A rare portrait, by the Italian Renaissance artist Jacopo Bassano (1516-1592), is to go on display at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham from Friday 29 October thanks to a generous loan courtesy of the London fine art dealers and agents Robilant + Voena.
A Portrait of a Man in Armour, painted in oils on canvas in around 1560, is the second work by the artist Jacopo da Ponte – known as Bassano after the town in Northern Italy where he was born – to hang in the gallery. Bassano is best known today by his colourful genre and religious scenes, as exemplified by his wonderful Adoration of the Magi, also painted in around 1560, which is on permanent display in the Barber’s Renaissance gallery. However, as an early biographer claimed, the Venetian School artist was ‘no less known for his portraits,’ as one might expect from such a master of naturalistic detail.
The three-quarter-length portrait shows an unknown man in full body armour, depicted in a simple interior of classical architecture. Gazing over his left shoulder, the sitter’s left hand rests elegantly on his hip, while in his right hand he holds a partisan, a ceremonial spear traditionally used by those who formed the guard of honour of princes. Painted with a restrained palette, the glints and reflections of the soldier’s armour shows Bassano’s characteristic mastery of texture and material.
Robert Wenley, Head of Collections & Learning at the Barber said: ‘This work is an outstanding example of Bassano’s portraiture and is worthy of being hung amongst our exquisite permanent collection. As well as complimenting our own Bassano, it is also comparable to the Barber’s three-quarter-length portrait of similar date and origin, A Portrait of a Young Man, painted by Bassano’s Venetian contemporary Jacopo Tintoretto. The Barber is very grateful to Robilant + Voena for the loan of A Portrait of a Man in Armour and we are sure this painting will be a major attraction for visitors over the next two years.’
A Portrait of a Man in Armour will be on display in the Barber’s Renaissance gallery until September 2012.