All Objects

  • oil painting of man praying in front of Madonna and Child

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child, ca. 1555
    Oil on canvas
    23 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (59.7 x 64.8 cm)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection (1939.1.114)
    Courtesy National Gallery of Art Washington


    Derived from the tradition of the donor portrait, the sacred portrait is a genre invented by Moroni. The artist’s three surviving sacred portraits (one shown here, Gentleman in Contemplation of the Baptism of Christ, and Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael) are in this exhibition united for the first time. In all three, portraits of contemporary sitters who appear to pray to, or before, sacred figures dominate the composition. Moroni distinguishes between the mortal and divine through style: here, the young man seems to have been painted from life with the naturalistic effect characteristic of Moroni’s portraits, while the Madonna and Child are based on a print by Albrecht Dürer and are rendered in the abstracted, stylized mode typical of Moroni’s religious paintings.

  • engraving of Madonna wearing crown and holding Child

    Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)
    Virgin and Child on a Crescent Moon with a Starry Crown and Scepter, dated 1516
    4 9/16 x 2 15/16 in. (11.6 x 7.4 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Fletcher Fund, 1919 (19.73.39)


    Moroni derived the sacred figures in the Gentleman in Contemplation before the Madonna and Child from this popular devotional print, one of four versions produced by Dürer. Why Moroni chose this model is unknown; perhaps the portrait’s sitter owned an impression of it. Transforming Dürer’s image into a more austere yet more intimate depiction of the mother and child, Moroni eliminated the Virgin’s ornate crown and scepter, presenting instead the Christ Child clutching her finger. As in the print, he also holds an apple, symbol of the fall of humankind and thus of Christ’s role as the redeemer of sin.

  • painting of man praying over the scene of the baptism of Christ

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Gentleman in Contemplation of the Baptism of Christ, mid-1550s 
    Oil on canvas 
    41 x 44 1/2 in. (104 x 113 cm)
    Etro Collection


    As in Moroni’s two other surviving sacred portraits, (Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child, and Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael) the unidentified sitter appears to have been studied from life while the sacred scene beyond him is stylized. Why the sitter chose to be associated with St. John the Baptist is unknown; the saint may have been his namesake (“Giovanni Battista”). The figures of Christ and the Baptist, whose attenuated limbs hold affected poses, reappear almost exactly in an altarpiece painted by Moroni a few years later. The young man’s openwork collar and cuffs have been meticulously rendered. Like the collar and cuffs in Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child, they may have been made with the aid of a pattern book like those by Matteo Pagano, (see examples of embroidery, and openwork) which encouraged women to produce needlework as both a fashionable and virtuous pursuit.

  • woodcut pattern

    Matteo Pagano (1515–1588)
    Ornamento delle Belle & Virtuose Donne
    Venice: Matteo Pagano, 1554
    7 1/2 x 5 7/8 in. (19 x 15 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Rogers Fund, 1921 (21.15.2bis[1–48])

    The exquisite needlework on the collars and cuffs of the unidentified young men in the Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and the Gentleman in Contemplation of the Baptism of Christ is painted by Moroni with exceptional precision. Pattern books like these by the Venetian Matteo Pagano — a mapmaker, printer, medalist, and book and print dealer —  promoted embroidery (as shown here) and openwork as upstanding activities for women, as indicated by their titles (“Ornament of Beautiful and Virtuous Women” and “New Garden of Needlepoint and Knotwork for the Exercise and Ornament of Women,” respectively).
  • woodcut pattern

    Matteo Pagano (1515–1588)
    Giardineto Novo di Punti Tagliati et Gropposi per Exercitio & Ornamento delle Donne
    Venice: Matteo Pagano, 1554
    7 5/8 x 6 3/8 in. (19.4 x 16.2 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Rogers Fund, 1921 (21.15.1bis [1–48])

    The exquisite needlework on the collars and cuffs of the unidentified young men in the Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and the Gentleman in Contemplation of the Baptism of Christ is painted by Moroni with exceptional precision. Pattern books like these by the Venetian Matteo Pagano — a mapmaker, printer, medalist, and book and print dealer —  promoted embroidery and openwork (as shown here) as upstanding activities for women, as indicated by their titles (“Ornament of Beautiful and Virtuous Women” and “New Garden of Needlepoint and Knotwork for the Exercise and Ornament of Women,” respectively).
  • oil painting of male and female adoring Madonna, Child, and St. Michael

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael, ca. 1557–60
    Oil on canvas
    35 1/4 x 38 1/2 in. (89.5 x 97.8 cm)
    Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund (62.20)
    © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond / Katherine Wetzel

