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Oil painting - Head of Laurel-Crowned Poet (?)

Head of Laurel-Crowned Poet (?)

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    ca. 1490-ca. 1505 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Solario, Andrea (painted by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Forster

  • Museum number:

    F.1

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Andrea Solario’s earliest paintings show the influence of Antonello da Messina. Early in 1507 he was called to France to decorate the chapel of Cardinal Georges I d’Amboise’s château at Gaillon where he also painted a series of frescoed portraits of the Amboise family (destr. in French Revolution). After his return to Milan, Andrea worked briefly for Cardinal d’Amboise’s nephew and heir, Charles II d’Amboise, Governor of Milan. Solario’s works show a gradual evolution from the sharp precision towards a softer, more graceful manner. His distinctive style combines brilliant colour with influences from Antonello and Leonardo. His art also betrays a remarkably keen understanding of works by the early Flemish masters, which he could easily have encountered in Venice, Milan and France. Also reflecting northern models was his use of a technique combining oil and tempera.
Previously attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (ca. 1467-1516) and Filippo Mazzola (ca.1460-1505), since1962 the V&A picture has been attributed to another Milanese painter, Andrea Solario. Nevertheless, the work closely resembles Boltraffio's Portrait of Gerolamo Casio of ca. 1495 (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan) which similarly depicts a long haired young poet wearing laurel and a red cloak against a dark ground. There is also a similar treatment of light and shade and represention of physiognomy, evident for example in the stongly outlined almond shaped eyes which turn towards the beholder, the broad flat cheeks and slightly pointed chin. A close comparison can also be made with Solario's Portrait of a Young Man dated after 1490 in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.

Physical description

Bust length portrait of a young man, looking outwards towards the beholder, with shoulder length hair and wearing a red tunic over a white shirt, and a black hat encircled with laurel; against a grey-green background

Date

ca. 1490-ca. 1505 (painted)

Artist/maker

Solario, Andrea (painted by)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on panel

Dimensions

Height: 24.2 cm estimate, Width: 20.3 cm estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by John Forster, 1876

John Forster (1812-1876) was born in Newcastle, the son of a cattle dealer. Educated at Newcastle Grammar School and University College London, he was a student in the Inner Temple 1828 and qualified as a barrister 1843. Began his career as a journalist as dramatic critic of the True Sun 1832; he later edited the Foreign Quarterly Review (1842-3), the Daily News (1846) and most famously the Examiner (1847-55). He was the author of numerous works, notably the Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith (1848) and the Life of Charles Dickens (1872-4). He bequeathed his extensive collection of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, prints, drawings, watercolours and oil paintings to the V&A.
See also South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Dyce and Forster Collections. With Engravings and Facsimiles. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 193, Piccadilly, London. 1880. Chapter V. Biographical Sketch of Mr. Forster. pp.53-73, including 'Portrait of Mr. Forster' illustrated opposite p.53.

Extract from Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix

Historical significance: Andrea Solario’s earliest signed and dated painting, the Virgin and Child with Saints (1495; Milan, Brera), shows the influence of Antonello da Messina. Early in 1507 he was called to France to decorate the chapel of Cardinal Georges I d’Amboise’s château at Gaillon. Andrea was at Gaillon until 1509, where he also painted a series of frescoed portraits of the Amboise family (destr. in French Revolution). After his return to Milan, Andrea worked briefly for Cardinal d’Amboise’s nephew and heir, Charles II d’Amboise, Governor of Milan. Solario’s works show a gradual evolution from the sharp precision towards a softer, more graceful manner. His distinctive style combines brilliant colour with influences from Antonello and Leonardo. His art also betrays a remarkably keen understanding of works by the early Flemish masters, which he could easily have encountered in Venice, Milan and France. Also reflecting northern models was his use of a technique combining oil and tempera.
F.1 has been previously attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (ca. 1467-1516) and Filippo Mazzola (ca.1460-1505). In 1962 Fritz Heinemann gave the work instead to another Milanese painter, Andrea Solario. The work closely resembles Boltraffio's Portrait of Gerolamo Casio of ca. 1495 (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan) which similarly depicts a long haired young poet wearing laurel and a red cloak against a dark ground. There is also a similar treatment of light and shade and represention of physiognomy, evident for example in the stongly outlined almond shaped eyes which turn towards the beholder, the broad flat cheeks and slightly pointed chin. A close comparison can also be made with Solario's Portrait of a Young Man dated after 1490 in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.

Historical context note

In his encyclopaedic work, Historia Naturalis, the ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder described the origins of painting in the outlining of a man's projected shadow in profile. In the ancient period, profile portraits were found primarily in imperial coins. With the rediscovery and the increasing interest in the Antique during the early Renaissance, artists and craftsmen looked back to this ancient tradition and created medals with profile portraits on the obverse and personal devise on the reverse in order to commemorate and celebrate the sitter. Over time these profile portraits were also depicted on panel and canvas and progressively evolved towards three-quarter and eventually frontal portraits. These portraits differ in many ways from the notion of portraiture commonly held today as they especially aimed to represent an idealised image of the sitter and reflect therefore a different conception of identity. The sitter's likeness was more or less recognisable but his particular status and familiar role were represented in his garments and attributes referring to his character. In the16th century especially metaphorical and visual attributes were included to elaborate highly complex portraits.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Head of a Laurel-Crowned Poet (?)', attributed to Andrea Solario, ca. 1490-ca. 1505

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 186-7, cat. no. 223.
Forster collection : a catalogue of the paintings, manuscripts, autograph letters, pamphlets, etc., London : Printed for H.M.S.O. by Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1893, p. 1
H. F. Cook in Burlington Fine Arts Club, Pictures of the Milanese School, 1898, p. ix.
Bernhard Berenson, Italian pictures of the renaissance Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1932, p. 355
Bernhard Berenson, The Venetian painters of the renaissance, with an index to their works New York, London, G.P. Putnam's sons, 1897.
Fritz Heinemann, Giovanni Bellini e i Belliniani (tr. Lucio Grossato e Franco Barbieri) Venezia : N. Pozza, [1962]-1991, vol. 1 p. 268, no. 353, vol II fig. 826.

Production Note

This painting was previously attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio and subsequently to Filippo Mazzola, in 1962 Frizt Heinemann attributed the work instead to Andrea Solario.

Materials

Oil paint; Panel

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Wreath of laurel

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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