VITTORIA, Alessandro
(b. 1525, Trento, d. 1608, Venezia

Bust of Ottaviano Grimani

Staatliche Museen, Berlin

It was during the 1570s that Vittoria brought his portrait style close to perfection. From the busts of Contarini and Giuseppe Grimani (marble, 1573; Venice, San Giuseppe di Castello) to that of Tommaso Rangone (bronze, c. 1575; Venice, Ateneo Veneto) for San Geminiano, Venice (Vittoria's only bronze bust), there is a steady progression in which the size and breadth of the torso are increased, the contrapposto of head and torso is more intense and complex, and the richness of chiaroscuro contrasts is deeper. The busts also increase in expressive power, for example those of Ottaviano Grimani (marble; Berlin, Staatliche Museen), Orsato Giustiniani (marble; Padua, Museo Civico) and Sebastiano Venier (marble; Venice, Palazzo Ducale).

Vittoria was a talented portraitist. He popularised the new type of portrait bust on a socle (as opposed to the type truncated at mid-torso). The signed bust in marble - shown here - portrays Ottaviano Grimani (died 1576) in contemporary dress, with a Roman echo in the cloak to ennoble the work. The separate socle may indicate a public position, perhaps balancing the bust of his father in the family chapel in San Sebastiano. The ancient type is modified by flattening and broadening to give greater substantiality.

Vittoria's realism and descriptive powers were extraordinary. Grimani's contemplative nobility and sensitive mouth contrast with the intensity of his eyes below heavy brows, his physical presence so real he appears to breathe or speak, as in Bernini's portraits. The bust seems to embody Leonardo's dictum that a portrait should reveal the motion of the sitter's mind.