    This sacred portrait features background figures of the Madonna and Child modeled on those in an altarpiece by Moroni’s teacher, Moretto da Brescia, in the Church of Sant’Eufemia, Verona, while the unidentified couple appears to have been studied from life. The prayer book on the ledge suggests their devotional practice. Moroni’s sacred portraits have been associated with the contemplative prayer popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Exercitia Spiritualia, in which devotees are instructed to imagine sacred scenes as they pray. The painting may present the sitters with the object of their contemplation visualized in paint, specifically, as instructed on the first day of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises program, “our Lady and the angel saluting her,” that is, the Virgin with Archangel Michael, whose scales symbolize the judgment of souls and sin.
  • photo of open devotional book

    St. Ignatius of Loyola
    Exercitia Spiritualia
    Rome: Apud Antonium Bladum, 1548
    6 1/8 x 4 3/8 in. (15.5 x 11 cm)
    Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (49043050)


    Moroni’s sacred portraits have been associated with the contemplative prayer popularized by texts such as St. Ignatius’s Exercitia Spiritualia (Spiritual Exercises). One of the most popular devotional books in the history of Christianity, the Exercitia Spiritualia was written by the founder of the Jesuit order in his native Spanish and first published in Latin in 1548. The four-week program instructs the devotee to imagine using all five senses for full immersion in the contemplation of sacred episodes. The text displayed here instructs the reader to confront human sin — as may be visualized in Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael — by first acknowledging the sins of all humanity and then the intercession of the Virgin and Archangel Michael:

    "This will be to see the different persons: First, those on the face of the earth, in such great diversity in dress and in manner of acting. Some are white, some black; some at peace, and some at war; some weeping, some laughing; some well, some sick; some coming into the world, and some dying; etc. Secondly, I will see and consider the Three Divine Persons seated on the royal dais or throne of the Divine Majesty. They look down upon the whole surface of the earth, and behold all nations in great blindness, going down to death and descending into hell. Thirdly, I will see our Lady and the angel saluting her. I will reflect upon this to draw profit from what I see."

  • oil painting of young woman in a red dress with a tall white collar. She also wears multiple necklaces

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Bust of Isotta Brembati, ca. 1550
    Oil on canvas
    21 5/8 x 18 1/2 in. (55 x 47 cm)
    Accademia Carrara, Bergamo (58AC00087)
    Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

    This is believed to be the earliest of Moroni’s independent portraits of women, which number about fifteen of the nearly one hundred twenty-five portraits attributed to him today. Identified in the nineteenth century as the Bergamasque noblewoman and poet Isotta Brembati, the sitter was painted again by Moroni at a later date in the full-length seated portrait; she may have been the conduit for Moroni’s painting of several other members of her family in the 1550s and 1560s. Possibly depicting Isotta at sixteen years of age, this portrait may have been commissioned as a gift for her future husband, Lelio Secco d’Aragona di Calcio, who left her widowed some time before 1561, when she married Gian Gerolamo Grumelli, the subject of Moroni’s Man in Pink.
  • oil painting of bearded man wearing white religious robes, in almost full profile, surrounded by a painted fictive wooden frame

    Giovanni Battista Moroni 
    Lay Brother with a Fictive Frame, ca. 1557
    Oil on canvas
    21 3/4 x 19 7/8 in. (55.2 x 50.5 cm)
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main (904)

    One of Moroni’s most accomplished portraits despite its modest size and seemingly humble sitter, this depiction of an unidentified lay brother of an uncertain monastic order (several wearing white habits) raises questions. What is the purpose of the fictive wood frame painted on the canvas — which is so convincing that it has often been mistaken for an actual frame — and consequently, where, how, and for what purpose would the portrait have been displayed? The visible brushstrokes that articulate the sitter’s wrinkled, sunburnt face are unusual in Moroni’s practice and appear only in Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova and Giovanni Bressani.
  • oil painting of an elderly woman, dressed in black, and wearing a white veil standing behind a stone parapet

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova, dated 1557
    Oil on canvas
    36 x 27 in. (91.4 x 68.6 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915 (30.95.255)
    Inscription: LVCRETIA NOBILISS. ALEXIS ALARDI / BERGOMENSIS FILIA HONORATISS. / FRANCISCI CATANEI VERTVATIS / VXOR DIVAE ANNAE ALBINENSE / TEMPLVM IPSA STATVENDV CVRAVIT. / M.D.LVII. [Lucrezia, daughter of the most noble Alessio Agliardi of Bergamo, wife of the most honorable Francesco Cataneo Vertova, herself founded the church of Sant’Anna in Albino. 1557].


