WEYDEN, Rogier van der
(b. 1400, Tournai, d. 1464, Bruxelles)

Francesco d'Este

c. 1460
Oil on oak panel, 30 x 20 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The sitter in this fine portrait is Francesco d'Este, the illegitimate son of Leonello, the duke of Ferrara, who received his military training in Brussels in 1444 and spent the rest of his life in Burgundy. The ring and hammer he holds may be emblems of office or tournament prizes. This panel was probably painted about 1460, when Francesco was close to 30. With his elongated features and introspective gaze, Francesco is the paragon of aristocratic aloofness. On the back of the panel the Este coat-of arms with Leonello's crest, the hooded lynx is depicted.

Rogier's male portraits are built on similar structural principles and expressive qualities to those of the female portraits. Francesco d'Este has a stately presence as a knightly nobleman, with his broad chest filling the whole of the pictorial area horizontally, but his expression makes him appear a man of great refinement, almost a sufferer from ennui. With his long, thin fingers, the extended little finger almost echoing the curve of his nose, he holds the small hammer and the ring in an elegant gesture perfectly suited to his facial expression.