Portrait of a Gentleman by Moretto of Brescia

Portrait of a Gentleman by Moretto of Brescia
Portrait of a Gentleman by Moretto of Brescia

The real name of Moretto of Brescia (c. 1498 – 1554) was Alessandro Bonvicino, and for a few years he was one of the main painters of the city of Brescia, where he stood out especially for religious painting. And it is that the history of that city during the first half of the 16th century was quite convulsive, since it was successively under the domination of the Duchy of Milan, the French or theRepublic of Venice, and religion was always an important factor.


Portrait of a Gentleman by Moretto of Brescia

But he didn't only do religious painting, he also created works of a civil nature, and as shown in thisPortrait of a Gentlemanheld by theNational Gallery of London. A work dated 1526, as can be read in the Roman characters at the bottom of the painting.

In fact, it is one of the few aristocratic portraits that have come down to us of this painter who really established a school in his city of Brescia, where he had several outstanding students, such as Giovanni Battista Moroni.

The first thing to know about this canvas is that it is a life-size portrait, since the canvas measures 201 x 92 cm. A scale format that is undoubtedly an inheritance from German painting, which had been previously popularized by Cranach and Holbein. But for the rest of the features, the style must be linkedwith the Venetian school. In fact, there have been historians who claim that Moretto came to study with Titian, and knew both the works of Giorgione and those of Lotto, and also had worked for a time in the city of Bergamo establishing contact with Venetian art. And of course the pose, the attitude of the sitter and even color details are linked to all those backgrounds.

The knight is unknown, but he may be a member of the Avogadro family, a powerful breed from Brescia. The reasons for thinking this way are in the setting of the portrait located in a Renaissance villa like the one that family could have had. And in fact, the painting comes from the palace that his descendants lived in.

Furthermore the costume imitates the military style of the Swiss mercenaries who worked for the Holy Roman Emperor, whose authority they had always defended in Brescia, even in the time when they were most united with the Republic of Venice, staunch enemy of that empire.

Without a doubt Moretto presents us with a good example of the fashion of the moment, and there are several contemporary portraits in which similar characteristics can be seen. Short hair, beard, a red beret, bulging breeches, slashed like the doublet. In addition, a short layer that increases the volume of the figure. Although perhaps the most shocking thing about the portrait is the posture. He leans on a column and from his gesture he seems to hesitate between becoming a warrior or a warrior.poet.

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