    The inscription credits the noblewoman Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova with founding, in 1525, the Carmelite church and convent of Sant’Anna in Moroni’s native Albino, where the portrait hung until the Napoleonic suppressions of the late eighteenth century. Widowed at a young age, Vertova appears to have been a tertiary of the convent. The longstanding identification of her as its abbess is unsupported by documentary evidence. She wears a brown dress, clasped partlet, and veil that are appropriate to her social standing and not, as has been proposed in the past, the costume of a nun. Rendered with visible brushstrokes, her wrinkled skin and goiter contrast with her smooth hands. The discordance suggests Moroni’s use of stand-in models, painting from life his sitters’ faces at a separate time than the rest of the portrait.

  • oil painting of bearded man in slight profile, with inscription at bottom

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Bust Portrait of a Young Man with an Inscription, ca. 1560
    Oil on canvas
    18 5/8 x 15 5/8 in. (47.2 x 39.8 cm)
    The National Gallery, London; Layard Bequest, 1916 (NG 3129)
    Inscriptions: DVM SPIRITVS / HOS REGET ARTVS [As long as breath animates these limbs], from Virgil’s Aeneid IV, 336; below, in gold-colored ink in a different script, ANNOR XXX [of thirty years].
    © The National Gallery, London

    The inscription from Virgil’s Aeneid quotes Aeneas professing his commitment to Dido, queen of Carthage, as he is forced to abandon her. This may connote amorous devotion, though the passage appears on a number of sixteenth-century portrait medals as a statement of religious fidelity. Its significance here is unknown. The painting of the parapet and inscription on top of the figure was an unusual compositional change in Moroni’s portraiture. He achieves a sense of immediacy through the animated expression of the raised eyebrow and cocked head and by turning the body nearly perpendicular to the picture plane. These effects did not always appeal to later tastes: in the nineteenth century, the body was overpainted to make it face more frontally (this has since been removed) and a canvas strip added above the head to make Moroni’s close crop less dramatic (this remains today).
  • Oil painting of a young woman in a pink dress. Her neck is surrounded by a layered white ruff and a thick jeweled necklace hangs to her mid-torso.

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1575
    Oil on canvas
    20 3/8 x 16 3/8 in. (51.8 x 41.5 cm)
    Private collection
    Photo Michael Bodycomb


    The unidentified young woman, probably from Moroni’s native Albino, wears a piercing expression and a sumptuous dress apparently of brocaded silk with silver wire. Such textiles (see the fragment of brocaded velvet) challenged artists to convey various materials and their effects. For example, Moroni communicates the shimmer of the textile’s silver wire through fine, slightly undulating lines of white paint. His diverse handling of paint is demonstrated by the extraordinary detail in the sitter’s face and ruff, by the looser paint application in the dress, and, in the necklace, by an illusion of gold and gems that upon close examination dissolves into dabs of paint.

  • closeup of textile

    Italian or Spanish
    Fragment of Brocaded Velvet, 16th century
    Composite fragment of red cut velvet voided on a blue ground with a pattern weft of yellow silk and paired drawn wire and details brocaded in silver and silver-gilt filé bouclé
    11 3/8 x 22 3/4 in. (28.9 x 57.8 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gift of Nanette B. Kelekian, in honor of Olga Raggio, 2002 (2002.494.598)
    Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York / Art Resource, NY

    Photomicrograph of velvet fragment at 20x magnification 
    Photo Cristina Balloffet Carr, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Like these joined fragments, whose blue color was presumably more vibrant in the sixteenth century, the pink textile worn by the sitter in Portrait of a Young Woman may have been woven in silk and brocaded with silver-gilt and silver thread, with fine wire woven across the ground to create a shimmering effect. The production of textiles like these — a specialty of Florence but also made in Lombardy — was labor-intensive and extremely costly. For example, each filé (metal strip wrapped around a silk core) would have been wrapped by hand (see detail image) and the loops raised individually as the filé was brocaded (or woven) in, creating the characteristic bouclé effect of raised hoops.
  • oil painting of red-haired woman wearing a turquoise gown and black overdress studded with what appear to be metal beads. Also wears a pearl necklace from which hangs a gold pendant cross.

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Portrait of a Woman,  ca. 1575−79
    Oil on canvas
    19 1/4 x 16 1/2 in. (49 x 42 cm)
    Private collection
    Photo Michael Bodycomb


    Like most of the women Moroni painted, the sitter wears clothing and accessories that display her wealth and status, and there are no identifying attributes or inscriptions. Her pendant cross, like that worn in the full-length portrait of Isotta Brembati, is suspended from a pearl necklace. The sitter was recently proposed to be Isotta Brembati — and thus the portrait proposed to be a third portrait of Isotta by Moroni — but the identification is difficult to confirm as the physiognomic similarities to the other portraits of Isotta (Bust of Isotta Brembati, and Isotta Brembati, both in this exhibition) are relatively generic. The sitter’s style of dress is similar to that in Moroni’s Pace Rivola Spini, which suggests that the present portrait was painted late in the artist’s career.

