FRIEZE MASTERS 2015London
Portrait of a Collector
Esterházy Collection, Hungary and Germany;
Sale Sotheby’s, 19th January 1966, lot no. 28, London; Sale Sotheby’s, 19th March 1981, lot no. 131, New York; Private Collection, Milan
D. Benati, Una Lucrezia e altre proposte per Bartolomeo Passerotti in Paragone, 379, 1981, p. 31, panel 42
F. Porzio, Tre ritratti di Bartolomeo Passerotti in Scritti di storia dell’arte in onore di Federico Zeri, Milan, 1984, II, p. 430
C. Franzoni in Memoria dell’antico nell’arte italiana, Milan, 1984, p. 302, note no. 104 A. Ghirardi, Bartolomeo Passerotti in Pittura Bolognese del ‘500, ed. V. Fortunati Pietrantonio, Bologna, 1986, II, p. 555
C, Höper, Bartolomeo Passarotti, Worms, 1987, II, p. 237, A 38
D. Benati, Antologia di Pittura Emiliana dal XVI al XVIII Secolo. Exhibition Catalogue, Milan, 1988, n.7.
A. Ghirardi, Bartolomeo Passerotti Pittore. Catalogo Generale, 1990, Rimini, p. 170, no. 20 D. Benati, Bartolomeo Passerotti in L' inquietudine del volto da Lotto a Freud, da Tiziano a De Chirico, Exhibition Catalogue, ed. V. Sgarbi, Milan, 2005, no. 5
Antologia di Pittura Emiliana dal XVI al XVIII Secolo, Bologna, Palazzo Davia Bargellini, 5 November- 27 November 1988, no. 7
L' inquietudine del volto da Lotto a Freud, da Tiziano a De Chirico, Lodi, Bipielle Center, 11 November 2005 - 12 March 2006, no. 5
presenting it to the viewer with his right hand, while grasping a letter with his left. To his side stands a table, covered in a dark pink cloth, displaying books, antique coins - one of which seemingly features the image of the Roman Eagle or Aquila - as well as marble and bronze sculptures.
Amongst the objects, some of which are fragmented, there is an expressive head of a balding man, reminiscent of a Roman philosopher. Just behind it, there is a large female torso and further towards the back, a head of a goddess, represented in profile. The sitter is undoubtedly a collector of Roman antiquities and numismatics, a developed trend of the cultural climate of the Cinquecento.
Previously in the renowned Esterházy Collection, this portrait was considered to be a work
by Giovanni Battista Moroni, until 1981 when Daniele Benati rightly suggested an attribution to Bartolomeo Passerotti. Though the naturalism of several details may evoke the work of the Bergamasque Moroni, experts such as Francesco Porzio or Angela Ghirardi all agree with Benati and ascribe the elegance of style and abstract rendering of this portrait to the great Bolognese painter.
A versatile and complex artist, Passerotti was, undoubtedly, one of the most interesting
protagonists of the second half of the Cinquecento in Bologna. While his oeuvre extends from religious subjects to profane compositions, including genre scenes, Passerotti also concentrated on portraiture, a subject he mastered with much talent. Indeed, Guido Reni used to compare his oeuvre to Carracci’s and insisted on saying that, after Titian, there was no one to be found who mastered portraiture better than the “good Passerotto” .
The elegant attitude of the figure who fixes his gaze upon the viewer while proudly
presenting the antique coin, is a peculiarity typical of Passerotti. A specificity already underlined by Malvasia who noted that Passerotti had this habit of adapting each portrait, personalizing it with a particular gesture or attitude that perfectly represents and embodies the subject. Rather than depicting his sitter senseless and inflexible, the artist manages to put his muse in movement and action .
According to the customary Cinquecento portraiture tradition, the sitter is presented
displaying his interests therefore expressing his refinement. In this case, the sitter
emphasizes his culture by showing his collection of books, antique sculpture and coins, assembled with taste and patience. In terms of composition and style, a comparison can be drawn between the present work and another Portrait of a Collector by the artist, now at the Italian Embassy in London, which was probably created a decade later. The sitter holds a similar antique coin in his hand - again, featuring the head of a Roman Emperor, probably Nero - and the sculpture of a goddess in profile in the background is nearly identical to the one presented here, suggesting that the artist used the same model, possibly from a museum in Bologna.
Other similarities are to be found in Passerotti’s Portrait of the Perracchini Family in the Galleria Colonna in Rome (1569) as well as in the Botanist and the Elder Man both created around 1570 and now in the Galleria Spada in Rome. In all these works, Passerotti depicted the sitters with a meticulous and detailed rendering of the faces, hair and beard similar to the present work. Keeping this in mind, it may be possible to situate this portrait at about the same period, between 1570 and 1573, a dating that was accepted both by Daniele Benati and Angela Ghirardi .
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