One of the earliest Italian group portraits, this painting depicts Cardinal Bandinello Sauli and three companions gathered around a table covered with a Turkish carpet. Set within a narrow space closed off by a rich green wall hanging, the figures appear to have been discussing the geography manuscript lying open before them.
Bandinello Sauli of Genoa was elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope Julius II in 1511. In 1516, when this painting was completed, Sauli was at the height of his prestige and influence in Rome. His fortunes quickly changed, for he was imprisoned in 1517 for plotting against Pope Leo X.
The artist, Sebastiano Luciani, is better known as Sebastiano del Piombo from his appointment in 1531 to the office of Keeper of the Papal Seal, or piombo. Probably born in Venice, his earliest artistic influences were undoubtedly Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione. The portrait of Sauli and his companions, with its varying shades of red, green, white, and black, reflects the Venetian love of resonant color. In 1511 Sebastiano moved to Rome to study the works of the High Renaissance artists there. The solidity and clarity of his life-sized figures reveal in particular the impact of Michelangelo, who befriended the young Venetian shortly after his arrival. Remaining in Rome until 1527, Sebastiano became one of the most sought after portraitists in the city.
lower right on folded paper: 1516; and the signature: ...S Faciebat; center right on bell near top: EN.TO.R.; on bell near bottom: B.DE.SAVLIS.CAR (abbreviation for _Bandinellus de Saulis Cardinalis_)
Palazzo Giacomo Balbi del fu Costantino, Genoa, by 1780. Henry Labouchère, 1st baron Taunton [d. 1869], Quantock Lodge, Bridgwater, Somerset, by 1854; probably his widow, Mary Matilda [d. 1892]; probably by inheritance to their daughter, Mary Dorothy Stanley [d. 1920], Quantock Lodge, or her son, Captain Edward Arthur Vesey Stanley [1879-1941], Quantock Lodge, until at least 1912. Henry George Charles Lascelles, Viscount Lascelles and later 6th earl of Harewood [1882-1947], London, and Harewood House, Leeds, Yorkshire, by 1920; by inheritance to his son, George Henry Hubert Lascelles, 7th earl of Harwood [1923-2011], Harewood House; sold 1949 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
- Royal Academy, London, 1870, as The Medici Family.
- Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2002-2003, no. 27, color repro., as Cardinal Bandinello Sauli and Three Companions.
- 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: 104, no. 42, repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 166, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 122.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 109, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV-XVI Century. London, 1968: 166-167, fig. 399.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 324, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: 1:422-423; 2:pl. 302.
- Sutton, Denys. "Robert Langton Douglas. Part IV." Apollo 110 (July 1979): 51 , fig. 12.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 206, no. 252, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 370, repro.
- Jungic, Josephine. "Prophesies of the Angelic Pastor in Sebastiano del Piombo's Portrait of Cardinal Bandinelli Sauli and Three Companions." In Prophetic Rome in the High Renaissance Period. ed. Majorie Reeves. Oxford, 1992: 344+, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 32, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 96-97, no. 71, color repro.
- Strinati, Claudio, Bernd Wolfgang Lindemann, et al. Sebastiano del Piombo 1485-1547. Exh. cat. Palazzo di Venezia, Rome; Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Milan, 2008: 56, 57 fig. 5, 170-171, no. 32, repro. (not in the exhibition).
- Ghia, Andrea Walter. "Casa con villa delli signori Sauli." Atti della Società ligure di Storia Patria, ns. 49 (123), fasc. 2 (2009): 103, fig. 1.
- Hyde, Helen. Cardinal Bendinello Sauli and church patronage in sixteenth-century Italy. Woodbridge, UK and Rochester, NY, 2009: 113-128, repro.
- Tostmann, Oliver. "Sebastiano del Piombos Bildnis Bendinello Saulis und das Kardinalsporträt im frühen Cinquecento." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 3 (2011): 311-348, fig. 1, fig. 16 (detail).