(b. 1472, Venezia, d. 1526, Capodistria)

Portrait of a Knight

Tempera on canvas, 218 x 152 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

The young man, standing with his legs slightly apart, is shown as he unsheathes his sword: he dominates the landscape which is also depicted with a Flemish attention to detail. We can distinguish every species of flora and fauna, and with exactly the same accuracy and graphic perfection the profile of the knight on horseback stands out against the walls of the castle; in the foreshortened perspective of the section to the left we can make out a wooden sign of a horse at the gallop. On the opposite side, we can pick out every detail of the city built on the hillside; it is mirrored on the flat surface of the sea and almost blends in the background with the steep rocky mountains.

What makes this portrait of the young knight even more fascinating is the unresolved enigma of his identity; he remains simply the extraordinary, idealized model of many protagonists of the Humanist world, the virtues of which are clearly referred to in the motto "MALO MORI QUAM FOEDARI" (Better to die than to lose one's honour) inscribed on the scroll to the left, above the ermine, a symbol of purity and integrity, while the peacock by the helmet of the armed soldier on horseback is a reference to immortality.