Portrait of a Gentleman
Portrait of a Gentleman
Portrait of a Gentleman
Portrait of a Gentleman
Portrait of a Gentleman
Portrait of a Gentleman
Portrait of a Gentleman

ITALIAN SCHOOL (18th Century )

Portrait of a Gentleman

c. 1750 to 1800 Italy

Offered by Titan Fine Art

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This captivating portrait of a gentleman abounds in drama and panache. The gentleman has been depicted in a luxurious fur trimmed crimson cloak fastened at the neck with two long braided ropes with tassels. The exquisite coat is made of brocaded silk and is decorated with floral motifs. It is further embellished with multiple rows of frogging, buttons that pass through decorative braid. This is worn over a clean white shirt with a small turnover collar. Contrary to the common cliché, natural hair and wigs were not always powdered as we see in the present example where long hair has been clubbed (or tied) at the back. The portrait is remarkable for its depiction of the attire and is a good example of the upper classes demonstrating their wealth through imagery.

In this highly refined and very beautiful image the artist’s commensurate skill is evident in the portrayal of the fabric. There is a virtuoso treatment and daring exploitation of resonant colors. The outstanding ability to represent texture and pattern of the clothing is utterly sumptuous and the warm rich colours create an alluring image.

The work is similar to Anton Raphael Mengs when he was in Spain and Pompeo Batoni, who carried out many commissions for Europeans during their Grand Tour to Italy. However, the opulent costume has a connection to the Venetian portrait and in technique, the portrait alludes to the great Venetian female artist Rosalba Carriera whose images were more intimate and concentrated solely on the sitter without the ‘distracting’ architecture and props. Her portraits were highly refined and flattering, almost always consisting of a bust-length pose, with the body turned slightly away and the head turned to face the viewer. Carriera had an unusual ability to represent textures and patterns, faithfully re-creating fabrics, gold braid, lace, furs, jewels, hair and skin of her rich and influential patrons. She is most known for the pastel technique but did employ the oil technique as well, however rare.

The portrait is likely to have been commission during the Grand Tour which was a journey to the primarily to France and Italy, to improve the sartorial, social and cultural awareness of well-born young men, and to enable them to make useful contacts, and generally to introduce them to foreign lands and cultures. Most went for two months but some for many years, this was an expected stage in the early lives of the moneyed and upper classes and an expected stage in a man’s growing maturity. Grand Tourists were keen to record what they were seeing would draw the sights themselves. This was a period when all educated English men and women were taught how to draw, so that the idea of picking up a pencil or pen was a natural one. They also wanted their portrait taken and employed the use of local artists who often, but not always, incorporated Italian vistas into the background and great numbers of these paintings and drawings (but also artefacts) made their way back to the Netherlands, England and France. The tour often incorporated Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples. After acquiring a coach in Calais, they would ride on to Paris – their first major stop. Here, they would replace their entire wardrobe (in fact they would acquire everything new - cleanliness, clothes, boots, wigs, handkerchiefs, and possibly earrings).
Height 65.00 cm (25.59 inches)
Width 50.00 cm (19.69 inches)
External Height 80.00 cm (31.50 inches)
External Width 64.00 cm (25.20 inches)
Oil on canvas.
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