TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

Man with the Blue Sleeve

c. 1510
Oil on canvas, 85 x 70 cm
National Gallery, London

The biographer Giorgio Vasari, in his Life of Titian, describes a similar portrait which he says could easily have been mistaken for a Giorgione if Titian had not signed it. This portrait was erroneously identified by early critics as the portrait of Ariosto; it is perhaps a likeness of Titian's earliest patron, a member of the noble Barbarigo family.

In his early period, Titian's portraits are strongly realistic. The painting in its gripping tonal palpability and attention to detail, such as the stitching in the satin, has much in common with Giorgione's late portraits. But Titian, somewhat competitively, carries Giorgione's realism a step further in the way the sleeve billows out and invades our space, extending the boundaries of Giorgionismo in a burst of hyperrealism. The sitter's expression is arrogant, typical of the male dandy. The figure stands out in bold relief against the plain background and the colour emphasizes the unusual lighting, revealing the mood of the sitter as well as capturing his physical presence.