  • oil painting of bearded young man wearing black garment. In his hands he holds a sculpture of a nude male torso.

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Alessandro Vittoria, ca. 1551
    Oil on canvas
    32 1/2 x 25 5/8 in. (82.5 x 65 cm)
    Gemäldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (78)


    The sculptor Alessandro Vittoria owned at least five painted portraits of himself by different artists. Presumably, this is one of the “two large portraits” of him mentioned in the inventory made after his death. The thinness of the painted flesh on the face and the depiction of a figure, with a rolled sleeve, in the process of studying, displaying, or working on a sculpture seem to anticipate Moroni’s Tailor. The portrait was probably painted about 1551, when both painter and sculptor were in Vittoria’s native city of Trent. The precise nature of the sculpture held by the sitter is unclear, and an identical object is not known in Vittoria’s surviving oeuvre. Along with a similar fragment in Moroni’s Man in Pink, it raises the question of the role in Moroni’s artistic practice of classical sculpture, like the antique torso.

  • nude male torso on base

    Nude Male Torso, 2nd century CE
    14 1/4 x 7 1/4 x 3 3/4 in. (36.2 x 18.4 x 9.5 cm)
    Detroit Institute of Arts; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Booth (64.575)
    Detroit Institute of Arts / Bridgeman Images

    Sculptural fragments such as this antique male torso appear in Moroni’s Alessandro Vittoria and The Man in Pink. In The Man in Pink, the fallen sculpture appears to be allegorical, while in Alessandro Vittoria, it seems to be simply an object in the sculptor’s studio. Throughout the Renaissance, fragments like this were studied and collected by artists who used them as points of departure for figural invention. This may be a Roman reproduction of a fourth-century BCE Greek model and, as the interventions visible on its surface attest, was no doubt used and displayed in various ways during its history.
  • Oil painting of bearded nobleman leaning against a stone ledge. He wears a black jerkin over red slashed sleeves and soft black hat. A gold-hilt rapier sits on his left hip

    Giovanni Battista Moroni (1520/24–1579/80)
    Gabriel de la Cueva, dated 1560
    Oil on canvas
    44 1/8 x 33 1/8 in. (112 x 84 cm)
    Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin (79.01)
    Inscription: AQVI ESTO SIN TEMOR / Y DELA MVERTE / NO HE PAVOR. [I am here without fear and of death I have no dread]; below, “M.D.LX. / Io: Bap. Moronus. p.” [1560 / Giovanni Battista Moroni painted it].
    bpk Bildagentur / Staatliche Museen, Berlin / Jörg P. Anders / Art Resource, NY


    One of Moroni’s most prestigious sitters, Gabriel de la Cueva y Girón, Count of Ledesma and Huelma, became viceroy of Navarre in 1560, fifth duke of Alburquerque in 1563, and served as governor of Milan from 1564 until his death in 1571. How and when he and Moroni met is unknown. They may have been introduced by Isotta Brembati or others among the pro-Spanish elite in Bergamo. The Spanish inscription reportedly recurs in the dukes of Alburquerque family history. Here, it draws attention to the sitter’s prominently displayed rapier. The hilt type, typical of the mid-sixteenth century, is similar to that of the rapier produced near Moroni’s Bergamo.

  • photo of thin sword, or rapier

    Northern Italian
    Rapier,  ca. 1550/60
    Steel, gilt iron, wood, brass and copper wire
    46 7/8 x 10 in. (119 cm x 25.5 cm overall)
    Imperial Armoury, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (A 683)

    This rapier (a long thin sword suitable for thrusting) bears on its ricasso (the unsharpened part of the blade just above the knuckle guard) a sailing ship, which is the maker’s mark of the city of Nave, near Brescia and not far from Moroni’s Bergamo. The hilt — the same type as that in Gabriel de la Cueva — is typical of its time in its somewhat heavier form with relatively short, straight quillons (arms of the crossbar). In the second half of the sixteenth century, these elements become lighter and thinner.
  • oil painting of man with reddish beard holding a letter. He wears luxurious dark clothing edged in fur

