(b. 1395, Pisa, d. 1455, Roma)

Portrait of Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg

c. 1433
Tempera on vellum stuck on wood, 64 x 49 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The artist depicted Sigismund of Luxembourg (1387-1437), King of Hungary and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, full face, turned slightly away from the plane of the picture. The king wears a brocade garment edged with fur, and on his head there is his characteristic fur hat with ear-flaps. His wavy hair and beard are grey, his aquiline nose is long, his lips half opened. He looks somewhat upwards into the distance, his eyes are blue, as is the background. Whoever the artist was, Pisanello or somebody else, he created a picture in which the most delicate nuances have been achieved by the means of graphic art.

At first glance the face appears to be extraordinarily lively, but if we observe it more thoroughly we cannot but notice that it shows a certain heraldic rigidity. This may be due to the hard evenness of the eyes, the improbable regularity of the teeth, which look like a row of pearls, to the sharp contours of the cherry-red lips or the hair and beard, the hairs of which are drawn with separate lines. But all this does not point to the painter's clumsiness. These are, on the one hand, the stylistic marks of the International Gothic style, with its fondness for decorativeness, which one has to recognize, and, on the other, the endeavour to record the ideal type of a ruler, generally valid and easy to remember, and not only the individual, incidental features of Sigismund.

A certain regularity is characteristic of the whole composition, which nearly touches the frame on all sides. On all four sides the face and the neck are encircled by soft, brown fur, identical in colour and texture. The slight asymmetry caused by the turn of the head is counterbalanced by the pattern, more thickly drawn than the rest, on Sigismund's garment, a bit left from the centre.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.