Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto (1518 – 1594)

Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto

Portrait of a Young Man

Venice, 1554

Oil on canvas

121 x 93.3 cm

At the top right corner of this portrait an inscription reads (in Latin), ‘in the year 1554 in the month of May [or March], in the 22nd year of his age’. The actual identity of the young man has unfortunately been lost.

The sitter wears a black, brocaded doublet (fitted jacket) with fine detailing. The shoulders are voluminous and emphasise the man’s physical presence. A belt is buckled around his waist, attaching a pouch with gold hardware and a long tassel, and a scabbard for his sword. He is clearly a person of rank and importance. His hat is unusual for a Venetian sitter. It may indicate he was one of Tintoretto’s international clients, perhaps French.

The name Tintoretto means ‘little dyer,’ alluding to the artist’s childhood spent in his father’s cloth dying workshop. Tintoretto was greatly influenced by Titian (about 1488-1576) and spent a short time in his studio. By the age of twenty, he was running his own.

This painting reflects the standard method used by Tintoretto and his followers in portraiture: the colour palette is limited, the background is plain and shadowy, and the sitter stares seriously towards the viewer. Tintoretto did not treat all subjects like this. He was most famous for his large, colourful, and dynamic paintings of religious subjects in Venetian churches.

Purchased 1937 (No.37.13)

Further reading:

Borenius, Tancred, ‘An Unpublished Portrait by Tintoretto’, Burlington Magazine, 71/145, 1937, pp. 152-53.

Corsato, Carlo, ‘Introduction’, in Lives of Tintoretto, ed. Carlo Corsato, Los Angeles, 2019, pp. 7-28.

Fossaluzza, Giorgio, ‘Nota sui Ritratti del Doge Girolamo Priuli di Jacopo Tintoretto’, in Bearers of a Tradition, ed. Anna Maria Babbi et al., Verona, 2019, pp. 97-107.

Ilchman, Frederick and Robert Echols, ‘Portraitist’, in Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice, ed. Frederick Ilchman and Robert Echols, Washington, D.C., 2018, pp. 144-169.

Nicholas, Tom, Tintoretto: Tradition and Identity, London, 1999, p. 17.

The Green Gallery Project

This artwork was part of a research project into the Barber’s pre-1600 Italian paintings.