(b. ca. 1450, Cortona, d. 1523, Cortona)

Portrait of an Elderly Man

c. 1492
Poplar, 50 x 32 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Very few portraits survive from Signorelli's hand. Indubitably his finest is the Portrait of an Elderly Man, probably of a humanist. It is often said to be of a jurist, that profession and humanism considered practically inseparable. Victories before a temple approach athletes in front of a triumphal arch, these all'antica themes pertinent to the sitter's scholarly calling or pretensions. The action taking place in the background may be on his mind, as suggested by his downcast eyes. The hard-won balance between hat, head, V-shaped scarf, and the far-smaller figures is among the major triumphs of his great portrait.