DescriptionGIAN LORENZO BERNINI (Italian 1598 - 1680)
Portrait of a Man, possibly Pietro da Cortona, circa 1625 - 30
Oil on canvas
13-3/4 x 15-2/5in.
Barberini Collection, Rome;
Private Collection, Rome;
Property of a Gentleman
Francesco Petrucci, "Papi e Architetti: i Volti Dei Protagonisti," in: Roma Barocca: Bernini, Borromini, Pietro da Cortona, edited by Marcello Fagiolo and Paolo Portoghesi, Rome, Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo, June 15 - October 29, 2006, p.105, p.109, fig. 15.
One of the most exciting periods in the history of art occurred in Rome in the 1620s when artists like the young Poussin vied with their local Italian contemporaries for artistic recognition. Foremost among those Italians was the great sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini who, like Poussin, turned to Venetian art, in particular the work of Titian, for inspiration. Bernini's oeuvre as a painter, while still largely unreconstructed, is a testimony to the example of the Venetian art in its handling of light and use of open brushwork.
Professors Claudio Strinati and Francesco Petrucci have independently confirmed the attribution to Bernini of this striking portrait of a man. Both scholars date the portrait to 1625 - 1630 when Bernini was closely involved with the Barberini family. Strinati has, in fact, found this portrait listed in the 1686 inventory of Maffeo Barberini's collections as no. 351, "A square portrait of circa I palmo of a man with a collar attached to his shirt in a walnut-colored frame with a gold filet, by the hand of Cavaliere Bernini" [Un Ritratto in forma quadrata di p. 1 in circa d'un Homo con collaro attaccato alla Camiscia con cornice color di noce filettata d'oro, mano del Cav. Bernini]. Petrucci supports this identification stating that it is "substantiated both by the work's measurements and square shape and by the description of the portrait."
According to Strinati, the Barberini provenance suggests that the sitter would be "an intellectual or an artist in the service of a noble family around 1625 - 1630," and he proposes that the sitter is the great Roman Baroque painter favored by the Barberini in the early 1630s, Pietro da Cortona. Nicholas Turner's publication, Portraits of Pietro da Cortona, examines this subject in depth, and Strinati also bases his identification of the sitter on works reproduced in that study.
Despite early sources stating that there was something in the region of one hundred fifty to two hundred paintings by Bernini in existence toward the end of the seventeenth century, today they are exceptionally rare. The present portrait is one of only approximately fifteen accepted paintings by Bernini, which have survived. Its immediacy as a portrait of a close associate of the artist has no parallel in Italian art before Velazquez.
Condition report available upon request.
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