The Tailor (Il Sarto, or Il Tagliapanni)

oil painting of a bearded young man wearing an embroidered cream-colored doublet and red hose. He stands at a wooden table and holds a pair of iron tailor's scissors as well as a piece of black fabric

Giovanni Battista Moroni 
The Tailor (Il Sarto, or Il Tagliapanni), ca. 1570
Oil on canvas
39 1/8 x 30 1/4 in. (99.5 x 77 cm)
The National Gallery, London (NG 697)
© The National Gallery, London

 
Moroni’s most celebrated painting, The Tailor is unusual in Renaissance portraiture for its presentation of a man performing his trade. It has been debated whether its subject is indeed a tailor, a cloth-cutter, or a cloth merchant, or if the picture is an “emblematical portrait” in allusion to the unknown sitter’s name (the surname Tagliapanni, for example, meaning “cloth-cutter”). Presumably only a tailor would mark up a piece of fabric with chalk, as is seen here. Among Moroni’s portraits of nobles and aristocrats, the depiction of a wealthy tailor points to the range in social status of Moroni’s sitters and his interest in objects of function (as in the shears), as well as of luxury. The tailor’s clothes are fashionable and costly, but they are made of wool and not the more sumptuous silk fabrics worn by Moroni’s most socially elevated subjects.