(b. 1494, Pontormo, d. 1557, Firenze)

Francesco Guardi as a Halberdier

Oil on panel, 92 x 72 cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

In the painting the young halberdier is intent on guarding the defensive rampart painted in the background. As in other works by Pontormo, the intense light that invests the foreground of the painting, contrasts strongly with the dark background and emphasizes the colour of the young man's clothing: the beige of the jacket, the white of the shirt, and the bright red of the pants and beret. A remarkable artistic skill is also discernible in the rendering of the various materials of the objects that distinguishes the figure of this young soldier: the burnished metal of the hand-guard, the leather of the thick belt to which it is attached, the fine grain of the wooden halberd, the gold of the light chain hanging rounded the man's neck and the medallion with the relief of Hercules and Anthaeus on the cap.

Although the identity of the halberdier portrayed on this famous picture is debated, it is most likely the portrait of Francesco di Giovanni di Gherardo Guardi, a resident in Florence. Based on a seventeenth-century inventory of the estate of Riccardo Riccardi, formerly it was thought to be the portrait of the young Duke Cosimo I, who triumphed at Montemurlo over the last republican initiative led by Filippo Strozzi and Baccio Valori (1537).

The painting had a cover, painted by Bronzino, depicting Pygmalion and Galatea. The myth of Pygmalion and Galatea related to contemporary discourse about the relative merits of sculpture and painting. (Pygmalion was a sculptor who prayed to Venus for his statue to come alive.)

A preparatory drawing of the painted version is in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.