him in armor, displaying the instrument of his death like a saint with his attribute. It is easy to imagine that in the years and decades following the battle there was considerable demand among Barbarigo’s family and admirers for replicas of the portrait. Another version, reduced to a bust (Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest), was attributed by Rearick to Veronese’s younger brother Benedetto Caliari, but was accepted as an autograph Veronese by John Garton.[6]

Peter Humfrey

March 21, 2019

Provenance

Henry Doetsch [1839-1894], London; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 22 and 24-25 June 1895, no. 43, as by Tintoretto); David L. Einstein [1839-1909], London;[1] his son, Lewis D. Einstein [1877-1967]; gift 1957 to NGA.

Technical Summary

The relatively coarse fabric support has been lined, and the tacking margins have been removed. The x-radiographs reveal slight cusping only on the left edge, indicating that the painting has been cropped on all four sides, but the left side is probably closest to the original edge of the composition. A vertical seam 7 centimeters from the right edge forms part of the original support. The smaller section of fabric on the right is made up of two pieces of fabric joined with a horizontal seam.

The canvas was prepared with an off-white ground, covered with a transparent brown imprimatura. Infrared reflectography at 1.1 to 2.4 microns[1] revealed an underdrawing outlining all the main contours of the figure. It also showed a drawing of a different male head to the left of the sitter, rotated 90 degrees. Dark paint strokes visible with infrared reflectography indicate that this earlier figure was depicted standing and wearing a long robe. The x-radiographs show that originally Barbarigo’s armor was crossed with a broad ribbon.

The paint surface has been badly abraded by overcleaning in the past, and the appearance of the picture is also severely compromised by extensive and insensitive retouching of tears in the original canvas.

Peter Humfrey and Joanna Dunn based on the examination reports by Michael Swicklik and Ina Slama

March 21, 2019

Bibliography
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 136, as School of Veronese.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 123, repro., as School of Veronese.
1972
Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 40, 510, 647.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 364, repro., as School of Veronese.
1976
Pignatti, Terisio. Veronese. 2 vols. Venice, 1976: 1:135.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: 1:531, 2:pl. 369, as Veronese Studio.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 424, repro.
1988
Rearick, W. R. The Art of Paolo Veronese, 1528-1588. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Cambridge, 1988: 108.
1991
Pignatti, Terisio, and Filippo Pedrocco. Veronese: Catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1991: 92.
1995
Pignatti, Terisio, and Filippo Pedrocco. Veronese. 2 vols. Milan, 1995: 1:284.
2008
Garton, John. Grace and Grandeur: The Portraiture of Paolo Veronese. London and Turnhout, 2008: 99, 204.
2009
Ilchman, Frederick, et al. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Musée du Louvre, Paris. Boston, 2009: 284 n. 72.
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