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Bearded Man with a Letter, dated 1561
    Oil on canvas
    37 5/8 x 29 1/8 in. (95.5 x 73.3 cm)
    Private Collection, courtesy Fabrizio Moretti
    Inscription: On the column fragment, M.D.LXI. / Io. Bap. Moronus. p. [1561 / Giovanni Battista Moroni painted it]; on the letter, Magco [Magnifico]; Batt. [Battista] / Marini (?) / Bergamo.
    © Gianni Canali

    Holding a letter in his left hand, the sitter offers clues to his identity. The form of address Mag. (Magnifico) indicates a high social status; the word Bergamo, near the bottom of the paper, presumably alludes to where he was from; and what may be — though the inscription is very difficult to read — the given name Batt. (Battista) and the surname Marini suggest that he might be identified with a Battista Marini, resident of Albino (close to Bergamo), born in 1521. The exquisite fur-trimmed and lined jerkin represents extremely costly tailoring. The nearly full-frontal pose is novel in Moroni’s corpus; only two of his other portraits, both of seated figures, approach the provocative frontality presented here. It has been suggested that this portrait inspired Rembrandt’s similarly fur-clad Nicolaes Ruts. A Moroni portrait was owned by one of Rembrandt’s patrons, Jan Six, and Rembrandt may very well have seen it.
  • oil painting of seated elderly man wearing a black doublet and a black skull cap. His arms rests on a stack of books, and a sheet of paper rests in his lap

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Giovanni Bressani,  dated 1562
    Oil on canvas
    45 3/4 x 35 in. (116.2 x 88.8 cm)
    National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Purchased by Private Treaty, 1977 (NG 2347)
    Inscriptions: On the base of foot-shaped inkstand, IO: BAP. MORON. / PINXIT QVEM NON VIDIT [Giovanni Battista Moroni painted him whom he did not see]; on the bottom of the sheet of paper in the foreground, CORPORIS EFFIGIEM ISTA QVIDEM BENE PICTA TABELLA / EXPRIMIT, AST ANIMI TOT MEA SCRIPTA MEI. / M. D. LXII. [This painted picture well depicts the image of my body, but that of my spirit is given by my many writings. 1562]
    National Galleries of Scotland

    This is one of Moroni’s few posthumous portraits. Technical examination revealed ornamentation beneath the black paint of the sitter’s cap that is nearly identical to that which appears on a portrait medal of Bressani; thus the portrait was probably based on the medal. The inscription on the base of the foot-shaped inkwell seems to corroborate the posthumous status of the portrait and thus explain why this depiction lacks the immediacy and emphatic naturalism typical of Moroni’s portraiture. Giovanni Bressani reportedly composed more than seventy thousand verses in Latin, Tuscan, and the Bergamasque vernacular (see the manuscript Prose e poesie). He mentored the poets Isotta Brembati and Lucia Albani, whose portraits are in this exhibition.
  • medal with bearded man in profile

    Giovanni Bressani, ca. 1561
    2 1/16 in. (5.3 cm)
    Collection Mario Scaglia
    Inscriptions: Obverse, IO. BRESS. BER. POE. ILL. ÆT. ANN. LXX [Giovanni Bressani of Bergamo, illustrious poet, aged seventy], signed APΣEN EΠOIH [Arsenio made it]; reverse, CVIQVE. IVXTA. MERITVM [To each according to merit].
    Stefano di Virgilio

    This medal appears to be the model for Moroni’s portrait of Giovanni Bressani. The reverse displays a laurel branch (a conventional honor of poets) crossed with a whip or scourge with the motto “To each according to merit,” presumably alluding to the rewards (the laurel branch) earned by work and discipline (the whip). This is one of only two medals signed by the obscure medalist Arsenio; the other portrays Antonio Navagero, who was also painted by Moroni (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan).
  • sheet of paper

    Giovanni Bressani (1489/90–1560)
    Prose e poesie, 16th century
    Folio 78 (verso), 248 folios
    8 1/8 x 6 1/4 in. (20.5 x 15.8 cm)
    Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai e Archivi Storici, Bergamo (MA 145)


    This collection of poems presumably records Giovanni Bressani’s handwriting. In Moroni’s portrait of Bressani, the writer holds a piece of paper on which is written a poem beginning with the word sempre (always). This may have been chosen in the context of memorial — Bressani’s spirit (his writings) lives on after his physical body has perished — and may also refer to a specific poem. The only poem by Bressani that begins with the word sempre is displayed here and begins nearly halfway down the page.

    The ignorant have always had the
    vice of hating and despising the learned,
    and in each faculty of every art,
    this is seen, now as in the past.

    But it makes no one happy or praised
    to have impeded any of your illustrious work.
    The evil tongues were never sufficient
    to take away honor and quality from virtue.

    But it pains me greatly if others
    destroy your glory and honor and it is bitter
    for them to see that virtue rests and settles in you.

