SEBASTIANO DEL PIOMBO
(b. 1485, Venezia, d. 1547, Roma)
Portrait of Andrea Doriac. 1526
Oil on panel, 153 x 107 cm
Palazzo del Principe, Genoa
Andrea Doria (1466-1560) was the dominant figure in Genoa in his times. He was an extraordinarily talented naval commander. Coming from an impoverished branch of an ancient local family, he succeeded in enriching himself and reestablishing Genoese independence after protracted domination by the French. His fellow citizens named him Principe (Prince) and Pater Patriae (Father of the Homeland).
Sebastiano's nickname, Piombo (Lead), derived from his sinecure as "Piombatore" (Sealer in the Papal Chancery). He preferred gray slate as a support for his pictures and painted his portrait of the Genoan patrician in the colour of slate, with a shadowy, gloomy mound projected on the background, a disquieting motif - 'umbram suam metuit?' For the Venetian artist Sebastiano Luciani the colour gray, which is never bright in his paintings but always dark, dull, and heavy, must have had serious and fairly negative psychological implications. Yet it is also true that the reflections of light on lead are intense and where there is much shade, there is also much light: 'lumina inter umbras clariora sunt,' especially in the work of a painter whose name, according to ancient myths, brings good fortune and is equivalent to a star.
The maritime symbols - including an anchor, a beaked prow, a helm, and other parts of an ancient ship - allude to the subject's rank as Admiral of the Fleet. They are taken from an Imperial Roman marble frieze that in the painter's time was on display in the basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura and is now in the Museo Capitolino.