LOTTO, Lorenzo
(b. ca. 1480, Venezia, d. 1556, Loreto)

Portrait of Andrea Odoni

Oil on canvas, 104 x 117 cm
Royal Collection, Hampton Court

The humanist and antique dealer Andrea Odoni is presented amidst his collection of antiques. He sits at a green-covered table, wearing a voluminous and richly lined, fur-collared coat. His large head, inclined a little to one side, is framed by his beard, and by his dark hair, which is parted in the middle. Gazing at the spectator, Odoni has placed one hand on his chest in a gesture of "sincerità" (here: reverence, or deference), while his other holds out a small, possibly Egyptian statue to the spectator. By contrast with the room in Titian's portrait of Jacopo de Strada, Odoni's antique cabinet is simply furnished. Against the whitewashed wall, the statues seem to have developed a fantastic life of their own, especially on the right where the shadows are deeper. Antaeus is shown wrestling with Hercules on the left, while a statue on the right, from the Vatican Belvedere court, shows Hercules with the skin of the Nemean lion. On the far right there is yet another Hercules, a "Hercules mingens" (the Classical hero as "Manneken Pis"), before a well, or trough, over which a female figure, perhaps Venus, is leaning.

Classical antiquity seems revived in the form of a huge head emerging from under the table-cloth. In fact, this is the head of Emperor Hadrian, the "Adrian de stucco" mentioned by Marcantonio Michiel in 1555 in his Odoni-collection inventory. The much smaller torso of Venus appears to nestle up to the head, to - probably calculated - comic effect. Although monochromatic, and indeed partly ruined, the sculptures seem mysteriously animated. Lotto invokes the magical properties of the image; he gently parodies the theme of the "re-birth" of Classical art by taking it literally.

The small statue in the collector's hand, reminiscent of Diana of Ephesus, indicates the artist's and sitter's demonstrable interest in Egyptian religion. At Venice, Lorenzo Lotto's place of birth, where he often stayed - the painting was executed after 1526, while Lotto was staying at Venice - there was widespread interest among the humanists in Egyptian hieroglyphics as a source of arcane knowledge and divine wisdom. This "science" could be traced back to Horapollo, the author of a treatise on hieroglyphics, which had survived in Greek translation.