    Hence, I would like that you remedy this.
    For to tell the truth, when everyone smiles,
    the more we empower ourselves in our noble cause.

  • 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.
  • photo of shears or scissors

    Shears, 16th century
    11 in. (28 cm)
    MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, Vienna (F 357)
    MAK / Hanady Mustafa

    Shears like those represented in The Tailor were critical to the production of the luxurious clothing worn by many of Moroni’s sitters. These shears are believed to have been made in France, though instruments of this kind were also produced in Lombardy. The decoration of the inner sections beneath the finger holes with facing figures suggests that the shears were made for an individual of some distinction, which may also explain their fine state of preservation.
  • oil painting of seated man with his two young daughters standing before him
    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Portrait of a Gentleman and His Two Children, ca. 1572–75
    Oil on canvas
    49 3/8 x 38 5/8 in. (125.3 x 98 cm)
    National Gallery of Ireland Collection, Dublin; Purchased, 1866 (NGI 105)
    Inscription: On letters, “Al Mag. [Magnifico] Sig. [Signore] [...] Albino”; “[...] Albino.”
    © National Gallery of Ireland


    In Moroni’s only known triple portrait, the body language of the man protectively embracing the children suggests that he is their father, but the popular assumption that he is a widower cannot be confirmed. The older child, a girl, wears bows in her hair, while the younger child may be a boy. In the Renaissance, boys were dressed in long skirts until they reached the age — about six or seven years — to wear breeches. Written on the letters on the table are Albino and the form of address Mag (Magnifico), suggesting that the unidentified man is of high social status and from, or living in, Moroni’s native city. The haphazardly arranged books on the shelf may signal that his profession has something to do with reading or writing, though they may also simply contribute to the domestic setting.
  • oil painting of elderly man sitting. He wears a heavy black cloak lined with white ermine fur.

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Gabriele Albani (?), ca. 1572–73
    Oil on canvas
    43 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. (110 x 77 cm)
    Private collection

    Moroni rarely used this type of majestic frontal pose. Partially obscured by the lynx lining of his black silk damask gown, the sitter’s gold chain suspending a cross and winged lion connotes the endowment of a knighthood, presumably the Order of the Knights of St. Mark. The sitter was once believed to be Gian Gerolamo Albani, the most famous member of the Albani family and father of Lucia Albani. However, the recent proposal that he is Gabriele Albani, a lesser-known relative, was made on the basis of provenance history and is likely correct. The portrait has been associated with an anecdote in which Titian recommends a Bergamasque gentleman visiting Venice to have his portrait painted by Moroni in his native town; returning to Bergamo, the man recounted the episode to Moroni, who painted the “stupendous portrait” believed to be the present work.
  • Oil painting of a young man standing in black clerical robes, and a dog stands at his side.

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Gian Ludovico Madruzzo, ca. 1551–52
    Oil on canvas
    78 5/8 x 45 5/8 in. (199.8 x 116 cm)
    Art Institute of Chicago; Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection (1929.912)
    Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY

    This and Moroni’s depiction of the sitter’s brother (Gian Federico Madruzzo; National Gallery of Art, Washington) are believed to be the artist’s earliest full-length portraits. Together with Titian’s portrait of their uncle, the prince-bishop of Trent, Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo (Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand), they once hung in Trent’s Castello del Buonconsiglio. Moroni is recorded in Trent about 1548 and in 1551−52 during the Catholic Council. Gian Ludovico Madruzzo began his ecclesiastic career at age thirteen, when he was appointed canon of Brixen Cathedral. He succeeded his uncle as princebishop of Trent and became cardinal in 1561; in 1559, he performed the funeral oration for Charles V.
  • oil painting of a seated young noblewoman dressed in a shining red gown. In her left hand she holds a flat fan.

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Lucia Albani Avogadro, called La Dama in Rosso (The Lady in Red), ca. 1554–57
    Oil on canvas
    61 x 42 in. (155 x 106.8 cm)
    The National Gallery, London (NG 1023)
    © The National Gallery, London

    Daughter of Gian Gerolamo Albani, the collaterale generale of Venice, Lucia was celebrated by her contemporaries as a talented poet. Giovanni Bressani dedicated a poem to her, and the poet Bernardo Tasso praised her in his verses. However, nothing of this aspect of her identity is conveyed in this portrait, which centers instead on the exquisite crimson satin overgown that gives the painting its popular title. One of only three full-length portraits of women painted by Moroni, Lucia Albani Avogadro has typically been discussed with the painting known as The Knight with the Wounded Foot — which is believed to depict Lucia’s husband — since the earliest mention of the pair in an early eighteenth-century inventory. Nothing in the portraits, however, suggests that they were conceived together or that they were intended as pendants.
  • oil painting of a woman seated. She wears a deep green gown embroidered with gold floral patters. She holds a white-and-pink-plumed fan.

