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Oil painting - Portrait of a Geronimo Foscarini, Procurator of St. Marks
  • Portrait of a Geronimo Foscarini, Procurator of St. Marks
    Tintoretto, Jacopo, born 1519 - died 1594
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Portrait of a Geronimo Foscarini, Procurator of St. Marks

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (painted)

  • Date:

    late 16th century -early 17th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tintoretto, Jacopo, born 1519 - died 1594 (painted by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss Margaret Coutts Trotter

  • Museum number:

    1445-1882

  • Gallery location:

    On display at Osterley Park House, London

Jacopo Tintoretto (1519-1594) was the most prolific painter working in Venice in the later 16th century. His was the son of a cloth-dyer and his adopted nickname 'tintoretto', meaning 'the little dyer', advertised his artisan background. In addition to his religious and mythological works, Jacopo painted many portraits of prominent Venetians. He worked in a quick, abbreviated style and his intentional the lack of conventional finish was seen by some as careless and caused controversy among his contemporaries.
The sitter in this work, identified by the inscription as Geronimo Foscarini, wears a crimson velvet robe and a richly patterned stole draped over his shoulder identifying him as a procurator, a Venetian civic official similar to a chancellor or senator. His position of authority is conveyed by his serious expression and his firm grip on the table containing a book known as a commissione dogale which contained the contracts of duty and conduct presented by doges to Venetian patricians elected to oversee the Republic's mainland and maritime territories. With its saturated colours and swift brushwork, this portrait recalls Tintoretto's later painting style of the 1570s-80s. While not as finely executed as autograph works by Tintoretto, the style and execution of the work appear to fit with a dating in the late 16th or early 17th century.

Physical description

A bearded man stands dressed in crimson velvet robes, a richly patterned stole is draped over his left shoulder, he rests his left hand on a parapet beside a preciously decorated book and clutching the folds of his garment in his right hand

Place of Origin

Venice (painted)

Date

late 16th century -early 17th century (painted)

Artist/maker

Tintoretto, Jacopo, born 1519 - died 1594 (painted by)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'Hieronimum Foscarenus/Qm Antonio'
Inscribed upper left

Dimensions

Height: 110.8 cm estimate, Width: 95.3 cm estimate

Object history note

Given by Miss Margaret Coutts Trotter, 1882
On loan to the National Gallery from 1895-1919

Historical significance: Jacopo Tintoretto (1519-1594) was the most prolific painter working in Venice in the later 16th century. His father was a cloth-dyer, a common and respectable occupation in Renaissance Venice and Jacopo's adopted nickname 'tintoretto' meaning 'the little dyer' advertised his artisan background. We know little of his artistic training, although early sources report that he was expelled from Titian's workshop after a short period, as a result either of the jealousy or incomprehension of his master. He achieved recognition in 1548 with a work commissioned by the Scuola Grande di S Marco and in his mature years worked extensively on decorations for the Doge's Palace and for the meeting-house of the Scuola Grande di S Rocco. In addition to his religious and mythological works, Jacopo painted many portraits of prominent Venetians. He worked in a quick, abbreviated style and his intentional the lack of conventional finish was seen by some as careless and caused controversy among his contemporaries.
The sitter in this work, identified by the inscription as Geronimo Foscarini, wears a crimson velvet robe and a richly patterned stole draped over his shoulder identifying him as a procurator, a Venetian civic official similar to a chancellor or senator. His position of authority is conveyed by his serious expression and his firm grip on the table containing what an official book known as a 'commissione dogale', the book of contracts of duty and conduct presented by doges to Venetian patricians elected to oversee the Republic's mainland and maritime territories. A similar book appears in Giovanni Battista Moroni's portrait of Jacopo Foscarini of ca. 1575 (Budapest) who was Podestà , or Chief Magistrate, of Padua. Inside, the book typically opened with a full-page illuminated frontispiece with the recipient's portrait, an inscription of his age, an image of his patron and/or namesake saints, and other iconography of personal significance; the text also contained the names of the Doge and recipient, location, duration and terms of the appointment. The book in the V&A portrait has been identified by Dr. Anne-Marie Eze as a sixteenth-century red Morocco binding, tooled in blind and gold with medallions (the central one probably with the winged Lion of St. Mark/Venice or the Foscarini arms), with four ties (3 visible) and, attached to the lower spine, the seal of the Serenissima with a tassel. The book was a presentation copy retained by the governor, who commissioned the illumination inside. Another copy was kept in the Ducal Palace.
With its saturated colours and swift brushwork, this portrait recalls Tintoretto's later painting style of the 1570s-80s. While not as finely executed as autograph works by Tintoretto, the style and execution of the work appear to fit with a dating in the late 16th or early 17th century.

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 device 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. The 16th century especially developed the ideal of metaphorical and visual attributed elaborating highly complex portrait paintings in many formats including at the end of the century full-length portraiture. Along with other devices specific to the Italian Renaissance such as birth trays (deschi da parto), wedding chest decorated panels (cassoni or forzieri), portrait paintings participated to the emphasis on the individual.

Descriptive line

Oil painting,'Portrait of Geronimo Foscarini, Procurator of St. Mark's ', Manner of Jacopo Tintoretto, late 16th -early 17th century

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

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 293, cat. no. 365.
National Gallery, London, An abridged catalogue, etc. London : H.M.S.O., 1906, p. 256, no. 1489.
Helena Katalin Szépe, 'Civic and Artistic Identity in Illuminated Venetian Documents', Bulletin du Musée Hongrois des Beaux-Arts, 95 (2001), pp. 59-78.
Laura Nuvoloni, 'Commissioni Dogali: Venetian Bookbindings in the British Library', in David Pearson (ed.), For the love of the binding : studies in bookbinding history
London : British Library ; New Castle, DE : Oak Knoll Press, 2000.

Production Note

Formerly attributed to Tintoretto (1893) and catalogued as Venetian School in the National Gallery Catalogue (1909). Kauffmann (1973) described this work as 'A Venetian Nobleman' and attributed it to the Venetian School of the 18th or early 19th century. While not as finely executed as autograph works by Tintoretto, the style and execution of the work appear to fit with a dating in the late 16th or early 17th century.

Materials

Oil paint; Canvas

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Procurators

Categories

Paintings; Portraits

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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