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Isotta Brembati, ca. 1555–56
    Oil on canvas
    63 x 45 1/4 in. (160 x 115 cm)
    Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo – Lucretia Moroni Collection

    The most opulently dressed of Moroni’s sitters, Isotta, whom Moroni painted in another portrait, wears a spectacular brocade dress complemented with accessories that indicate her wealth and status: a marten with a jeweled head, a pendent cross of precious stones, a gold- or gilt-bronze-handled fan, and other jewelry. Nothing in the portrait suggests that the sitter was an accomplished poet who composed in four languages. Belying Moroni’s convincing naturalism is his inventive license: a woven textile like Isotta’s dress, with the size of the pattern growing dramatically from bodice to skirt, would have been extremely unusual for the period. The dress may be partly fictive, with Moroni using an actual dress as a point of departure to create a more visually stunning effect. The portrait of Isotta’s second husband, Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli is also displayed in the exhibition.
  • green emerald cross with three dangling pearls

    Pendant Cross with Emeralds, 1575–1650
    Gold, emeralds, enamel, pearls
    3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm)
    The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Museum purchase, 1945 (57.1745)

    Like the pendant cross depicted in Isotta Brembati, this cross represents a type of jewelry particularly popular in Spain and with those associated with the Spanish court, as was Isotta Brembati. It reflects a trend in jewelry design in Europe in the sixteenth century, when precious gems and pearls were being imported to Europe in ever-greater quantities from the Americas and Asia and jewelry design increasingly emphasized their display. The cross in Isotta Brembati appears to be composed of a single emerald amid rubies; in this example, the prominence of emeralds may signal its making after Spanish colonizers took over the rich mines at Muzo, Colombia, in the late 1550s.
  • gilt brass handle of fan

    Fan Handle, ca. 1550
    Gilt copper alloy, pierced and engraved; modern feathers
    7 x 3 1/4 in. (17.8 x 8.3 cm)
    Victoria and Albert Museum, London (105-1882)
    © The Victoria and Albert Museum

    This rare fan handle, similar to that in Isotta Brembati, was designed to hold feathers in its narrow aperture and could be attached to a chain affixed to a girdle around a woman’s waist, through the suspension loop at the end. Feathers were replaced when they became worn or damaged, or if the fan’s owner wished to change the color and shape. As sumptuary laws attest, in Renaissance northern Italy, expensive and ever more exotic materials — such as ivory, pearls, precious stones, and fur — were used (even if illegally) to decorate these practical accessories, which became ubiquitous among Italy’s elite society.
  • photo of gold and precious gem encrusted marten head

    Marten’s Head,  ca. 1550–59
    Gold with enamel, rubies, garnets, and pearls; modern pelt; synthetic whiskers
    L. 3 5/16 in. (8.4 cm) (jewel only)
    The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Museum acquisition by exchange, 1967 (57.1982)

    Known in the Renaissance as zibellini (a term that refers specifically to sable but includes other furs), marten furs like the present example and that depicted in Isotta Brembati were associated with chastity, fertility, and childbirth and, at least since the nineteenth century, were also thought to have served as flea pelts (supposedly to attract fleas from the wearer onto the fur), a popular theory that has been questioned. Above all, these were luxury items that indicated social status. This jeweled head is the most ornate of the few that survive from the Renaissance. Composed of a sheet of gold hammered and chased nearly paper thin, the head is tooled to simulate fur, and much of the exterior surface (including the underside) was enameled, though portions have worn away. The movable tongue is decorated with red enamel, and on either side of the mouth are loops that allowed it to be attached to a chain.
  • Oil painting of a young nobleman leaning against a plumed helmet. A silver-hilted rapier hangs from his belt and pieces of renaissance era armor are strewn about.
    Giovanni Battista Moroni 
    Faustino Avogadro, called Il Cavaliere dal Piede Ferito (The Knight with the Wounded Foot),  ca. 1555–60
    Oil on canvas
    79 5/8 x 41 7/8 in. (202.3 x 106.5 cm)
    The National Gallery, London (NG 1022)
    © The National Gallery, London


    Married to Lucia Albani, Faustino Avogadro was among the associates of the Albani clan banished in 1563 from territories of the Venetian Republic after a bloody feud between the Albani and Brembati. He reportedly died at age thirty-seven by drunkenly falling into a well and breaking his neck. The nature of the ailment requiring the apparatus on his left leg is unknown; speculations include a battle injury or “drop-foot” or a related condition that affects the movement of the ankle. Neither would necessarily have precluded him from military service or tournament competition, to which the feathered helmet with the radiating sun of the Avogadro family’s heraldic device seems to refer. With his plate armor strewn seemingly allegorically on the ground, he wears fine mail gussets laced to a leather arming doublet. What appears to be gilding around the gussets’ edges underscores the luxurious quality of such functional elements, which would have been worn beneath plate armor.
  • half of body and sleeve of mail on post

    Sleeve of Mail, 16th century
    Steel, copper alloy
    15 11/16 x 13 in. (40 x 33 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gift of Prince Albrecht Radziwill, 1927 (27.183.29)
    © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

    Like the gussets worn in the portrait of Faustino Avogadro, this sleeve of fine mail (from the French maille, meaning “link” or “mesh”) would have been worn with plate armor to protect the parts of the body left exposed between the plates. Such fine links offered greater flexibility, were lighter and more comfortable to wear than mail of larger links, and were more time-consuming and thus more expensive to produce. Mail produced in German-speaking cities was exported throughout Europe; Nuremberg, for instance, was renowned as a center for mail production. This example bears a seal stamped with the arms of the electors of Saxony, indicating that it was once in the Saxon arsenal in or around Dresden.
  • Oil painting of a young nobleman wearing pink doublet and hose. A rapier hangs from his belt.

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli, called Il Cavaliere in Rosa (The Man in Pink), dated 1560
    Oil on canvas
    85 x 48 3/8 in. (216 x 123 cm)
    Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo – Lucretia Moroni Collection
    Inscriptions: On the fictive relief at lower right, MAS EL ÇAGVERO QVE EL PRIMERO [More he who follows than the first]; on the stone fragment at bottom right, M.D.LX / Jo. Bap. Moronus [1560 / Giovanni Battista Moroni].
    Photo Mauro Magliani

    The second husband of Isotta Brembati, Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli was born into one of the most prominent of Bergamo’s noble families. His opulent attire of woven pink silk with silver plant and flower motifs makes this one of Moroni’s most arresting portraits. Seemingly fallen from the niche above, the sculptural fragment (similar to the torso in Alessandro Vittoria) conveys the passage of time or succession of ages. Correspondingly, the fictive relief on the wall depicts the biblical scene of the prophet Elijah ascending to heaven on his fiery chariot and leaving his miraculous cloak to fall to his successor, Elisha. Along with the Spanish motto, these iconographic details presumably allude to an aspect of the sitter’s biography, though exactly what this might be is unknown.
  • oil painting of man dressed in black, with a black rapier hanging off his sword belt

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Bernardo Spini, ca. 1573−75
    Oil on canvas
    77 1/2 x 38 5/8 in. (197 x 98 cm)
    Accademia Carrara, Bergamo (58AC00082)
    Inscription: BERNARDVS SPINVS / OBYT AN. MDCXII / ETATIS LXXVI [Bernardo Spini died in the year 1612 aged 76].
    Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

    A member of one of the most important noble families of Albino, Bernardo Spini was involved in the local dyeing industry and wool market and held a number of public offices. This portrait and Pace Rivola Spini are the only known pendants of full-length portraits in Moroni’s oeuvre. The two subjects stand in similar interior settings, and though spaces like this may have existed in Palazzo Spini, the family home in Albino, the complementary nature of their settings — his engaged column at right, the pilaster in Pace Rivola Spini — suggests they were invented or embellished by the artist.
  • oil painting of woman wearing a red dress under a black cloak, holding a black-plumed fan

    Giovanni Battista Moroni
    Pace Rivola Spini, ca. 1573−75
    Oil on canvas
    77 1/2 x 38 5/8 in. (197 x 98 cm)
    Accademia Carrara, Bergamo (58AC00083)
    Inscription: PAX RIVOLA SPINVS / OBYT AN. 1613 ETATIS 72 [Pace Rivola Spini died in the year 1613 aged 72]
    Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

    A pendant to Bernardo Spini, this is the only known portrait by Moroni of a standing female figure presented at full length and is the earliest known independent portrait of its kind in the Italian Renaissance. Pace came from a noble family and married into the most important family in Albino, but in the larger social context of Italy, her rank did not warrant her representation in the form of portraiture typically reserved for the most powerful men in Europe. At the same time, in portraits for relatively private spaces like the Spini home in Albino, such hierarchical conventions may not have applied. The gesture of her hands holding open the overdress has been interpreted as calling attention to her state of pregnancy, but it also serves to show off the overdress’s satin lining, the brilliant red fabric beneath, and the white bow fixed below her waist.
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